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Welcome to Our New Program Director!

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Christina Heineken Woodlee, Program Director

Christina Heineken Woodlee, Program Director

We are excited to welcome Christina Heineken Woodlee as the newest member of our Executive leadership. Christina has more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit administration and development. She has developed nationally recognized donor engagement programs – Women United, Emerging Leaders and Arise Project – for United Way. She spent 4 years as the Director of Leadership Affinity Groups at United Way of Central New Mexico, and 5 years as the Manager of Leadership Giving at Greater Twin Cities United Way. Prior to joining United Way, she worked at Discovery Creek Children’s Museum in Washington, DC, as the Special Events and Board Relations Manager. Most recently, Christina was the Director of Donor Relations at Perspectives Inc. in St. Louis Park. In this capacity she introduced an audience segmentation and donor acquisition strategy focused corporate women and millennials.

Christina is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a Master Degree in Public Administration as well as an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Family Studies. She and her family live in the Twin Cities metro.

Welcome to Our Newest Board Member!

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We’re excited to have a new addition to our Board of Directors!

Mrigasha Patel
Mrigasha is a progressive individual in the healthcare industry. Her experiences in healthcare come from sales, marketing and product management roles at companies such as Johnson & Johnson, UnitedHealth Group and Covidien. Currently, she serves in the Global Product Marketing function at Medtronic. Mrigasha joined the Bridge because she believes that healthcare is a social problem – with the root cause of many healthcare problems being not having safe shelter and basic needs. She is passionate about healthcare innovation, reducing waste in healthcare while increasing efficiency and lowering costs to provide better patient care.

In her spare time, Mrigasha enjoys reading, traveling, volunteering, hiking and spending time with friends, family and her dogs. Mrigasha is a NJ native and received her BA from Rutgers University – New Brunswick.

Welcome to Our Newest Board Members

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Five new people have joined our board of directors, and we’re excited to have them on the team!

Michael Friedman

Michael Friedman is an Assistant Vice President at Hays Companies in Minneapolis. Michael holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and minor in Business Administration from Minnesota State-Mankato. Michael enjoys spending his time with family, friends, and giving back to his community. Previously, he served as a youth hockey coach for the Mankato Hockey Association and Bloomington Jefferson Association.



Sharon Hughes

A native of Kansas, Sharon made Minnesota her home in 1995. Her professional career includes 25+ years of experience creating and executing communications and marketing strategies, as well as product and database development – primarily in the financial services and real estate industries. Sharon is SVP of Internal Communications at Ameriprise Financial, Inc which includes editorial planning for both employee and advisor audiences, content and video development, executive communications, strategic meetings management, and all communications systems and delivery functions. She has a BA from Concordia University in Marketing Management and is also Series 7 and 24 licensed. In her personal life, Sharon and her partner Jerry love traveling, cooking, running, bicycling, spending time with friends and family, and spoiling their beautiful golden retriever, Hazel Blue.


Jim Nikolai

Jim is a Vice President of State Government Relations at U.S. Bancorp in Minneapolis. In his role, Jim provides legislative advocacy in nine states and manages other political engagements between U.S. Bank and elected officials. Outside of U.S. Bank, Jim serves on the Board of Directors of St. Stephen’s Human Services and the Citizens League. Jim received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science and his master’s degree in Public Policy and Leadership from the University of St. Thomas. He was also a 2016-2017 Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School for Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Jim resides in West St. Paul with his wife, Jamie, and their sons, Andrew and Sam. In his free time, Jim enjoys running, exercise and reading.

Lisa Wilcox-Erhardt

Lisa is the Executive Vice President of Housing and Services for CommonBond Communities. She is passionate in her belief that affordable, safe and stable housing is foundational for building individual independence and success as well as strengthening communities and economic development.  Lisa served seven years working in city government as a city councilmember, committee member and she sat on the Board of Directors of the League of Minnesota Cities and MN Women in City Government.  Besides working in the public sector and the affordable housing industry, Lisa and her husband ran an insurance consultancy business in Minnesota for 5 years.  Lisa is a graduate of Virginia Wesleyan College – Virginia Beach, VA where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.  In her free time, Lisa enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.

Welcome to our new board members!

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We’re excited to welcome three new members to our Board of Directors:

Randy Okan

Okan_HeadshotRandy is the Assistant Director of Finance at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis. Everyone has the same focus at Hyatt, to “care for people so they can be their best.” He is the founder of the Hyatt Minneapolis Chapter of HyPride, an LGBTQA  business resource group that supports one another, provides education/awareness for colleagues, works in the local community and provides an environment where you can bring 100% of your true self to work. Randy graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Wisconsin with a B.S. in Hotel and Restaurant Management. Recruited directly from college he has worked in various roles for Hyatt Hotels Corporation for the past 31 years. He volunteers for One Voice Mixed Chorus, The Aliveness project, and Out For Equity. Randy and his husband Dennis love traveling and relaxing at their cabin in Ely, MN.

Alecia Sanders

Alecia SandersAlecia Sanders is a Social Worker at Allina Health and Robbinsdale Area Schools. She is also a Psychiatric Associate at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview. Alecia holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance and a Master of Social Work in Clinical Mental Health and Health, Disability, and Aging from the University of Minnesota. Alecia enjoys working with adolescents and families in both the school and hospital settings. Serving on a nonprofit board has been a career goal and aligns with her passion. Alecia enjoys fishing, music, and spending time with family and friends.

Wanda Sigurdson

WandaWanda Sigurdson is a Senior Attorney in the Best Buy corporate legal department. Prior to joining Best Buy, Wanda spent thirteen years as an Associate General Counsel for the hospitality and marketing company, Carlson. Prior to that, Wanda spent two years with Ernst & Young International proving legal counsel in their Moscow, Russia office. Wanda also volunteers with the Volunteer Network of Hennepin County.

Before enrolling in law school, Wanda worked as a social worker, in her home state of Montana, in a variety of roles serving youth and teens including serving as a juvenile probably officer, and working at a juvenile detention center and group home. Wanda continues to apply her interest in social services by working as a client services volunteer for Interface Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP) in Plymouth, MN. IOCP provides holistic support for families including education, housing and clothing assistance, employment counseling and a food shelf.

Wanda recently became an “empty nester” when the last of her three children left for college, and is anxious to use her newfound free time to serve on the Bridges for Young board. In the remainder of her free time, Wanda enjoys reading, running, trying new restaurants and recipes with friends, and traveling with her husband, Todd.

Welcome, Gladys Estoista!

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Gladys headshotGladys Estoista has joined The Bridge for Youth as Finance and Operations Director. She holds a B.S. in Accounting from Ateneo de Davao University in the Philippines and an M.S. in Accounting from Colorado State University. She brings more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector to The Bridge for Youth. After graduate school, Gladys worked in public accounting with Carpenter Evert, a CPA firm prominent within the nonprofit sector. She has also worked for Project for Pride in Living, Inc. as their Accounting Manager and, more recently, for Greater Twin Cities United Way as their Assistant Controller. When her work and family schedule allowed, Gladys brought her experience to the classroom by teaching Accounting classes as an Adjunct Instructor at Rasmussen College.

As the Finance and Operations Director, Gladys will be responsible for leading and managing financial management, information technology, properties management and compliance functions.

Gladys likes to hang out at home with her family and watch her tween daughter try baking recipes. The family has adopted an underprivileged school in the Philippines where they send slightly used school supplies and clothing that they collect from friends and family here.

Local 9th grader creates PSA for The Bridge

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After she heard about the work we do to help out LGBT youth, a local high school student created a PSA to spread the word. Check it out!

BFY’s plans for rental housing for homeless youth featured in Southwest Journal

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The house at 2200 Emerson Ave S. in the East Isles neighborhood was the site of our emergency shelter program from 1975-2008. In 2014, all operations moved into our new facility across the street, leaving the old house empty. In November 2016, the city of Minnepolis adopted a new intentional communities land use plan, which opened up an exciting opportunity to repurpose the house as rental housing for 18-21 year old youth. Our plans for “Rita’s House,” an intentional community for formerly homeless youth are described in this Southwest Journal article.



Welcome New Board Members!

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We are pleased to welcome three new members to our Board of Directors.

KrisBlack_full body_quaretine Oberg
Kristine is a vice-president of strategic planning for Elavon, Inc., a subsidiary of U.S. Bank. She holds a B.A. in English from St. Olaf College, an M.A. in English Literature from University of Wisconsin and an M.S. in the Management of Technology from the University of Minnesota.  She serves on the board of the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and was formerly its treasurer. She volunteers in the GED program for YouthLink. Kristine is also a violist with the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and an avid cyclist. Kristine has three children, Will, Mara and Rachel, and lives in Bloomington.


Brittany PratherBrittany Prather -cropped
Brittany is a Recruiter a Thrivent Financial in Minneapolis where she partners with corporate hiring managers to bring in the best talent to the organization. She is also the Community Outreach Director on the Board for the Thrivent Young Professional’s Network. Brittany holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from Bethel University. It is her personal mission to enhance others’ lives through giving back to the best of her ability. Serving on the Bridge for Youth board aligns with her passion for outreach where she can contribute her HR, marketing and business skills.


SarSarah Sanchez1ah Sanchez
Sarah is a Community Representative in the district office of Congressman Keith Ellison where she has worked since May 2011. She is responsible for outreach related to women’s issues, youth development and education as well as federal casework with various agencies including the Department of Education, Department of Labor and the IRS. Sarah also has a passion for criminal justice reform and understanding the impact of incarceration on families and communities. She is originally from Chicago and came to Minnesota in 2009 as a transfer student from Arizona State University. She received her BS in Family Social Science with a minor in Family Violence Prevention from the University of Minnesota. Sarah enjoys cooking, reading, hiking in Minnesota’s state parks and playing tenor sax in a symphonic ensemble with her husband.