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When our founders started this company in 1966 as a single bank location, they probably never dreamed of the growth we would experience.
We thank all of our loyal customers, partner vendors, community members and friends for our success over the past 50+ years. Your support allows us to share our blessings by impacting the lives of others. That’s how Pay It Forward began, and why it continues each year.
At the company Christmas party in December 2007, Bell employees received a big surprise.
Joined on stage by an Oprah Winfrey impersonator, Michael Solberg announced an effort modeled after the talk show host’s “pay it forward” project. Michael shared that every full-time employee would receive $1,000 and every part-time employee $500 to give to an individual, family or organization in need.
Throughout 2008, employees gave individually, pooled their funds and partnered with other donors outside the bank. Eventually, the half-million-dollar employee commitment, along with additional gifts from employees, customers, other businesses and foundations, totaled more than $600,000 in the first year.
In 2008, with Pay It Forward novelist Catherine Ryan Hyde as a special Christmas party guest, the bank announced that the program would continue for years to come.
Michael Solberg and Oprah Winfrey impersonator at company Christmas party in 2007.
In 2013, Bell began Pay It Forward: Community Connect. Through this addition to the Pay It Forward program, each employee selects a customer, vendor or community member who themselves have the chance to Pay It Forward to people in need. It doubles the program’s impact on the community, and we’re able to share even more inspirational stories of giving.
In some years, Pay It Forward's impact has been even greater. In celebration of Bell’s 50th anniversary in 2016, every full-time employee received $2,500 and every part-time employee $1,000 in Pay It Forward funds. In 2019, in celebration of our company's continued growth and success, we're repeating that gift: every full-time employee receives $2,500 and every part-time employee $1,000 to pay it forward as they choose to those in need.
It Forward has reached others both nationally and internationally. Pay It Forward gifts have benefited people and organizations almost all 50 states and more than a dozen countries. Our giving stories reflect the far-reaching impacts of the program.