The mission of Bridges Community Outreach Ministries (“Bridges”) is to provide physical and spiritual support to those in the Greater Pittsburgh area who are homeless, imprisoned, recently released inmates, and who have suffered a tragic loss. A team of volunteers created Bridges in December 2009 to launch a food and clothing drive for the benefit of the homeless community. Bridges used Hillcrest SDA Church located in the Hill District of Pittsburgh as a base for its activities. Bridges asked the Red White and Blue Thrift Store for a donation of clothing. Bridges also collected food from churches and the community and after hand-labeling the items, delivered them to the Pleasant Valley Men’s, the Light of Life Rescue Mission, the East End Cooperative Ministry and various homeless camps located throughout the city of Pittsburgh. Bridges next created a project involving assembling personal hygiene kits. The local St. Agnes Elementary School assisted by bringing volunteers and donating the kits composed of such items as soap, deodorant, toothpaste, tooth brushes, lotion, washcloths, Q-tips, combs and brushes. Bridges then distributed the kits to homeless individuals primarily in the downtown area of the City of Pittsburgh. Bridges next collaborated with Robert Morris University’s Student Community Service group American Humanics. The student organization later volunteered to sponsor two major clothing drives on behalf of Bridges. Bridges then began a project with the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where it volunteers in the fall of 2009 assigned to minister to those inmates who are classified as parole violators.
Presently, Bridges’ prison ministry teams conduct a religious service every Sunday at the State Correctional Institution in Pittsburgh. The service includes singing, praying, scripture reading, bible study, encouragement inmates not to give up on themselves. Each member of the prison ministry team makes a significant contribution to reaching these objectives every week. In 2010, Pastor Jeffrey Baskin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bridges, was introduced to Debra Germany-Morrison. Ms. Germany Morrison is a minister and also the Executive Director of the Divine Intervention Ministries (“D.I.M.”). This nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing formerly incarcerated adults and at-risk individuals with providing services such as housing, work-force development and referrals to local mental health counselors. As a result of this meeting, Pastor Baskin and two other Board members are presently serving as volunteer instructors of the DIM “Impact Program”. Twice a week, volunteers meet with inmates at two Renewal, Inc. facilities located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Renewal, Inc. is a private not-for-profit 501(c) 3 organization providing alternative housing and community corrections services to individuals in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania who are in the federal criminal justice system. Volunteers serve as spiritual mentors and teachers, facilitating the devotional sessions designed to address the many issues facing incarcerated individuals. Participants graduate at a ceremony after twelve weeks of class. Class participants are invited upon release to join Bridges Community Outreach Ministries, Inc. as volunteers in delivering goods and services to the homeless populations.
Twice a month or more, especially over the winter months, Bridges serves the homeless community of Pittsburgh by delivering items directly to them. Bridges has provided hand warmers, foot warmers, gloves, hats, coats, shoes, thermal underwear, thermal socks, sweaters, hot chocolate, and blankets. On average, we serve the homeless community twice a month. However, the frequency of our outreach endeavors largely depends upon available resources.
“Code Blue”, the name used for Bridges Community crisis response teams. Code Blue is a ministry of compassion which reaches out to Pittsburgh families that have suffered tragedy or trauma due to the recklessness of a drunk driver, gang violence, robbery, hate crimes, homes destroyed by fire, domestic violence, homicide, and other misfortunes. A typical response would entail two to three individuals from Bridges making a personal visit to the family in crisis at a residence, hospital, or funeral home. Proper expressions of sympathy and condolence would be extended to family members on behalf of our organization. A sympathy card, flowers, or inspirational literature appropriate for the occasion may be offered. The response team is prepared to console, comfort, encourage, and pray for those who may need it. Finally, our personal business card is offered to the family with the appropriate contact information should they need us in the future.
Bridges will continue its present services in the future; additionally, plans to develop a program to assist ex-offenders to become productive citizens of society again. Through Christian mentoring and discipline, such will have the opportunity to reside in Christian-based traditional housing. Individuals will have the opportunity to learn life skills, money management, spiritual development, and how to find and maintain employment. Referrals and counseling services for substance abuse will be offered as well. Bridges is determined to the recidivism of inmates by helping ex-offenders to successfully re-enter society.
Bridges also expects to expand its fundraising programs to raise needed charitable dollars to support its charitable mission.