Building Bridges to Better Lives and
LINCOLN—Tracy Shamberger doesn't love the term “life coach”, even though it's on her card. The phrase seems too all-encompassing, even presumptuous. What she loves is making connections: to people, to programs, to opportunities. She loves building bridges.
The Bridge Project began life as a Rotary
Club initiative, designed to coordinate the many different programs that
people have access to, but don't always know how to approach. The goal was
to provide a space, and person, that people could feel comfortable
approaching for help.
Tracy doesn't just plan to give people ideas, she intends to work with them. She sees her role as guiding others not only to what they need, but to the skills they need to get help. “I'm not just going to give you a budget and tell you to do it,” she explains, “Let's sit down and do it together. Let's meet weekly. It's about building up confidence.”
She's well aware of the stigma that addicts can face. She wants to show people that every addict is also a child, a father, a grandchild. They won't just go away. She explains that, as addicts gain confidence, as they get their lives back in order, they become a neighbor, an employee, a parent. A person.
A graduate of Linwood High School, Tracy has an incandescent combination of irrepressible energy and warm humanity. She's open and honest about her own experiences with addiction, as well as a proud and excited mother.
After she sobered up, she needed a new purpose. She'd worked with students for five years, and knew that helping people was a deeply-rooted part of her. She describes her goal as being “To work with individuals and families, to strengthen them, to build them up. We're building individuals, and in turn we strengthen our community.”
Addiction recovery is a big part of the Project, but it's by no means the sole focus. Tracy expects to handle everything from financial planning, to career goals, to organizing self-help sessions with parents. The key is building connections: to useful programs, to personal goals, to concerned friends and family. The Bridge Project won't be providing direct financial aid. Instead, its primary purpose will be to form a connection between those in need and the services and organizations that can help them.
Tracy says she expects commitment from people, and plans to meet with them weekly, to check in and make sure they're following up. She'll go with them to meetings, help with applications, make introductions—in short, whatever she can do to help that person help themselves.
She overflows with examples of the organizations she imagines directing people to, encouraging people towards, helping people find. A class in Plymouth that teachers parents and children to cook healthy means. A budgeting class for all ages. A recovery group for addicts of all stripes, and a group for the parents of addicts. Job opportunities and state welfare programs.
The Bridge project has grown beyond its Rotary origins, but the local Club's influence is still strong. Much of its board, who invited Tracy to join, are members. The board comprises a wide range of experiences and perspectives: local business owner Scott Rice and his daughter, Molly. Woodstock Executive Assistant Judy Welch, Marcus Corey of Loon Mountain Ministries, and local lawyer William Parnell. Tracy hopes to add a member of the police soon.
Molly Rice recalls the police would spin their lights as she passed. After all, she was a known addict. These days, they wave and smile. She believes in second chances; she's excited to help others get them. As financial guru and general assistant for the Bridge Project, she's well positioned to do just that.
According to Ms. Rice, more than two dozen area businesses have committed to providing more than $1000 for each of the next three years. Individual donations have been slower to emerge. Nevertheless, the program is fully funded through 2020.
Molly's father, Scott Rice, runs the Woodstock Inn and Brewery. “We're completely willing to give anyone a chance,” she says, explaining the Bridge Project's goal of connecting people with employment opportunities, “I think a lot of businesses are, in this town.” She cites the high level of local business buy-in as a testament to the Bridge Project's potential.
The Bridge Project will be holding an open house on June 12th, 4-7 pm, and they hope everyone shows up—parents, students, survivors, and interested citizens. They're both plenty local, but the Project is new, and they're eager to introduce themselves to their community.
Tracy and Molly say they've had nothing but support from Lincoln and Woodstock. Town welfare executive assistant Jane Leslie praised the project, saying “It'll strengthen the community.” She described the Project and its affiliates as “A safety net that people don't think about it.” She lauded the generosity of local businesses, who are pulling the majority of weight at the moment.
Last week was the Project's first, and they've had half a dozen people approach them already. Publicity has been mostly word of mouth, but if that rate keeps up, Tracy half-worries, half-hopes they'll have to find a bigger space. It all depend on what people need, what the community needs.
“If they need someone to talk to, if they need a place to show up to, we want to be there for them,” she says, adding with a smile, “Just call.”
The Bridge Project is open for business (free to all) at 264 Main St in Lincoln, just above Black Mountain Burger.
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