The Bridge Community links needs, resources
By ANGELA FARR KING
There seems to be no boundaries for the energy of Priscilla Jenkins, founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization called The Bridge Community, Inc., located in downtown Taylorsville. Mrs. Jenkins is a woman on a mission and that mission is to meet the various needs of the members of her community. She does not let the needs overwhelm her, but she attacks each one of them individually.
Jenkins describes The Bridge Community in this way: “It is a vital and innovative 501 C3 grassroots entity with the mission to improve lives across the diverse communities we serve in Alexander County. We do this by bridging the gap between the needs of families and the available resources in Alexander County and surrounding counties, by prioritizing needs of employment, education, counseling services, and health services.”
Jenkins worked in healthcare for over 35 years and is retired. Being in healthcare certainly opened her eyes continually to the most basic needs of people and her administrative skills made her capable of all she is doing now. It is clear that God had a purpose in preparing her for this work.
She now devotes her time to expanding the services of The Bridge Community. She points to an event that happened 20 years ago in her church, Third Creek Baptist Church, in Stony Point, as the beginning of her calling to this ministry. The members of her church were planning a Family Fun Day and Mrs. Jenkins had the idea to invite service-related organizations to attend the event, including the local Fire Department, the Department of Social Services, and the Health Department. She knew that some families attending would need to be connected to one or more of these services. She said, “It grew from there.” Every year for the event, she and other planners at her church invited more and more service related organizations, thus connecting them to the people who needed them most.
Even though these events were successful in connecting citizens to resources, Jenkins wanted to do more. She began to attend classes about starting a nonprofit organization. She learned to write grants to secure funding and to obtain the necessary licenses she needed for her vision of what “The Bridge” could be. She also began the paperwork to make The Bridge Community, Inc. into a 501C3 organization, which allows “The Bridge” to be a nonprofit entity that is exempt from federal taxes.
She had the full support of her pastor at the time, Rev. Sterling Howard, but Jenkins wanted to reach people beyond the church walls. She clearly points out that she doesn’t do this work alone, but has a team of volunteers that help her on a daily basis. No one is paid a salary at “The Bridge Community.”
She was able to secure a United Way Grant so she could have an office to work from in the building of the former First United Methodist Church in Taylorsville (Church Campus for Resources). She said this is a great location because she is close to organizations she partners with and she can see first hand the people in need in town.
Mrs. Jenkins is quick to point out that the County Commissioners have been very supportive of her efforts and she particularly thanked Commissioner Larry Yoder and Mayor George Holleman for their involvement in her efforts.
When asked what they do at “The Bridge,” there are really several answers. She says they “bridge the gap from the need to the resources.” She has developed a vast knowledge of resources and “The Bridge” serves as a hub of information and a connection for just about any need that arises.
Here are some examples of how “The Bridge” connects people in need to local resources: If Jenkins knows of a family that needs food, she can secure some for them or connect them to their closest food bank. If she knows of an elderly person who needs to be driven to an appointment, she has volunteer drivers that can make that happen. It is not uncommon for her to spot a homeless person in town and stop to give them a blanket, food, or a coat. “The Bridge” accepts donations of these items in good condition. Her organization also transports people to shelters, if needed, and helps with the application process for those shelters.
She has a vision of creating a homeless shelter in Alexander County, which is much needed. She can also tap into some financial resources donated to “The Bridge” to help families in need of help with utility bills. This group works to secure needed mental health services for individuals as well and they can also supply work boots or other items needed for those starting new jobs.
Mrs. Jenkins talked about the NC Med Assist Program that helps people pay for needed medications and she assists with that application process. Through this organization, people can secure “over the counter” medications and, sometimes, they can get actual prescriptions filled. The Bridge Community adopted the “A New Outlook” living care facility during Christmas and Valentine’s Day to ensure no one was left out during love seasons.
Jenkins and her staff of volunteers have an event planned at the Alexander County Courthouse Park on April 29, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. The main purpose of this event is to spread awareness for The Bridge Community, Inc., so that people know where they can go to seek out resources and to bring awareness of their summer meal program for Hiddenite and Stony Point areas. An organization called G4G (Grill for God) will be preparing chicken plates for all attendees. Monetary donations will be accepted and go towards The Bridge’s Summer Meal Program. Mrs. Jenkins said there will be music, food, and information available, as well as a prayer tent for those who need someone to pray with them. Because April is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the domestic violence organization for Alexander County will also have a booth at the event to offer assistance and raise awareness.
When asked what the most immediate needs are for The Bridge Community, Mrs. Jenkins listed the following: financial donations to support their many endeavors, an administrative volunteer to answer the phone and manage emails (Jenkins is doing the bulk of this herself at this time), and tutors to assist at the Alexander County Student Success Center.
It is important to track the data for homeless people in Alexander County and to get that data to the right agencies. Mrs. Jenkins has documented 17 homeless people in Alexander County, but she knows there are more. This data needs to be added to the state database to secure funding. It is a complicated process, so tracking and submitting data is another reason an administrative volunteer is needed.
It is impossible to name everything this organization is involved in, because there is no end to what Mrs. Jenkins and her volunteers will do to secure resources for those in need. They hear of new needs continually and do their best to meet those needs. God is using The Bridge Community, Inc., to fulfill this scripture verse: “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matt. 25:40.
If you wish to contact “The Bridge” or make donations, please visit www.the-bridge-community.org or call 828-352-9579.