Pay It Forward - Keeping the Faith

8/18/2023 12:00:00 PM

Pay It Forward

“They had three kids, and they wanted to adopt, and they kept that thought consistent for 10 years. I can’t even keep my plans for next weekend. So, it’s amazing that they wanted to so bad that they kept their faith strong.”
– Usha Schaan, Bell Bank Employee


Bell Employee
Usha Schaan
Fargo, N.D.

The Village Family Service Center

The Need

For Usha Schaan and her sisters, adoption is personal. A lot of things had to fall into place, over many years, for a Fargo, N.D., family to adopt the three young sisters from India.

Steve and Peggy Schaan had been on a list to adopt children for a decade when they were told they no longer qualified. Undeterred, the couple chose another adoption agency, who asked them, “Would you ever consider three girls from India?” Peggy knew her answer, but she didn’t say anything to her husband. She simply put photos of the girls on their kitchen counter – which was “a dirty trick,” jokes Steve.

Across the globe, sisters Deepa, Lakshmi and Usha were together in an Indian orphanage. At one point, Deepa was about to be adopted separately to a family who found out they were pregnant, and decided not to adopt. Deepa stayed with her sisters.

“I believe everything happens for a reason, and there are roadblocks for a purpose,” says Deepa, now Deepa Throntveit.

Back in Fargo, Steve couldn’t ignore the images of the three girls.

“I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I can’t work,” Steve relates. “I’m looking at the pictures after a few days. I said, ‘Well, okay, let’s just do it. We have to.’”

The Impact

Peggy had a long and difficult trip to get the girls – and the moment they met her, they knew they’d found their “forever home,” Deepa says. When Peggy and the girls arrived back in Fargo, they were welcomed by Steve and the couple’s three sons. The boys were gracious and selfless when it came to interacting with their new little sisters.

“They were incredible,” Usha says. “They treated us like family right away.”

While the sisters have admired the way their adoptive parents raised them, the love of the entire family is readily apparent. “I would say one thing we never heard, ‘You’re not our real parents,’” Steve comments, touchingly. “Not once ever.”

When it came to giving her Pay It Forward funds, Usha knew she wanted to help a nonprofit that works with adoptions.

“With my adoption, I’d been blessed with so much,” she says. “I was just thinking, ‘What can I do to pay it back?’” Usha’s parents recommended The Village Family Service Center in Fargo, with a 130-year-old program that, they said, embraces “all types of adoptions.”

“When we get chosen for money to go to our adoption program, it’s a huge deal,” says director David Newman of Usha’s gift.

For Usha, her donation to The Village is small repayment for a gift that answered the prayers of an American family, and three small girls in India.

“I think adoption just gives kids a second life,” Usha explains. “It’s one of the most selfless things that someone can do for someone else.”

Through the Pay It Forward program, Bell gives employees money each year to donate to people in need and causes they care about.


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