Even small gifts change lives

Pay It Forward

From Photographs to Face Masks

Business Owner Changes Focus During COVID-19 Crisis

Kirsten Thompson did not despair when the COVID-19 pandemic brought her business to a standstill. Instead, she changed focus, spending time in front of her sewing machine instead of behind her camera.

Bell Employee

Lisa Wasson, Branch Manager

Forest Lake, Minn.


Kirsten Thompson

The Need

When Kirsten Thompson found herself stuck at home during the coronavirus crisis without portraits to shoot or designs to create, the self-employed photographer and graphic designer opted to spend her time helping others.

Instead of snapping photos, she began spending 6 to 8 hours a day sewing fabric face masks.

Kirsten’s generosity caught the attention of Bell employee Lisa Wasson, branch manager in Forest Lake, Minn., who felt compelled to lend a hand.

“Kirsten posted on Facebook that she had hand-crafted over 700 masks in three weeks,” Lisa exclaims. “Kirsten is always volunteering in our community and helping without hesitation.”

The Impact

Knowing Kirsten, who owns Eye Candy Creative Photography & Design in Lindstrom, Minn., did not have a regular income at the time, Lisa decided to contribute her Pay it Forward dollars to the cause.

Upon receiving the Pay It Forward donation, Kirsten immediately thought of how many more people she could help. She used the money to purchase more fabric for face masks.

“God has answered so many prayers — pretty specific prayers asking him to send people who have it in their hearts to help out with monetary donations,” Kirsten remarks.

At last count, Kirsten had sewn more than 1,500 masks and donated most of them to essential workers. She intends to keep making masks as long as they’re needed.

“This experience puts a lump in my throat and brings tears to my eyes,” Lisa notes. “I can only imagine how this program impacts so many others!"

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