“I feel like a lot of people want to donate to charity or want to do something more, but they can't always afford it themselves. Having this Pay It Forward money set aside specifically to help out is amazing.” – Jenna Bergman, Bell Bank employee
Jenna Bergman, Records Specialist
Gladys Ray Shelter, YWCA Cass Clay and Fraser, Ltd.
Spotting a homeless man on her drive to work, Jenna Bergman was inspired to change her attitude and find a way to make a difference.
“I was having a bad day on my way to work one day, and I saw this man on the street,” Jenna says. “It made me kind of reevaluate what I was complaining about.”
On any given night in the Fargo-Moorhead area, 1,200 men, women and children are homeless. After contacting local shelters, Jenna decided to purchase supplies to put together backpacks filled with useful items, such as socks, toothbrushes and lip balm, for people experiencing homelessness.
She then emailed co-workers to see if anyone wanted to help in the effort.
“Within 20 minutes we hit our goal, and then over the next 3 days, we raised almost $12,000,” Jenna notes. “It kind of escalated more than I thought it would.”
Bell employees assembled nearly 150 backpacks. The Gladys Ray Shelter in Fargo hands their bags out through a mobile outreach program. Jillian Gould, the shelter’s homeless outreach coordinator, also keeps some in her car to give to people she may see sleeping in a tent or bus stop.
“We serve a lot of folks who are sleeping outside, maybe in a place not meant for habitation,” Jillian explains. “Or maybe they’re accessing shelter, and they don't have anything with them.”
Additionally, the bags have helped Jillian connect with a young woman she’d been reaching out to for the past year.
“She’s very hesitant to trust anybody,” Jillian remarks, adding that the woman was incredibly grateful to receive a backpack. “It brightened her whole day, but it also helped really build that rapport. Giving somebody something and making their day is incredible.”
“I feel like a lot of people want to donate to charity or want to do something more, but they can't always afford it themselves,” Jenna comments. “Having this Pay It Forward money set aside specifically to help out is amazing.”
Through the Pay It Forward program, Bell gives employees money each year to donate to people and causes they care about.