According to Founder and Board President, Mike Beebe...
A neighbor and her dog, that’s how The Bridge Fund (TBF) got started.
A Challenge Accepted
Sometimes serendipity causes good things to happen and this is such a case. Back in 2012, I was leaving my house on an errand and saw my neighbor, Judi Brown, walking her dog, Sandy, and we began one of our many sidewalk chats. Judi asked if I had seen a recent 60 Minutes TV show segment on a homeless family living in northern Florida and, by chance, I had. We shared concerns about that family and many others who were dealing with homelessness. Judi asked if the same problem existed in Bonita Springs. I had no idea, and told her that I couldn’t answer that question. She then observed that I am not a golfer or tennis player and questioned why didn't I go out and find the answer to that question and report back to her. When Judi Brown looks you in the eye and suggests you do something, it is prudent to follow her suggestion.
Over the next several weeks, I visited the Executive Directors of all of the social service agencies and the principals of all of the public schools in Bonita Springs. I asked a list of questions, including whether or not homelessness existed in our town. The answer was that it does, along with many other problems of which I was mostly unaware.
A Critical Question
One question on my list drew a consistent response that got my attention and is the basis for TBF’s existence: “What is the biggest challenge you face in your mission to your clients or students?” In almost every case, the answer was, "a limited budget." Every social service agency and school lacked the funds to meet the needs of their struggling clients or students, which meant that many deserving people, young and old, were living beyond the edges.
The Bridge Fund Answer
With that new found knowledge about what was happening in our “backyard,” I worked up a five page plan to address the problems, and shared this plan with several neighbors and friends. In a relatively short time, we formed a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, all-volunteer corporation, established a strong working board of 7 members, created partnerships with all of the social service agencies and public schools in Bonita Springs, told TBF story to people at wine and cheese fundraising gatherings throughout Pelican Landing, and raised enough money to start operations. Because of the interest and generosity of neighbors and friends, by the end of 2013, TBF was providing assistance to many clients and students, working through our first crop of partner social service agencies and schools.
Our Story Continues
It was an exciting time. TBF was doing something new in SW Florida, providing direct assistance to those in need by collaborating with the existing social service and public education infrastructure. This had never been done before, and it was succeeding beyond our expectations. I think TBF’s performance since inception, as measured by the growth in number of people assisted, the growth in partnerships, the types of needs met, the funds raised, and the commitment of its volunteer working board members, are all a testament to what can be done in service to others. We are pleased with our progress, and believe that TBF provides a strong foundation for continuing assistance to deserving people whose options are limited or non-existent.
This video, produced in 2012 by Christine Beebe, daughter of Mike and Nancy Beebe, helped introduce The Bridge Fund to Pelican Landing neighbors and friends. It tells moving stories of why and how TBF was created—our history!