Getting to know Bridget Pudimat

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

Working as a volunteer with youth definitely snuck up on Bridget Pudimat, who works in human resources. She never imagined how she would enjoy spending many hours each week with a group of middle school through high school students, leading them through a wide range of community outreach activities and experiences. After four years leading the youth group of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Pudimat, with husband Gary, their daughter Jordan, 16, and son Nolan, 14, can’t imagine life without the group.

“Helping the youth and doing so many things with them is my fun. Yes, I often feel I’m running around like a crazy chicken, but there’s such joy. When one of the kids has a tough time, I feel I can help,” she said. “I’m doing things I might never have done – like a summer mission trip to Haiti.”

Pudimat, her family and the youth group focus on raising money for local charities, and on volunteering. They hold car washes and fundraisers to support Family Promise, a charity close to Pudimat’s heart because it works to help homeless families with children stay together in their time of need.

Gary and Bridget Pudimat

Gary and Bridget Pudimat

“As one of the groups who support Family Promise, we host a family at church and turn space into a temporary home with everything they need for a week or two. We cook with them or provide meals, offer companionship and play with the children in our gym,” Pudimat said “We want the family’s life [to be] as normal as possible.”

When a family moves into housing, Pudimat and the youth volunteer with members of the congregation to refurbish their home, painting or doing whatever is needed. Seeing how they can help others in need is a life lesson for teens who may not realize that hunger and homelessness exist in Jacksonville.

“We participate in Cardboard City every year, sponsored by Family Promise, where we take cardboard boxes to the designated location and build shelters to sleep in overnight, even if it pours rain like last year. It helps to hear personal stories from families in the program. Teens are often unaware that they are attending school with other youth experiencing these social issues. Those in need may try to hide the problems out of shame or embarrassment,” she said.

To help fight hunger and raise awareness in our community, Pudimat, her family and the youth group support the Nourishment Network (formerly Second Harvest Food Bank). They hold fundraisers, collect canned goods and volunteer in the food bank’s warehouse.

The Pudimats leave with the youth group June 7-14 to volunteer in Port-au-Prince, Haiti helping the poor in maternity, life and job skills programs.

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