Please see below for stories from individuals we serve and members of our team.
Kathy W. knew she needed to change her life the day she collapsed in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
“My PCA (Personal Care Attendant) and I went to New York, and there was a tremendous amount of walking.” The exertion proved too strenuous, and Kathy fell. “It took three people to help me up."
Kathy has been supported by The Bridge's North County Community Support Program in Gardner, MA for six years. When it came time to set a personal goal for the year, they agreed eating healthy, exercising and losing weight was at the top of the list. Her goal aligned perfectly with The Bridge’s Health and Wellness initiative to promote nutrition and exercise across the agency.
The changes worked. Since February of 2015, Kathy has lost weight and improved her mobility. Her improved health has her excited about the future. Today, she’s two classes away from finishing her Office Assistant Certificate at Mount Wachusett Community College. She’s thinking about next year’s goals, pledging to socialize more and take part in Bridge-sponsored activities such as the women’s group, beach trips and holiday parties.
Most importantly, when she returned to New York City for a recent shopping trip, she had a wonderful time. “I had much more endurance and walked the whole trip!”
“The Bridge taught me to trust,” says Ron P., a former client and current staff member at The Bridge of Central Massachusetts. “They taught me so much. To talk. To share. They were there to help.”
As a troubled and abused runaway living on the streets of Boston in the early 1970s, Ron stole food from local markets to feed his hunger. Then he got caught.
The Department of Youth Services referred him to The Bridge of Central Massachusetts. “They sent me to Grove Street in Westborough.” Grove Street was the first Bridge program, which was designed to support troubled boys like Ron. “I was in the first group of kids in that house. It was a game changer.”
It didn’t happen right away. “They had to work on me. It took about a year and I started slowly opening up. We had excellent counselors. They didn’t judge; they welcomed you. I finally opened up like a flower.”
After three years, Ron moved home, where he happily rejoined his family, using the skills he learned in the home on Grove Street. He graduated from high school, joined the US Navy and retired after 20 years. He attributes much of his success to his years on Grove Street.
“The Bridge took me out of my environment and gave me a new start. I learned to talk about my problems. I always thought, ‘One day I’ll give back and I’ll work at The Bridge.’”
Ron joined the Bridge staff four years ago as an awake residential counselor. “My past helps me to deal with the stress in my job. I am so dedicated to The Bridge because of what they’ve done for me. I want to give back. The clients need our help. They need our care. I try to be a rock,”he said.
Former client and current Bridge staff member, Cindy W., says her road to recovery “wasn’t always a rose garden.” Embracing sobriety, finding the right balance in medications – even trying to quit smoking –challenged her.
After her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and PTSD, Cindy was supported by several human service organizations. After two stays at Westborough State Hospital, she was referred to a Bridge program (Southborough Apartments and Supported Housing). She says Southborough was a turning point in her recovery.
She attended Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) sessions, which she’d experienced with other provider organizations. The Bridge’s approach was transformational. “I was amazed at how differently it was run,” says Cindy. “The Bridge had the skills to help me do the work and they conducted the groups in a way that made learning the skills fun and easy to remember.”
She also attributes Illness, Management and Recovery (IMR) therapy, an evidence-based practice, to her recovery. “IMR is what helps me achieve goals as well as keeps me on track,” she says. “It has taught me valuable skills I can use in all aspects of my life, such as family, work and the social arena.”
“The Bridge,” says Cindy, “saved my life.”
A recent college graduate, Cindy works full time at NCR, a Bridge program, as a senior residential counselor helping young adults. “I want to help the individuals I serve stay in the driver’s seat as much as possible. We are all experts in our own illness and want to make decisions. My piece of advice is this: go after your goals. No matter how long it takes. No matter how hard it is. It’s a journey and it is continuous, but there is hope and there is a future where recovery is possible,” she said.