Paying It Forward Through Food and Fun
Over the past 10 years, Bell Bank has invested more than $12 million in local and global causes through our Pay It Forward program.
But the program’s true impact is immeasurable. Some of our employees have used their dollars to help fund events that keep paying it forward, beyond the scope of a one-time gift. And others have been inspired by the program to create even bigger ways to pay it forward.
Here are 3 stories that stand out:
West Fargo Shakers
Joel Finn, a communications coordinator in our information systems department in Fargo, helped found the West Fargo Shakers in 2007 to “shake” up the traditional New Year’s Eve celebration. The group’s goal was to throw a party and donate the proceeds to charity.
A few months later, Bell announced the launch of its Pay It Forward program, so Joel has given his Pay It Forward check to the West Fargo Shakers event every year.
The Shakers choose a different charity to support each year. Most of them are kid-focused and local. The fun part, Joel notes, is letting the charity know they’ve been chosen. In addition to raising money, the West Fargo Shakers also ask a representative from the charity to set out a table with literature at the event so they can raise awareness, too.
The Shakers have donated more than $91,000 to local charities and families over the years.
“It’s a fun event!” Joel exclaims. “Not only does it raise money for a good cause, but it’s also an excuse for all of us to get together. It just goes to show that if you put in the effort, you can help make a difference in many people’s lives.”
Pay It Forward Golf Classic
Inspired by Bell’s Pay It Forward program, Adam Roloff, a senior mortgage lender in our Woodbury, Minn., office, started the Pay It Forward Golf Classic in 2016 to raise money for people and organizations in need.
Each year the money is divided among three people or organizations. The first year, the tournament drew 146 golfers and raised more than $30,000, which was divided between Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf at Woodbury Lutheran Church, a family whose daughter was born prematurely without arms, and a young father who was paralyzed from the neck down following a diving accident.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when the recipients were talking about their situations,” Adam comments. “Here was a platform of a Pay It Forward idea. To start with that as the base and kind of grow from there, it’s just an amazing feeling.”
With the help of Adam’s wife, Sara, and Shelby Allen, a mortgage lender in our Woodbury, Minn., location, the tournament has become an annual event that has raised more than $110,000. Proceeds have benefitted children with cancer, a mother of two who needed several surgeries following a car crash, a foundation that helps veterans affected by pancreatic cancer, and twins born with congenital muscular dystrophy.
“My hope is that we are able to make a positive impact on people’s lives,” Adam remarks. “It just feels like the right thing to do to continue it any way we can.”
In April of 2015, Dani Martinez, a marketing and retention specialist, and Falon Kerby, a mortgage lender, both in Bell Mortgage’s Phoenix office, launched a food truck picnic that has taken off beyond their expectations.
It started as an employee appreciation day event that featured 4 food trucks in the Bell Mortgage parking lot and drew more than 200 people. Today, “Ahwatukee Eats,” sponsored by Bell Mortgage, is a community food truck picnic that draws more than a dozen food trucks and vendors and more than 1,000 attendees several times a year.
Ahwatukee Eats also raises money for local organizations and people in need. Food truck owners, vendors and community members who attend the event give donations to whatever cause that month’s food truck picnic is supporting. Past recipients have included the Arizona Department of Child Safety, the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, a young father diagnosed with stage-4 cancer, and Abigail’s Lunch Box, a nonprofit that gives food to people in need.
“It started as a way to get everybody together but also as a way to do good,” Dani remarks. “I think that’s what makes this event so fun and so successful because people get to come together and celebrate and just be together with one another but then also help their fellow community members.”