Even small gifts change lives

Pay It Forward

Sewing It Forward

Angela Buchardt and some of her customers recently teamed up to bring a smile to the faces of some children with complex needs.


Angela, a customer service representative in Bell Bank's Woodbury location in the Twin Cities, learned that one of her customers, Tammy Irion and her then 6-year-old daughter, Emily, sewed and sold bags as part of a business they started called Sweet Pea and Me Homemade Designs. 


Angela then came up with a way she could help them and help the community using her Pay It Forward dollars. She explained Bell’s Pay It Forward program, which gives employees money to donate to people or organizations in need, and asked if she could buy 25 bags to donate to a local charity or business. 


“I wanted to find a way to kick-start their business and had the idea of buying a bunch of bags that we could donate,” Angela said. “It was a win-win situation – the Irion family would have a big order and 25 children would receive a cute new bag.” 


“We were so excited,” Tammy said. “That was an out-of-the-blue fun blessing for us.”


Angela wanted Emily to decide where to donate the bags, so she gave her a few ideas of different places. Emily chose Children's Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota’s rehabilitation unit, which manages care for children with complex needs, such as autism spectrum disorders, speech impediments, developmental delays, and recovering from an accident or living with a chronic condition.


She chose it, Tammy said, because they have a good family friend who is mostly bedridden due to a brain injury, yet she still sews and donates the things she makes to others.


Emily, who is now 7, started sewing because Tammy homeschools her kids and includes sewing in with their lessons.  


“We love to go to the library and check out craft books,” she said.


One January day when Emily said she was bored, Tammy took her to the library and they found a book about sewing projects to sell. That’s where they got the idea for the owl bag pattern.


When Angela talked to them about making bags to be donated, they decided to look for a pattern that might appeal more to boys. They didn’t find one they liked, so Tammy’s husband, Neal, drew a pattern for a dinosaur bag. Their sons, 9-year-old Joshua and 4-year-old Jonathan, approved and both each now have one.


Tammy and Emily made 13 owl bags and 12 dinosaur bags. Joshua helped out from time to time as their seam ripper.


“The whole thing was a great experience for our family and a tremendous blessing to Emily and me,” Tammy said. “It was fun being a blessing to somebody who has complex needs, who needed a smile for that day.”


Angela and the Irion family delivered the bags to the clinic together.


“The day we donated the bags to Children’s, I got to ride in the Irion family van over to the clinic and felt like part of the family,” Angela said. “Bell’s Pay It Forward program brings me so much joy. This is the second year I’ve gotten to participate and it’s so fun to find creative ways to help others.” 


Email to buy a Sweet Pea and Me bag.