Bridge, Gateway moving, expanding

Giving customers a sense of satisfaction while at the same time extra nutrition or medical care at reasonable prices, weighs heavily on the minds of volunteers at two of the community ministries/businesses that have proven successful enough to expand their services.

And while customers to The Bridge Food Center and Gateway Family & Urgent Care can take the experience and goods home with them, the volunteers have their victories as well.
The Bridge will move into the former Save A Lot location.
Joyce Battjes, one of three co-managers of Bridge (the others are Marsha Stamas and Robin Bott), says the system has “enabled” people to eat better for the past seven years. The Bridge Food Center, serving residents since 2016 from its location  at 1539 Washington St. in the Midland Towne Center, will move to a space on Saginaw Road previously occupied by Save A Lot in the former K-Mart plaza. 

She notes that moving into a building triple the size of its current location will put all the operations under one roof and allow them to close an off-site storage location. That’s exciting, and more efficient, she says. 
Gateway moved into the Midland Towne Plaza on Washington Street.
Meanwhile, Jim Mier, clinic director for the Gateway Family & Urgent Care, says moving to the Midland Towne Center from its former location at McCreadie’s Corner Plaza will not only allow the one-year-old operation to provide more services, but will also give them greater visibility in the community. That includes a much needed x-ray machine and better testing.

For volunteers, customers and workers alike, it is all about pride, dignity and satisfaction, and the unique business models that help make it work. It’s simple: Everybody pays something, says Ed Doerner, one of the pastors at Messiah and one of the architects of the ministries.

The businesses are two of the six community ministries begun by Messiah in recent years that provide services to the “people who need a little assistance.” The ministries also include His Hands Auto (repair and dealership), Pivot Point Appliance (jobs and appliances), Kids’ Creek Early Care & Education Center (preschool & childcare), housing and recovery.

Volunteers are donating labor to get the new Bridge ready for business.
The ministries provide help for people often forced to make difficult choices between food, shelter, medicine, transportation and other pressing needs as defined by ALICE. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed and, according to the Michigan Association of United Way, represents those who are working yet still struggle to make ends meet.

The poverty level for a family of four in Michigan is $25,750. These families often qualify for additional assistance with food and healthcare. The ALICE population, earning between $25,750 to $64,116 for a family of four, often does not qualify for food or healthcare assistance. Although this population earns more than the poverty level, they earn less than the basic costs of living for families in Michigan. These programs help those working people who are working but can’t afford it all, Doerner says.
The team ready to serve patients at Gateway.
This is the gap that Gateway Healthcare is filling, becoming ALICE’s gateway to quality, affordable healthcare, Mier explains. For each person seeking services,,  for those that qualify, a visit will cost no more than $40,  including labs and tests. He hopes to triple the number of people who come to Gateway in the near future, with two new, additional programs yet to be announced.

The facility sports two nurse practitioners, two medical assistants, and a supervisory physician, (paid positions) plus numerous volunteers who help with all the details that go along with running the organization.

Bridge co-manager Stamas notes that “Our motto is “Run by the Community - For the Community” and she notes that it is all operated by volunteers, “of which we will need more with the larger space.”

That space is expected to be opened in December - soon after the refrigeration arrives in September and is up and running. Follow the website for details about volunteering and updates on the new location at, she says.

Its business model reads “We are a grocery store with wholesale prices, marked up by 5 pennies. It is run by 100% volunteer staff who love to serve the community. The Bridge is able to keep product costs low because the labor costs are eliminated due to volunteers stepping up and helping out.” Its mission statement states, “To provide opportunities for people to put high quality, affordable food on their table by serving them with love, respect and the help of God.”
Marsha Stamas and Joyce Battjes are two of the co-managers at The Bridge.

Stamas says newcomers are told the store is meant to serve households with annual incomes of less than $64,000 but responses are not challenged. A key tag is then provided and scanned on future visits – thus providing the Center with data to better plan and measure its work.

The Bridge will host a community wide Fundraising Event at 1539 Washington St. on July 25-27 to raise funds to offset the cost of items needed in the new location such as shopping carts, baskets, motorized shopping carts, kitchen equipment, checkout stations, etc., notes Stamas.

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Read more articles by Ralph E. Wirtz.

Ralph E. Wirtz is a native Midlander who retired from the Midland Daily News as a managing editor in 2015. He has been freelancing since then in between traveling and volunteering. He has four adult children, all who graduated from Bullock Creek High School as he did. He is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Central Michigan University grad. He can be reached at