Even small gifts change lives

Pay It Forward

Bell Employees Rally Around Family Devastated by House Fire

When one of our employees learned that fire had destroyed a West Fargo home in early December, he rallied his co-workers to put their Pay It Forward funds together to help.

Bell Employee

Tony Lee

Mail Operations Specialist



Mark and Mary Tuttle  

The Need

Mary Tuttle was working from her West Fargo home when she heard a strange crackling sound. Thinking it was an animal in the dryer vent, she went to investigate. The crackling became more frequent, and as she climbed the stairs, she noticed a strange smell – almost like overheated electronics. Approaching her bedroom, Mary saw an orange glow, so she ran for the fire extinguisher

“I had moved it last summer, so it wasn’t where I thought it was,” Mary explains. “Then I came back around the corner and I could see this cloud of rolling smoke. I just thought, ‘I can’t stick around and figure this out. I need to get out of here,’ and so I left.”

She left her home, barefoot in the cold of December, and called 9-1-1.

When her husband, Mark, a semi driver, called from the road an hour later to check in, Mary told him the devastating news.

“It totally floored me,” Mark says. “I had just talked to her an hour or so before, and everything was fine.”

The Impact

They lost their home and nearly all of their possessions.

“Even the clothes that we got back, we may not be able to use,” Mary notes. “They smell really bad. There’s not much of anything. I don’t think there’s going to be much that we’ll be able to keep.”

As the Tuttles moved into a temporary townhome and waited for their insurance company to tell them what to do next, they received a call from Tony Lee at Bell Bank.

Tony’s daughter had told him what happened and asked if he could raise some Pay It Forward funds to help the family. Not only did he donate his funds, but he also recruited 56 other employees to pitch in.

“Mark and Mary had a lot of things going on in their lives at the time of the fire, and I just thought I wanted to help them,” Tony remarks. “They thought they were coming into the bank for $500, and then before they entered the room, I said, ‘I have a bigger surprise for you guys.’ And that’s when we presented the check for a little over $42,000. I’m just glad Bell Bank has the Pay It Forward program, and that we’re able to help people in the community.”

The donation helped them pay their bills, stock their shelves, and it gave them hope.

“We didn’t realize how much we didn’t have,” Mark comments. “It’s cleaning supplies, trash bags, salt and pepper – every little item that you take for granted that you already have. We went to the store not long before all this happened, and everything we had already bought, we had to buy again, and start over. It’s a process I wouldn’t wish on anybody. And then this came along. There are still some really great people around. It was a big help.”

“It strikes that raw nerve that this is happening to us, and it’s a relief that people are there to help with a hand up – it just meant a lot,” Mary notes. “This program is amazing. It reminds you of how paying it forward is so important to keep the community together and to help everybody.”

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