Congratulations to Teresa, our most recent Project BRIDGE Program graduate, and our sixth graduate this year. Since we launched the Program in 2012, 14 women who were previously struggling to make ends meet have graduated and are supporting themselves and their families on their own.
We first met Teresa when she was referred to our Food Bridge Program because she and her family were in dire straits. Teresa’s husband was in hospice, while she herself was recovering from a brain aneurysm. Neither was able to work to support the family. Sadly, a few months later, her husband passed away, leaving Teresa a single mom of three teens with a mortgage, tax issues and bills. On top of dealing with her own grief and that of her children, she was suddenly the family’s sole bread-winner. Hearing her story, we knew when the time was appropriate, Project BRIDGE would be great for her. In the meantime, fully recovered from her critical medical issue, she returned to work. She was not ready to commit to a year-long program, but began attending some of our monthly Life Skills Seminars.
When Teresa was ready to join Project BRIDGE, she was fully committed. She was matched with volunteer Financial Mentor Martha Borowski, and was Martha’s first client. Martha offered support and guidance every step of the way. The first issue they tackled was cancelling Teresa’s husband’s LLC for the small business he had owned. Second, Martha initiated contact with one of Britepaths’ Pro Bono Attorneys to understand how to address complicated mortgage questions. Together, they attended lawyer meetings and worked to make sure Teresa understood what her best options were. Eventually, the situation was resolved and Teresa is now secure in her home. With guidance, Teresa was also able to negotiate payment in order to settle an outstanding store bill, wrote a letter to credit bureaus letting them know that the issue with the store had been resolved, and got the issue erased from her credit report. Martha was also able to successfully help Teresa with some tax issues.
Family life began to settle, and her oldest graduated high school in the spring. Martha was able to further help her better understand subsidized vs. unsubsidized loans for her son before he started college this fall, and provide her with other insights since she herself has two college-aged boys. In addition to dealing with complicated financial issues and family life, Teresa took the time to enroll in and finish Computer Core’s six-month intensive computer class using Project BRIDGE’s Workforce Development stipend.
Paying It Forward: With all she has going on, Teresa has also given of her time to help Britepaths by sharing her story and helping community members understand how our programs help families like hers when they are struggling. Teresa and Martha joined us at our launch event when we announced our name change in July from Our Daily Bread to talk about their partnership and all that Teresa had achieved. Teresa was also a wonderful help during our Keep the Heat On campaign in February. She uses oil to heat her home, which is very costly. Through our financial assistance program we were able to help her pay this big bill to keep the heat on in the winter. She gave a beautiful testimonial that we used in our campaign to raise money for our Financial Assistance Program. In addition, Teresa spoke at a Fairfax Food Providers meeting in which she expressed gratitude for food pantries, but also the value of grocery store gift cards so that she could purchase exactly the food and/or ingredients to make meals that meet her and her children’s dietary needs.
Teresa is currently continuing to work hard at the same two jobs she has had for many years, and her family is in a significantly better place financially. She is looking toward the future and keeping her eyes open for new opportunities. We wish her well!