"We can do better!" was the mantra for the evening as Fran Heitzman, the founder of Bridging, the largest non-profit furniture bank in North America, accepted the Franciscan International Award on May 8, 2014. Fran shared a few of his many stories about how Bridging has made a difference for the better in the lives of over 70,000 people in the Twin Cities area. "When a family has to share spoons in order to eat, where are our priorities?" he exclaimed, "We can do better!"
At 89 Fran has the faith and the energy that can move mountains, and if you talk to his friends and co-workers at Bridging, it appears that he has overcome many obstacles to make Bridging a place of hope for families who seem to have little reason to hope. He began this ministry in donated space in his local parish, Pax Christi, in Eden Prairie, MN and it now has two warehouses, seven trucks, paid staff as well as a host of volunteers.
A crowd of around 250 gathered at the Wilds Golf Club to celebrate the 56th Franciscan International Award Dinner. Friars Jim Van Dorn, Tom Merrill, Juniper Cummings, Ambrose Eischens, Jim Kent, Bob Roddy, and Richard Kaley were present as well as past several recipients of the Award.
The Franciscan International Award recognizes an individual or organization that emulates the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. Past recipients of the Award include: the Rev. Billy Graham, Sister Helen Prejean, Caringbridge, Juniper Cummings and the Knights of Columbus. The Dinner also serves as a fund-raising event for Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center in Prior Lake. "We like to refer to it as a 'Friend Raiser,' rather than a fund raiser," Bro. Bob Roddy, Director of Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center, said. "It's a great opportunity for retreatants and friends of Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center to come together and share community together."