Every Family. Every Child. Every Time.
About The Bridge

Bridge History

For more than 46 years, the Bridge has been reaching out to children and families in the community. Though there have been changes in our name and our services, and we have expanded and become a multi-service agency for the Greater Hartford area, we maintain our commitment to helping children, youth, and families to meet life's challenges and build fulfilling lives.

1969 – Bridge founder and first Executive Director Dick Jackson, alarmed by growing drug use among teenagers, begins training volunteers and peer counselors to reach out to these alienated young people in West Hartford, CT.

1970 – The Bridge opens a drop-in center in the YMCA annex on North Main Street in West Hartford to provide a social alternative to the drug culture, and a place where young people and adults could meet, talk, and solve problems. 

1971 – The Bridge moves its counseling center and offices to the basement of the First Church of Christ on the town green.

1974 - The Bridge signs a contract to provide social services to the West Hartford Public Schools. 

1975 – Ruth Freymann becomes the second Executive Director of the Bridge and begins a four-year effort to open a regional shelter for teen runaways.

1978 – The Bridge counseling center moves to the First Baptist Church. The Junction 1019 shelter opens on Farmington Avenue in West Hartford. The shelter was later renamed the Bridge Youth Shelter, and in 2013, Freymann House, in honor of the woman most responsible for its beginning.

1979 - The Bridge becomes the Youth Service Bureau for the Town of West Hartford.

1980 - Selma Lobel becomes the third Executive Director and brings Looking In Teen Theatre to the Bridge. This troupe performed skits in area schools dramatizing real-life issues facing youth. (In 2003, the theater group affiliated with the Capitol Region Education Council.)

1987 - Wayne Starkey becomes the fourth Executive Director.

1988 – The Independent Living Program starts to assist youth in state care to become independent adults. Tune-In to Life begins to promote healthy lifestyles in the community.

1991 - The Family Resource Center begins at Charter Oak School to provide support for families with children at the school. 

1994 - David Johnston becomes the fifth Executive Director.

1995 - The Bridge moves to its current headquarters at 1022 Farmington Avenue near West Hartford Center.  A name change becomes official: The Bridge Family Center. 

1998 – Margaret Hann becomes the sixth Executive Director of the Bridge. The Transitional Living Apartment Program (Moving On) opens to assist male adolescents ages 16 to 21 in developing the skills to live independently.

1999 - The Bridge opens a drop-in Teen Center at Elmwood Community Center in West Hartford. 

2004 - Youth in Transition begins to serve homeless youth ages 16 to 21 who were not in the state system of care. The program ends in 2009 and begins again in 2014. 

2006 – The Bridge opens Eleanor House, a therapeutic group home for girls ages 13 to 18, in Hartford.

2007 - The Bridge converts its West Hartford youth shelter to the STAR (short-term assessment and respite) Home model for adolescent girls ages 11 to 18 and opens three additional homes in CT in Manchester, Southington, and Harwinton.

2008 - The Bridge opens a STAR Home in Wolcott, CT for adolescent boys ages 11 to 18. The Bridge is licensed as an outpatient psychiatric clinic for children and adolescents.

2011 - The Bridge opens Bridge East, a counseling center in Rockville, CT. 

2015 – The Bridge opens Bridge West, our third counseling center, in Avon, CT.

Under Hann’s direction, the Bridge has steadily deepened its roots in the West Hartford school system, offering programs in nearly every school in town. The Bridge has undergone a strategic planning process that has strengthened the internal structure of the Bridge. With the assistance of grants from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Bridge hired a development director and a human resources professional, purchased new development and accounting software, purchased new computers and trained staff, implemented a new management information system allowing better program evaluation, and enhanced its communications.

We've come a long way from the days when we simply offered peer counseling to drop-ins in a church basement.  While we continue to reach out to troubled teens, today we strive to support all children and families in meeting life’s challenges and building fulfilling lives.


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