Here’s proof one man can make a difference

Don Heinzman
ECM Columnist

Fran Heitzman, 87, of Bloomington is living proof that one man can make a major difference in the lives of the needy. This month, Bridging, which he founded, is celebrating its 25th anniversary of connecting the haves who have gently used furniture and household items to those who need them in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area.

Sixty thousand families have received beds, chairs, pots, pans and lamps through this amazing program, involving 6,000 volunteers who help with the day-to-day operations.

Those in need of household items apply through 140 agencies that process their requests and direct them to the two warehouses from where the items are delivered for the clients without charge. (The agency pays the delivery charge.)

For example, in 2011 the Salvation Army referred 784 clients to Bridging. After the tornado hit North Minneapolis, Bridging helped 94 households.

Volunteers, who are the equivalent of 39 employees, make this network of receiving and giving work.

Donors can either bring household items directly to the warehouse, or volunteers will pick up the furniture at a charge of $75 for an outside pickup and $150 for an inside job. Twenty-three paid employees drive 11 trucks and move around five semi-trailers where people can donate furniture.

This operation has a budget of $2 million, funded with grants, corporate donations, charges for service and from individuals.

Heitzman, who had a quintuple bypass 16 years ago, is the founder and the inspiration for Bridging, which he says bridges the haves and the have-nots.

He says he hasn’t any money but is the richest man on the Earth. His reward is seeing families, particularly little children, get the furniture they need.

Heitzman began Bridging when as a maintenance man at Pax Christi Catholic Church in Eden Prairie someone brought a used crib and he found a use for it.

From that simple beginning, Bridging has become the largest furniture bank in North America, and that’s cause for a celebration.

How to Help

You can help celebrate the 25th anniversary of Bridging by:

•Sponsor 25 families by collecting household essential.

•Sponsoring a dresser building project.

•Stop by a Bridging truck as it travels to 25 locations from July to December.

•Attend the Silver Anniversary gala for Bridging Oct. 5 at the Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis.

•Donate $25 or $250 in honor of Bridging’s 25th birthday.

•Visit to learn how you can help and be helped.

The warehouse locations are at 201 West 87th St., Bloomington and 1633 Terrace Drive, Roseville. Donation drop-off hours: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.