"Bridging Out" Program

Members of the Bridging Out program describe it as follows:

"The group is for socializing and talking out problems. We have a chance to share personal experiences and life events, such as when a family member dies. Over time, we have formed true friendships because we trust each other. We value working and we like to get out in the community."

Download program brochure.

What is Bridging Out?

Bridging Out is a social enrichment group program for adults with significant learning disorders, established in 1990 by group members and their families. John Beach and Mary-Jane Beach have co-lead the group since it began.

Meetings

Meetings are held once a month. This is a supper club and members may bring dinner or take-out from restaurants.

Reach for the Stars

Reach for the Stars! is the group motto since 1994. We look at the positive side of life, try new things, set goals, live productive lives and learn new ways to find solutions to our challenges.

Handle with Care

Every member must agree to treat each other with respect, kindness, patience, and good manners. Members of the group agree to avoid alcohol and other drugs before and during meetings or functions.

Share News .. Plan Activities

Each meeting begins with NEWS. Members usually share something about their job, vacation, community activities or personal announcements. The group also plans the activity schedule which includes games, events, fundraising and fun!

Fundraising for projects and events

We welcome personal tax-deductible donations, in-kind donations or cans for recycling to enrich the program, provide scholarships or offset costs. Special fundraising events support the annual Holiday Party in December and the forthcoming edition of the Puzzle Book, Stories of Resilience.

Bridges Associates, Inc., established in 1989, is a private, tax-exempt organization (EIN #04-3069367). Bridges Associates, Inc. helps children and adults who learn differently take charge of their lives. The Bridging Out Program was established in 1990 by members and their families.

Stories of Resilience Project: Project Description

Bridging Out ParticipantsBridging Out participants and staff

Do you know that the members of Bridging Out wrote a book in 1991-1992? Putting the Puzzle Together was written by members of the group who met for nearly a year socializing and discussing issues that were important to the then “twenty-somethings”. The group experience was followed by individual interviews with the members who wished to share a personal story. Most of the stories depicted frustration and struggle. The group process provided a structured and accommodating opportunity for verbal and non-verbal expression. This is the first step in healing, empowerment and resilience.

The phrase "reasonable accommodations" was pretty new at the time, as ADA had just been established. Experts were beginning to talk about “self advocacy”. Researchers began to look at “strength based practice” in mid-1990. Coincidentally, stories and the group process for Putting the Puzzle Together were accommodating, empowering and strength-based. Differences were validated and accepted and the focus was on adaptation and progress. We asked: What is the best way for you to tell your story? Do you want to write, draw or tell me? Would a song or poem help you express yourself? You have an important story to tell and I hope you will do what is most comfortable. The method was limited only to the creative imagination of the individual. We were all surprised and pleased with both the outcome and our first publication!

Bridges published the book, sold a few hundred copies and distributed them to prospective members, parents and teachers and at exhibits. Nearly 17 years have passed since the Bridging Out began (July 1990) and 15 years have passed since the book was published. We have all experienced significant personal growth, members, leaders and interns. We have aged, and as we all know, aging imposes new developmental tasks. In recognition of this, we are preparing to write an update of the Puzzle Book. This new publication will be called Stories of Resilience. You can read the project description, or see a few samples.

The title originates from the Steering Committee, and the twelfth lesson in Take Charge!® Coaching. We plan to look at resilience - remarkable solutions to many challenges. Using the Take Charge! lingo, they have bounced back! Mike Kalil was one member who volunteered countless hours on the first edition. He wrote the Introduction as well as some of the content. He wanted a ten year edition and expressed this wish fairly persistently. Sadly, he passed away in 2004. We will dedicate the book to Mike’s memory.

We will create a publication for adults, parents and professionals about succeeding in adulthood with learning disorders. We will document the history of the Bridging Out Program and describe this successful social group model developed by parents, members and John and Mary-Jane. We suspect it is the longest running group of its kind in the field! When finished, we would like to distribute it at no cost as a .pdf document through the website and other organizations. We will hire members of the program to work at tasks, based on their strengths and abilities, and in the process provide “on the job training and coaching” and a reference for future employment.

When Bridging Out began and the Puzzle Book was written we were all “pioneers” and volunteers. The Steering Committee has prepared job descriptions, a budget and a fundraising plan. The project will cost approximately $25,000 and will be finished in a year. We are excited to reach this place and invite you to join in the project through sharing a story of resilience, offering technical assistance in support of the publication, or making a tax-deductible contribution to celebrate the effort of the Bridging Out Program.

Mary-Jane Beach, LMFT

Committee: Dara, Cristen, David, Hillary, Justin, Mary-Jane, John

 


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