After serving in World War II, raising six sons, and starting two successful businesses, Fran Heitzman wasn’t about to rest on his laurels.
Heitzman was volunteering his time as maintenance man at his local church when the pastor, Tim Power, approached him about a young couple with a crib they no longer needed. After contacting Catholic Charities to find a family who could use it, Heitzman was inspired to found Bridging, an organization that connects people who are working to create a home with those who have more than they need.
He began reaching out to family and friends, asking them to look through their storage units and garages for items they no longer needed. Donors quickly filled the basement of Pax Christi Church in Eden Prairie, Minn. with couches, bedding, and dishware. Heitzman even raided his own kitchen, sneaking away five sets of silverware; it took over a year for his wife to notice they were missing!
As Bridging expanded, they outgrew the church, and with the encouragement of Pastor Power, moved several times before landing in their current locations: two warehouses, with a third in the works. Over 100 families per week schedule appointments to "shop" for new and gently used furnishings.
With only 28 full-time staffers, Bridging relies on the generosity of volunteers. Last year, over 7,000 volunteers gave 80,000 hours to the organization. The key, says Diana Dalsin, who coordinates Bridging’s volunteer program, is just to ask. "Many people are just waiting to be told their help is needed," she says.
Volunteers with Bridging see the impact they have first hand, whether helping a client shop or delivering furniture to homes. Heitzman, who spends six to seven days a week at the warehouses, understands that the knowledge that "there are several kids who are sleeping on a bed rather than their coat on the floor" is the real reason that volunteers keep coming back.
Bridging warehouses see a number of corporate groups and recent retirees looking for a way to give back to the community. These groups have also provided the cornerstones of Bridging’s fundraising efforts.
Bridging receives roughly 50 percent of it's funding from private donors, foundation grants, special events, and corporations. Medtronic, a VolunteerMatch corporate partner, supports Bridging through annual events and encourages employees to donate their time through it's corporate VolunteerMatch site.
After serving more than 40,000 families over the last 22 years, 84-year-old Heitzman is no closer to retiring. "Till my dying day, I will work for those less fortunate to improve their chances in life," he says.
VolunteerMatch is proud to help Heitzman and Bridging bring comfort to thousands of families each year. Update your account today and expand your organization’s reach to get the volunteers you need.