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IGNITING HOPE

Welding With A Purpose And Other Grace Bridge Initiatives

Article by Niki Carbajal

Photography by Grace Bridge

Originally published in Celina Lifestyle

If you have been around the Celina area for any length of time you will have seen the blue branded Grace Bridge trailers traveling Preston Road. You may have visited the resale boutique on the Square or participated in a twice-monthly food distribution. You may have donated food or received services throughout the year. But only two people have had the experience of graduating from the first Grace Bridge Welding School class.

The newest Grace Bridge initiative is based on the ReIGNITE Hope Welding School established in Gardena, California. According to their website, the program operates with a vision of “reigniting hope in the world one life at a time” by equipping people with life-changing career training. ReIGNITE Hope has trained 1,000 students for a career in welding while also offering compassion and hope in a loving environment that encourages personal responsibility and integrity. 

Partnering with ReIGNITE Hope, Grace Bridge looks to connect the faith-based welding training program with individuals wanting to learn a sustainable trade. The eight-week program is led by an experienced team of two welders. Darr Healy has more than 30 years of experience and holds a certification in pipeline welding. He is qualified in cellulose and hydrogen pipeline welding and has experience as a welding inspector. His life verse is a testimony to his involvement in serving others in prison ministries; “Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). 

Mr. Healy’s partner in the welding school is Phil Hocking. Phil’s background includes machinist, mechanical engineer, CAD, woodworking cabinet maker, and general handyman. Prior to retiring to Prosper, Mr. Hocking lived in California where he helped establish a ministry to train people to weld and become certified through the American Welding Society. That program is now known as ReIGNITE Hope.  

Classes meet twice per week and focus on instruction in MIG, Stick, and Flux Core welding. Up to six students per class cycle experience welding practices, Bible study, mentorship, job prep tips, and resume polishing. At the completion of the course, an inspector from the American Welding Society will test the welds. Successful completion earns the student entry into the national registry of certified welders. 

April 2023 produced the first two graduates of the Grace Bridge Welding School. One graduate, Braden Loafman, came to Grace Bridge as a warehouse staff employee and enrolled in the welding school earlier in the year. Braden mentioned the program is relatively short but “fully equips you to become successful in life and welding”. He has several job leads and is ready to move forward with a position as a certified welder.

Grace Bridge focuses on “Hope Served Here”. The welding school is the newest area where they are offering hope, through training, but there are many other areas where Grace Bridge provides hope to those in need. 

“I Got Your Back”

Backpack and school supplies for kinder through 12th grade students in Collin, Denton, and Grayson counties. The City of Celina partners with Grace Bridge by donating Old Celina Park for the event the first week of August. Grace Bridge expects to serve 500 students in 2023. Registration is required. School supply donations are encouraged through Amazon IGYB List.

“Bikes & Bibles”

 A new bike and Bible for kinder through 8th grade students in Collin, Denton, and Grayson counties. First Celina Church is hosting the event on December 2nd and expects to serve 150 students. Volunteers and donations are needed. Registration for recipients is required.

“Wrapped in Love”

Students in kinder through 8th grade receive 3 wrapped Christmas gifts. The event is on December 16th at Prestonwood North Baptist Church in Prosper. Includes a family-friendly program focusing on Jesus as the true gift. Volunteers and toy donations/drives are needed. Registration for participants is required.

“Food Distribution”

Includes a box of shelf-stable food items two times per month. Meat, bread, and produce are distributed as available. Personal care boxes are distributed once per month. Volunteers and donations are needed. Registration for participants is required.

o   First Saturday: First Celina from 10am to noon

o   Third Saturday: Prestonwood North Baptist Church from 10am to noon

o   Partner church food distributions throughout the month at Heartland Church (Carrollton), Northside Baptist Church (Carrollton), Living Word Church (Little Elm), McKinney Bible Church, and Life 365 Church (Denton).

“Eye Care Clinic”

Conducted quarterly. Basic eye exams and glasses fitting at no charge. Small fee for lenses. Operated in partnership with Dr. Todd Brantley and Dr. Paola Diaz from Lone Star Vision. Registration required.

For more information on the Grace Bridge Welding School or any of the Grace Bridge initiatives, contact Jennifer Whitson, Volunteer and Programs Coordinator, at jwhitson@gracebridge.us. Visit GraceBridge.us for photos, testimonials, and volunteer opportunities.

It is the Grace Bridge mission to provide hope to those in need and to share resources and opportunities through hope-focused initiatives. Welding is among the top sustainable trades that provides career opportunity for those to become self-sufficient and a contributor to their family and community.

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