Bridges of Love is an organization firmly rooted in the heart of Alberta that stands as a guardian angel for communities across the province. Bridges of Love is not merely a charity; it’s a lifeline, a pillar of support that reaches out with resources, coordination, and essential emergency training long before disaster’s shadow looms large. Bridges of Love provides training to individuals within these communities who undergo basic emergency response tactics and are able to equip themselves to be the first responders when calamity strikes. These community heroes are the embodiment of the organization’s mission – they save lives and protect property, providing crucial assistance until the professional first responders can take over. We spoke more with Marg Pollon, the Founding Executive Director, to discuss their mission further.
Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.
When disaster strikes, civil society is often first in line, to offer a hand up. Community Emergency Response Team training enhances the capacity of civil society to provide immediate disaster assistance, bridging the critical gap between the time of disaster, and the arrival of emergency services. Bridges of Love provides resources, coordination, and basic emergency training for the church and community before disaster strikes. We recently introduced a new platform, “Alberta Recovers” an online donation management platform for disaster victim assistance.
What problem does it aim to solve?
When a catastrophic major event unexpectedly takes place, first responders may be overwhelmed by the extent of the disaster, so are unable to assist all those impacted. Having community members who are trained in basic emergency skills and knowledge and equipped can save lives and protect property. They are first on the scene to assist in the areas where they are trained, until the first responders are able to take over.
When did you start/join it?
Bridges of Love was birthed in 2003, became a Not-for-Profit in June 2004 and a Registered Charity in 2007.
What made you want to get involved?
Our initial focus was on Pandemic Preparedness due to the invitation by a Burnaby doctor who asked us to mobilize churches to be ready to respond to the community needs, should we experience an Influenza Pandemic. I was a Registered Medical Technologist previously, so this seemed like a good fit with my background and also with Bridges of Love’s mandate to connect the church with the community.
What was the situation like when you started?
The response was strong as a pandemic was overdue! Public Safety Canada became involved with Bridges of Love forming a Faith Emergency Preparedness Initiative Advisory Council where we collaborated across the various emergency and health sectors. During this time we worked together to develop plans and protocols for the local church responding to a pandemic as well as putting on workshops and a Regional Faith Community Summit on Pandemic Preparedness and Response in 2008. We later broadened our reach to cover any disaster that we might experience in Canada. This was the greatest time of collaboration with Faith, Public, and Private sectors working and planning together for the good of the community.
How has it changed since?
Our focus and goals have remained constant over the years. Due to the increase and frequency of disasters in our Province, we recently developed a recovery platform for donation management, “Alberta Recovers.”
What more needs to be done?
We have only scratched the surface with our programs. We secured an Alberta Civil Society Fund grant in 2022 which allowed us to hire one staff member. We continue to offer training but we need support from our government and municipal leaders to affirm this work as important so community members will be confident to engage.
How can our readers help?
Readers can help by taking the Community Emergency Response Team training so they will be better prepared to assist themselves, family, and community when disaster strikes. They can sign on to Alberta Recovers to be a volunteer, donor, or financial supporter.
Churches can become Faith Emergency Preparedness Initiative (FEPI) members to be ready to assist their communities in times of disaster. Information is gathered on their facility, 24 hr. contact information, volunteers, and resources online so when disaster strikes, we already have this information for a quick and effective response.
Do you have any events coming up?
Bridges of Love Ministry is celebrating our 20th Anniversary on October 12 in High River.
We also are planning a CERT training Summit for November. We are always looking for instructors who volunteer to teach the 8 modules.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?