Even small gifts change lives

Pay It Forward

Paying It Forward in Honor

Our employees put a lot of thought into where they donate their Pay It Forward funds.

Sometimes it’s to an organization or cause they care about. Other times it’s to a family in need they’ve never even met. Some have even given their gifts in honor or in memory of someone else.

Here are 5 stories of our employees paying it forward as a way to honor a friend or relative.

Honoring Dad

After staying with her dad, Lloyd, while he was hospitalized, Mary Nelson, electronic payments analyst, decided to use her Pay It Forward funds to buy recliners for the hospital in Ada in honor of her father.

Lloyd had never had any medical issues until he was diagnosed with acute leukemia at age 84 – on Christmas Eve of 2009 – and given 3 to 6 months to live. When he was hospitalized in February in Ada, Mary or one of her 7 siblings wanted to remain in their dad’s room through the night, so someone was always with him. The problem was the hospital didn’t have a comfortable place for family members to sleep.  

Lloyd died at the Ada hospital April 7, 2010, surrounded by family, and Mary decided to use her Pay It Forward funds to help other patients and their families in his honor.

“He spent so much time there, and they took such good care of him,” Mary notes.

She pooled her funds with a co-worker, and several family members chipped in to donate five power lift recliner chairs to the hospital.

“It’s something I never would have tackled without the Pay It Forward program,” Mary remarks. “I wouldn’t have thought of it or gotten other people to take part in it, but it meant a lot to fill that need. Especially when you’re older, it means a lot to have a family member there 24/7, and the recliners make it that much easier.”

Remembering Co-Workers

Lynn Kessler, mortgage servicing document specialist, donated part of her 2018 Pay It Forward funds on Giving Hearts Day in honor of two of her co-workers who had died.

She donated to Cats Cradle Shelter in honor of Janice Wohlwend.

“Janice would get teary-eyed when she talked about her giving experience to Cats Cradle every year,” Janice remarks. “Since she lost her arduous battle with cancer, it had been weighing on me that she wouldn’t, among other things, have the ability to help Cats Cradle like she had in the past.”

Lynn also donated funds to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America in honor of Deb Solberg.

“Deb was such a champion for Alzheimer’s awareness, and I thought there was no better way to honor her than with a gift to the charity that she championed,” Lynn comments. “I cannot thank Bell Bank enough for the Pay it Forward dollars and the culture of family that it supports. I couldn’t think of a better way to personally celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Pay it Forward program than by giving in honor of my friends who were no longer with us to donate their Pay it Forward funds.”

Commemorating Grandpa

Kara Schneider, quality control auditor, donated her Pay It Forward funds to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on Giving Hearts Day in memory of her grandpa Bob Brungardt, who died last year. 

“My cousin has cystic fibrosis, so my grandpa was always doing everything he could to help raise money to find a cure,” Kara comments. “There was nothing more important than family to my grandpa, so I thought there was no more fitting tribute than to pay it forward so more families can have more tomorrows. It felt a little like I was passing along a piece of his legacy.”

Kara also volunteers with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

In Memory of Mom

Both Lorelee Benz, administrative project support manager, and Jeff Williams, mortgage servicing escrow manager, donated Pay It Forward funds in honor of their moms.

His first year with Bell, Jeff donated Pay It Forward funds in honor of his mother, Nadine Williams, who had died unexpectedly from a stroke the year before. 

He made the donation to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, where Nadine had undergone a clinical trial after being diagnosed with leukemia and given less than 6 months to live.

“It was a very long process with a lot of trips to Texas and hospital stays, but the cancer did go into remission,” Jeff explains. “The trial that put her cancer into remission was deemed a failure – certainly not to us. My dad has always viewed it as a blessing that she got another 30 years.”

Lorelee’s mom had a special fondness for music. Though she had no formal music training, she loved to sing and taught herself to play piano and guitar, so Lorelee has donated Pay It Forward funds to the Fargo-Moorhead Opera in memory of her mother, Joyce Sander Rude.

“She passed on her passion for music to all three of her children,” Lorelee notes. “When I was 10 years old, she took me to audition for the F-M Opera, which was then in its second season, and I was accepted to sing in the children’s chorus of Carmen.

Joyce volunteered with the opera’s costume crew and later helped turn costume designers’ sketches into reality for Minnesota State University Moorhead (then-Moorhead State College) and Fargo-Moorhead Community Theater.

“Having an outlet for her sewing skills, while being immersed in music and theater, was one of the greatest joys of Mom’s life,” Lorelee remarks. “I know if she were still here, Mom would still be supporting the F-M Opera in any way possible, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to do it in her name.”

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