Building Bridges is featured in the Christmas Springfield News Leader

Building Bridges offers special experiences for young people

Linda Leicht
Special to Springfield News-Leader
USA TODAY NETWORK

Five young women — each dressed in formal dresses, their hair coiffed and makeup applied — enjoyed a steak dinner and limo drive to view the Christmas lights recently, all thanks to a group of people who simply want to impact lives.

Building Bridges Hand In Hand, nonprofit started by Anita Villalobos, provides events at least four times a year for young people who might not otherwise have those special experiences.  This month, they provided a Christmas to remember for the young women at Laura’s Home, a transitional housing program by Good Samaritan Boys Ranch for girls aging out of foster care.

“Anita thought of a red carpet event,” said Joan Jenkins, who helped to arrange for volunteer beauticians to come in to get the girls ready. “We want these young ladies to feel as special as they are.”

Volunteers did their hair and makeup, provided dresses and shoes, treated them to dinner at Jimm’s Steakhouse, and gave them a limo ride. The parking lot at Jimm’s was turned into a starstudded stage, as each girl walked a red carpet, escorted by a volunteer who also handed them a bouquet of roses.

Anita Villalobos gets the red carpet ready to greet the girls from Laura’s Home for their special night.

Villalobos started her organization at Christmas eight years ago when she and a handful of friends would decorate and hold a small party for residents of Great Circle (formerly Boys and Girls Town).  That turned into quarterly events, and the effort expanded to other organizations that work with children and young people.

“A lot of what we do is to build confidence,” Villalobos explained. “We don’t fix things, but a lot of these kids never had a constant (in their lives). We will never judge them. We are more like friends.”

Why does she do it?
“I don’t believe in giving up on anyone, let alone a child,” said Villalobos, the mother of seven.

Catherine Harms was on hand to greet the girls as they arrived at Jimm’s.  She has been a part of Building Bridges since it started. Because of its work with children, especially foster children, the organization touches her heart “I grew up in the foster care system in California,” she explained. “It’s my way of giving back.”

The season has been busy for her and the other volunteers. They held a Christmas party for Harmony House, a shelter for abused women and children, hosted another holiday party for developmentally disabled students in Springfield schools, celebrated the holiday at Rare Breed, and decorated and held parties at some northside elementary schools.

All those parties and all that effort require volunteers and donations, Harms added. In addition to quarterly events, such as these, the charity works with organizations to provide other needed services, such as intake baskets at Laura’s Home so the girls have all the essentials.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities or to donate, visit https://bbhih.org.

Donations list

The following businesses, organizations and individuals made it possible for Building Bridges Hand In Hand to make the evening possible for the young women at Laura’s Home:

Individuals from as far away as Texas sponsored individual girls on a Facebook fundraiser.

Jimm’s Steakhouse

Classy Chassis Limousine service

❚ The Venues Church

❚ Premier Party Coach

❚ Gunny’s Mill

❚ A local florist who wishes to stay anonymous

❚ Several local hairdressers and makeup artist

❚ Ambassadors for Children

Featured Image: Phillip Wright (left), pastor at The Venues, leads a prayer before the girls arrive at Jimm’s Steakhouse, as Anita Villalobos, Catherine Harms, Heidi Sanders and Bryan Mason hold hands in a prayer circle.

PHOTOS BY LINDA LEICHT/FOR THE NEWS-LEADER