By Anna Hughes | Photos by Karen Woolley

It only takes one:

One crisis, one painful diagnosis, one layoff.

It only takes one life-altering event to watch bills collect on the table, witness your savings drain, and end up without a place to call home.

This can happen to anybody at any time. Bridge Communities understands this. It’s exactly why they are helping people, who have found themselves in this situation, get back on their feet.

Bridge Communities provides free transitional housing to over 100 Dupage County families facing homelessness each year. Bridge partners with dozens of local churches, community groups, and businesses to provide a comprehensive two-year program that helps participants leave self-sufficient and confident in their futures.

“Be it time, be it expertise, be it financial, be it wisdom, we all have the ability to donate something.”

– Claudia Serwat

Bridge’s core values of partnership, empowerment, integrity, respect, and hope are a key component of everyone involved with the nonprofit: clients, mentors, program partners, volunteers, donors, board members, staff, and community partners.

Bridge relies on donations, community support, and generous donations of time and talent from people across the community. One volunteer, Claudia Serwat, has been impacted firsthand by serving as a mentor for families going through the Bridge program.

“Be it time, be it expertise, be it financial, be it wisdom, we all have the ability to donate something,” Serwat said.

She began mentoring at Bridge after hearing about it from St. Isaac Jogues Church. Serwat, submersing herself in the team’s mission, got increasingly more involved with fundraising and outreach.

She serves as one of the 20 committee members for the annual “Wine Women & Shoes” event along with Janice D’Arco of Hinsdale. This keystone fundraiser is both a socially acclaimed shindig and an opportunity to share Bridge’s mission with hundreds of people throughout the western suburbs.

D’Arco, who has been involved with Bridge Communities since 2015, said this event takes an entire year to plan and likens the preparation to that of a wedding. A successful fundraiser, according to D’Arco, requires a strong committee that’s willing to take on responsibilities throughout the year, such as securing vendors, a location, silent and live auction items, and much more. The dedication of volunteers like her and Serwat is the reason the event has grown so much in recent years.

“It’s a great annual event, they have such an empathetic and compassionate staff.” D’Arco said. “I just love working with them. It’s no frills. It’s all about … raising money for this wonderful cause.”

This year’s event, presented by Wintrust, was on February 24. The semi-formal brunch-style gathering gave guests an opportunity to shop the marketplace full of local vendors and creators, including female-owned small businesses, while chatting with friends over a glass of bubbly. Following, everyone enjoys a sit-down lunch, while hearing the personal telling of a Bridge success story.

“It gives the audience a real opportunity to see what impact, you know, Bridge has had on an individual family,” D’Arco said.

The event concluded with a fashion show and formal paddle auction, securing impressive donations to Bridge and its mission. This year’s event raised $370,000, thanks to the participation of over 400 guests from across the western suburbs and beyond.

All of the money goes towards housing and programming for dozens of families facing homelessness, allowing Bridge to continue to inspire families and change lives. In addition to the financial impact, Wine Women & Shoes helps spread the word with the community about the mission and impact that Bridge Communities has.

“It could be you, it could be me. [It] doesn’t matter where you are in your life now, but something happens that just pulls the rug from under you, and you’re just at a loss, right? So what this organization does is pick those people up,” D’Arco said. “It feels great to support this organization, in the people who really believe in the mission. “

For more information about Bridge Communities and how you can get involved, visit ■

A table of attendees kicks off the event with a group cheers.
Hinsdale resident and WWS committee member, Shelly Perkowski, enjoying the event with friends.
Janice D’Arco and her table group take photo at Wine Women & Shoes selfie station.