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"Bridge helped me gain my confidence back"

Cassie’s a bubbly, outgoing and kind mother-of-two living in the western suburbs. Her laugh is contagious, she lights up at the mention of her daughters Chloe and Cayden, and she’s  passionate about her job helping cancer patients.

You’d never know that, just three years ago, she and her girls escaped from a traumatic life of domestic violence, leaving them homeless.

“I went through a really bad transition when leaving my ex-husband, because it was a domestic situation,” Cassie remembers. “I’d lost myself, and thought I was a failure. And at the time, my credit was shot. I wasn’t able to get anything in my name—not a credit card, not an apartment, nothing."

They crashed with some relatives willing to take them in temporarily, but “it was a tight situation,” and Cassie was desperate to find long-term stability so her family could heal. A friend from high school suggested she call Bridge Communities, and after a series of interviews, she was welcomed into the program.

Cassie was relieved to find safety in her new Bridge home, but admits there were some initial mixed feelings. “In my adult life, I’d never had anyone tell me what to do with my money, and at first I thought, ‘I can’t do this, there are too many rules, it’s too hard,” says Cassie. “But one day, my grandmother said, ‘Bridge is there to help you, not hurt you. And this is all to better you and your children.’ So I kept an open mind, I prayed a lot, and with the help of Bridge and my mentors, they guided me through.”

One of the first steps for Cassie’s family was dealing with trauma. She and her girls began
domestic violence counseling right away—both in a group for kids and moms together, and
through an art therapy class just for kids, which helped the girls express their pain through
drawing. “Those courses helped us out a lot, and I found out a lot from my children that I
hadn’t known they experienced during my marriage,” Cassie says. “You don’t realize all that
you went through until you really see it in black and white.”

In fact, one of her daughters had suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder. “We went through stages when we were in our apartment, and my kids would always come to my
door to ask, ‘Mom, are you okay? Are you okay?’ And I’d have to reassure them, and check on them, and check the cabinets, and look outside the front door,” she remembers.

Bridge connected her daughter to a psychologist from Samaracare, who helped the family work through the trauma and recover their sense of safety. “We came to know that we were
in a safe environment, and that no one would ever hurt us again. That transition for us was the most important thing of all.”

Next up was a path to building a better future for their family. When Cassie first came into the Bridge program, she was saddled with a budget-breaking car payment of nearly $500 per month. Cassie and her mentors soon realized this would be a huge barrier for her to successfully save money. “My mentor Rich went to the dealership with me, and he ended up negotiating with them to get me out of my SUV that I’d gotten brand new, and I was able to lease a compact car for the much lower amount of $230 a month.”

Cassie continued to improve her budgeting skills, and later, when she went back to school and needed her budget to include her college fees, her mentors obtained a donated 2008 Honda Civic for her from their parish. “Now I own my car, and that is really a blessing,” she says.

Cassie considers her mentors—Rich, Barb, Ed and Donna from Daybreak of Lisle—to be the key reasons she was able to succeed. “I love them, and it was a great experience working with them,” she says. “They always went the extra mile to help me and my children.”

Her mentors also saw Cassie’s potential, and encouraged her to pursue her dream of completing her college degree over the next two years—although she knew it would be really difficult, as she already worked full-time. “Three nights a week, I went to class from 6 to 9 in the evening, and that was so challenging,” she says. “There were a lot of times that my girls and I were doing homework together, because I still had to be a mom and not neglect them. But we made it!” 

This past April, Cassie graduated from Robert Morris University with her bachelors in
business management. “I cried sitting in the seat at graduation, I cried walking across the
stage, and I cried when I was reunited with my family after the ceremony,” she says. “For so
long, I’d cried tears of sadness from going through everything before. But being in Bridge and
working with my mentors made everything worth it in the end. That was gratification for me: to
see my kids proud of their mom.” 

Since graduating from college and Bridge Communities this spring, Cassie has moved into a three-bedroom townhouse, with a big yard for her girls. And at work, she’s been promoted from an entry-level patient registrar to a patient financial counselor, and helps cancer patients find funding for their treatment. “I love my job because every day, I’m making a difference in
somebody’s life,” she says. She’s continuing to budget and save like her mentors taught her, and aspires to work in management one day.

Cassie says that being in the Bridge Communities turned her life around. “Bridge built my self-esteem, and I came out of the shell I’d been in from feeling like I wasn’t good enough,” she says. “To gain my confidence back and take my life back, it made me a better mother, a better friend, a better daughter, and just a better person across the board. And I’m grateful.”

Client update

Cassie graduated from college this past spring! She has a wonderful full-time job, and her family resides in a beautiful, three-bedroom townhome.

Read more client success stories »

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"As a mentor, I feel that I have received more than I have given...the goal of a mentor might be to help families find resources to further their education, get out of debt, and plan for the future, but one soon realizes that it is the social and emotional support that is most essential.  Being a mentor has taught me patience, compassion, and perseverance.  It has changed my definition of success and increased my gratitude toward family, friends and God."