BRIDGES, Inc. was implemented as a coalition to bring communities within Seward County together. Their goal is to provide better communication amongst community members, gather data on the needs of the county, provide grant writing for programs that would enhance the lives of citizens within the county and provide programs for families and youth that enhance the lives of county citizens. BRIDGES began their grassroots effort six years ago, and has gradually built upon the needs of the county. A survey was done five years ago in the county to obtain information on what the citizens top concerns were. The findings of this survey showed the number one concern to be alcohol and tobacco use among teenagers in the county. The solution was to provide more prevention and intervention programs for youth and their families in the area.
BRIDGES then began partnering with county schools, organizations, businesses, churches and community members to build upon existing programs and implement new ones. This collaborative effort brought together entities that had never been together before in Seward County. Volunteer opportunities gave community members of all ages the opportunity to work together. Youth and the older generation have found each other through mentoring and tutoring programs.
A Seward County Interagency Council was built to bring together various agencies that can communicate with each other monthly. A Pre-Trial Diversion program was researched and developed alongside the County Attorney to provide an intervention program for youth and adult first time offenders. Educational classes were implemented alongside the Seward Cooperative Extension Office and Rural Region V Prevention Center to reach parents and youth that participate in the Pre-Trial Diversion Program. BRIDGES works alongside the Seward Cooperative Extension Office to promote and provide educational opportunities for schools and community members within the county.
A Family Nights and Good Beginnings Program was implemented to bring families with younger children together for educational and mentoring activities provided by the Seward Cooperative Extension Educator, who works with the BRIDGES coalition. BRIDGES implemented a mentoring program for new parents and their babies two years ago. This program has connected with the hospital and organizations in the communities to provide support and educational opportunities for these new families. A group of Quilters in Seward County provided blankets for the new babies in the mentoring program. BRIDGES helped establish a new Board of Directors and assisted with hiring Co-Directors at the Seward Youth Center. A grant was written by Bridges to provide After School Programming at three schools in Seward County. A BRIDGES committee started a suicide prevention task force that was implemented in the county. A BRIDGES Task Force was formed to raise $25,000 in funds for the TeamMates Mentoring Program in Seward County. Another task force, Safe Communities, has educated the county on seat belt safety.
Through BRIDGES, many collaborative efforts evolve as a result of the spirit in community members, businesses, schools, churches and organizations. BRIDGES has built the foundation and has found a response from county members.