We started off with very meager beginnings…just a home…turned into a resource center…nineteen different programs…to bring healing, to bring connectivity, bridging the gap…

Tashyra Bernard

Co-Founder, Hope Restores

We connect with Tashyra Bernard of Hope Restores, we talk origins, programming, how people can support the organization, and what next for this group offering services that meet the needs of the African American community in Western Wisconsin.

We also touch on the Forward La Crosse campaign, which encourages the public input in updating the City of La Crosse’s Comprehensive Plan.

Special thanks to our Podcast Sponsors!

Frozen River Film Festival
Transcript

Amy Gabay 00:00
This podcast is brought to you by People’s Food Co Op, a community owned grocery store in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin and Rochester, Minnesota that promotes local farmers and producers through an emphasis on fresh, healthy, sustainable food. Anyone can shop, everyone is welcome. For more information, visit them online at PFC.coop. This podcast is also brought to you by Trempealeau County Tourism. Whether your idea of fun is bicycling, hiking or canoeing, afterwards head into the heart of one of their welcoming communities to experience historic architecture, independent shops and locally owned dining establishments. Visit Trempealeau County Tourism online. Artspire is back with a full weekend of art at the Pump House Regional Arts Center. Enjoy live music from Cloud Cult, Bill Miller and B2wins, plus a fine art fair, interactive art projects, and visual and performing arts June 10th through 11th. Learn more at artspire@thepumphouse.org. We connect with Tashyra Bernard of Hope Restores. We talk origins, programming, how people can support the organization, and what’s next for this group offering services that meet the needs of the African American community in Western Wisconsin. We also touch on the Forward La Crosse Campaign which encourages the public input and updating the City of La Crosse is comprehensive plan. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and defense on our website lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 01:30
And I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 01:30
And this is La Crosse Local.

Tashyra Bernard 01:33
My name is Tashyra Bernard. I was born in Milwaukee, grew up in Madison and I moved here to La Crosse with my family my junior year of high school. So I’ve been in La Crosse ever since then, that puts me at the 22 year mark of being a La Crosse resident.

Brent Hanifl 01:53
So what exactly is Hope Restores?

Tashyra Bernard 01:56
Hope Restores is a Resource Center for African Americans here in town. There has been other cultural resource centers for other individuals. La Crosse has needed one for a while, this has been a long time coming. Having black people and minorities in the La Crosse area is nothing new. The only difference is, is that with the wake of everything that’s happened, we are finding ourselves in a position that we have to start to work on the healing for the black community here in La Crosse. It first started to become something to look further into when our kids started to protest. And they’re saying, you know, we can’t sit in school, we can’t listen. They don’t care about us. They don’t respect us. And you know, a lot of those same voices were a lot of the voices that I echoed when I went to school here. And my daughter, who is 22, she’s actually moved to Arizona because she wanted more diversity. And it was her echoes, you know? And so it turns into well, how long do we continue down this path of just existing in this community without adding value. And so that’s where Hope Restores came into play. We needed to help the black community heal. And we needed to start working on organic connections between the black community and other organizations that are out here. And so we opened up Hope Restores, we opened the doors in February of 2021, although we had founded Hope Restores in November of 2020. And so since then, from birth until now, you know, we started off with very meager beginnings, just a home, my home that I opened up and turned into a resource center. And it’s been going really great. Six programs were our core programs, we’re now up to 19 different programs that all run simultaneously and they’re doing the things that we set out to do, which is bring healing, to bring connectivity. It’s bridging the gap between people that have questions about us and organizations that want to run better, and they want to be more friendly in the black community.

Brent Hanifl 04:18
Can you kind of fill us in on what programming services you guys provide?

Tashyra Bernard 04:22
Absolutely. So our core programs are support groups. And so we have two support groups and that is the Women of Melanin and Brothers Battling Barriers. Within both of those support groups it’s for adults, those are for adults. You know, the parents of the kids that are in these neighborhoods, the parents of the kids that are going to these schools. You know we needed to wrap around them and pour back into them and so they get community, they get therapy, they come in and they talk about different things that are being heavy on them. We take a look at you know financial burdens. We take a look at systemic and economic burdens that you know they’re trying to overcome and what that might look like. The important thing we do is we start to look toward the future. And so it’s what does hope look like, if you didn’t have those burdens? And then we start to address what needs to happen to knock those burdens down so that you can live in a community that is inclusive of you and your family, and you can thrive within that community. Other programs that we offer is we have a small Giving Pantry, and we really focus on like toiletries, things that food share, may not provide. We know that there are a lot of different opportunities to get food, but it’s the things that cost cash at the end of the day that can be a little bit more difficult to obtain. So toilet paper, personal hygiene items, things like that. We have a transportation program where we can help people get to and from the grocery stores. There are quite a few food deserts here in the city of La Crosse where for a lot of people their only options to grocery shop are going to be some of the stores that are really kind of expensive, and do more harm than good as far as making the funds that they do have stretch. Transportation programs can get them to job interviews, to childcare, just all things that will help them in the long run. I don’t know if you want me to keep going, there’s quite a few.

Brent Hanifl 06:26
You kind of reference some of these different programming. For people, you know, on the outside, or people who want to get involved, how can they support the organization? You know, looks like you have a membership, you have a donation page. Is there you know, for people that actually drive people around or those sort of components, how can people get involved?

Tashyra Bernard 06:43
Yeah, absolutely. I’m really happy that you asked that. Because that’s something that we really stress a lot is that, you know, it’s going to take all of us to bring about healing and to work together to get to the place that we want to be. There’s so many different ways we encourage people that want to be hands on and volunteer. We encourage them to do a toiletry drive, we have had people volunteer to do some of the driving and to get people from their different doctors appointments and things like that. And that’s been really helpful. And of course, one of the biggest ways to contribute or make an impact is to through monetary donations so that we can continue the programs and the services that we do provide. That being said, all of our programs are 100% free. So it’s not at the cost of anyone participating and our doors truly are open to everyone. While we are a Black Resource Center, we do encourage all to come through our doors. There is only one, there’s a very small amount of activities that isn’t open to everyone, and that’s the support group. So for the men and women’s support group, those really are for individuals that are black or you know, some portion or some degree because there’s a lot that goes on in there. And we as black people, a lot of times feel like we have to put on a mask just to get through our everyday lives. And this is a place that, it’s a safe haven for people. And so when they come to those support groups, they come there and they breathe and they take a load off. And so those support groups are a little bit more personal and closed doors, but everything else we certainly do encourage people to get involved. And the financial donation is the best, one of the best ways to do that.

Brent Hanifl 08:31
What are you excited for coming up? Is there anything coming down the road that is looking bright?

Tashyra Bernard 08:36
Yeah, so we’re super excited. We joined up with one of our allies, Bobbi Rathert, and she is going to be doing a 24 mile kayaking journey. We have put together a huge campaign for people to get connected in a very real and authentic way. You’re familiar with other programs like Polar Plunge or Jump Rope for Heart, where you can kind of participate along the way. This really models the same thing. Bobbi is taking something that is dear and true to her heart, and she’s figured out a way to use it to bring connection to the La Crosse community. And so we have begun to do some of the promoting on Paddling for Hope is the website. And there are ways to pledge, you can do it as an organization, you can do it as a family. You can buy apparel for Paddling for Hope. Or you know, if you want to purchase a marker, you could purchase a marker like the Blue Bridge and that you know that would be your donation to it. But it’s been really fun and a lot of work and hours have gone into making this something that is that everyone has access to and so we’re super super pumped about our Paddling for Hope campaign. And so, like I said, that’ll be starting up here pretty soon and so we’ll have the website and everything going live or we’ll start to reach out to people that want to get involved. That’s the one thing we hear a lot. Well, what can we do, when can we, how can we get involved? This is a really fun way to get involved. Also, you know, you recently participated in the Forward La Crosse campaign, which is a public campaign to encourage input. The city of La Crosse is updating their comprehensive plan. Why is it important for folks to participate, you think, in the planning process? More than anything, because if they don’t participate, we’ll get the same thing that we’ve always had. And I don’t think there’s a whole lot of people that can say, I’m completely 100% happy with how things are. Well, you got to get hands on. You have to start asking those questions and figure out at what level are you able to participate. And so I’m seeing a lot of efforts on the city’s part to be more inclusive and reach out more. I’ve had the opportunity to get involved because I’ve seen a bigger push at trying to widen that scope.

Brent Hanifl 11:07
Talking about the paddling event, all your different programming, if people want to find out more, you know, potentially help out in some way, or just find out what your organization is all about, what’s the best avenue for them to go to?

Tashyra Bernard 11:20
I would say the easiest avenue for them to pursue would be the website. There’s a lot of information on there. But I would say the very best avenue for them to use would be to come and join us for Coffee with Hope Restores. We do Coffee with Hope Restores twice a month. The first one is the first Friday, and it’s in person at the facility. It’s from 8:30 until 10:00, and it’s located at 231 Copeland Ave. And it’s just a really great time to reconnect with your neighbors learn what’s going on, you know at our organization and share with us the things that you’re working on. The second Coffee with Help Restores is a virtual coffee. And that takes place the third Friday of the month and then with that one we will send out a zoom link. So if you’re interested in joining us for coffee, just send us an email and we will get you the information that you need to come and get to know us.

Amy Gabay 12:15
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.

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About La Crosse Local

La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

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