by Dennis Dalman
Twins Abby and Grace Bjerke, 5, love to shop with their mother, Pam – not for themselves, but for the women and children who are sheltered at Anna Marie’s Alliance in St. Cloud.
The Bjerke family members (Pam, Ryan and their twins), who live just north of Sartell, have decided to channel their holiday spirit into helping others. Anna Marie’s Alliance was an easy choice because Pam Bjerke, a Stearns Bank employee, is a board member of Anna Marie’s Alliance – thus, her family members are well aware of its needs.
They have gone on shopping trips to bring big bundles of joy to the residents of the protective shelter, where abused women and their often-traumatized children go through the healing process and find positive, healthy directions in their lives.
The gifts the Bjerkes bring to the shelter include big bags of toys, stacks of personal-care items and anything else that might be needed.
“As a family, we want to teach our children the true meaning of the holidays – the joy of giving and the power of kindness,” Pam said. “Anna Marie’s Alliance does incredible work in our community and so we are honored to contribute to this cause.”
In addition to their bundles of gifts, the Bjerkes gave a monetary donation to the shelter’s Building Hope Capital Campaign (dubbed “Coming Home”). Those funds will make possible the final phase of converting the center’s current dormitory-style living space into private apartment units. That privacy and family togetherness can help women and their children feel they have their own secure “homes” in which to heal, grow and find fresh starts for happy lives. Pam, who is chair of the Coming Home Capital Campaign, knows that need well because she herself is a survivor of domestic abuse.
“At a time when so many of us are utterly overwhelmed by the heartbreak around the world,” she said, “we can demonstrate love in action by offering our children a sense of peace right here at home.”
If the fundraising campaign is successful by the end of 2023, families will have their new apartment spaces in time for the holidays next year.
To hasten that goal, local philanthropists Karel and Mike Helgeson announced they will match, dollar for dollar, donations that are received by Dec. 31, up to an amount of $250,000.
Anna Marie’s Alliance’s mission is to provide education, intervention and advocacy to those who have endured the traumas of relationship abuse. The Alliance’s goal is to provide women who are victims of domestic abuse and their children a safe, supportive place and the resources they need. The Alliance’s large, overarching goal is “to create a community where violence is not tolerated and where every home is a safe home.”
To help with that effort by making a donation or volunteering, visit the Anna Marie’s Alliance website at annamaries.org. On the top of the page, look for “You Can Help.” Click on that pull-down menu to “Donate” and/or “Volunteer” and proceed from there.
Donations can also be made by mail. Send checks to Anna Marie’s Alliance, 505 10th Ave. N., St. Cloud, MN 56301.