Bridge donations: A boost in finances and spirit

Have you ever wondered, “What can I do to help someone?” You see folks in the community who are obviously having a hard time making ends meet and you wonder how do they do it? How do they feed their children? How does that car get them anywhere ­— it looks like it will fall apart right there at the stop sign? Financially tough times come for lots of reasons — layoffs, health issues, unexpected babies, relocations, cars that break down, family conflicts. You ask, “Should I help them?”

Most of us have these passing thoughts and then go home to our full refrigerators, two cars, mowed lawns, and comfortable life. Is that it? Is it better to just forget about it? Maybe it’s easier to say, “I can’t save the world so I’m not going to lose sleep over the family in the rattle trap car? What business is it of mine that the single mom in the grocery store looked so tired and discouraged? She is not my problem.”

A few months ago a couple contacted me with an idea. I will call them the Smiths. They were tired of feeling bad about their neighbors who were struggling financially. Their idea was to help another family in our community in a direct, personal way — and remain anonymous. They wanted my staff at The River Center to identify a family that was working hard to make ends meet but just couldn’t quite do it. They wanted to give $50 a week for 6 months to give them a financial boost, to bridge the financial gap. Could we identify a family? Why yes, we could.

We identified a young family with three children. One family member had a number of health issues and consequent bills and doctor visits. This family was chosen because it was clear that the parents had been trying to get their finances stabilized, pay off the bills, and keep their little boat afloat. Yes, this family could benefit from a financial boost.

The River Center acted as the go-between. The Smiths gave us the money and we sent the checks to the recipient family (let’s call them the Johnsons). Every month the Johnsons sent a letter letting the Smiths know how they were doing. I would send this along to the Smiths. Sometimes the Smiths would send a note back to the Johnsons. In this way it was evident to both the Smiths and the Johnsons that this was personal — real neighbors helping neighbors. Neither the Smiths nor the Johnsons knew who was receiving the money or who was giving it. That was my little secret.

The agreed upon six months is now finished. The Smiths would like to do this again with another family. They have really enjoyed having a meaningful part in boosting another family’s chances at financial stability.

The Smiths have a challenge for all of us: They would like to see others in this community do the same. Would you like to help someone over the hurdle of financial tough times? Would you like to do more than just feel bad and inadequate to help? You can help in a concrete way. You can become a Bridge Partner — helping another family bridge the gap in their finances. The point is not for the recipients to become dependent on this gift. It is purposefully for a limited time to give a boost. The amount of the gift is up to you. I have shared what the Smiths did — every donor will do what is appropriate for them.

What do you think? Are you sick of feeling bad and not doing anything about it? Maybe this is something you would like to do — for your neighbor and for yourself. For indeed, “it is more blessed to give than receive.”

If you are interested in becoming a Bridge Partner through The River Center, please contact me at or 924-6800.

Margaret Nelson is the executive director of The River Center in Peterborough.

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