Even small gifts change lives

Pay It Forward Helps Hundreds Sleep Easier

What started as an idea to provide a dozen or so mattresses to people in need quickly snowballed into the largest mattress donation a Fargo organization had ever received. And all Jason Olsen had to do to make it happen was ask others to join his cause.
“It's great to see a company that cares about the communities they're in and what the employees believe in. It lets employees feel part of building the community.” – Jason Olsen, Bell Bank Employee

Bell Employee

Jason Olsen, Loan Business Specialist
Fargo, N.D.

Recipient

Furniture Mission of the Red River Valley

The Need

As a delivery truck slowly approached the open garage door, its backup alarm steadily announcing its arrival, volunteers gathered, expecting to haul several mattresses donated to Furniture Mission of the Red River Valley. When the truck’s door opened to reveal mattresses stacked floor to ceiling and wall to wall, they quickly realized the donation was much more than they’d believed. And then they found out there was another truck on the way.

“These are the best problems to have,” notes Jordan McCormick, Furniture Mission of the Red River Valley executive director. “We were so happy to move stuff around, make all the room we could because it was going to go such a long way.”

In total, the donation amounted to 122 mattresses and box springs.

It all started when Jason Olsen was listening to a presentation by Furniture Mission to the Horace (N.D.) Lions Club service organization. He found out Furniture Mission helps people in crisis by providing free, gently-used furniture and had already served 800 households within two years of accepting its first donation. Mattresses, it turned out, were needed most.

“I know I don’t have a good day if I don’t get a good night’s sleep,” Jason says. “I wondered what I could do to help.”

Jason asked the Horace Lions if they would donate a couple hundred dollars to be used as matching funds for more donations. They gave $2,500. Then he asked his Bell Bank colleagues if they would contribute Pay It Forward funds to the effort.

“Originally, I was thinking if we could get to $7,500, we could buy 14 beds,” Jason explains.

He raised more than $35,000 within 3 days.

“I was a little shocked that it got as big as it did between the support of the Bell family and people even contributing their own personal cash,” Jason remarks. “Don't be afraid to reach out if you’ve got a cause.”

Calling around to furniture stores, Jason was able to get a great deal from Furniture For Less and purchase more beds than he ever imagined.

The Impact

Within 3 months, all of the queen mattresses had been given to people in need, and within 6 months, only a few twin sets remained.

“These larger gifts are the things that help us take our service from where we are today to the next level, so we can really do a good job of meeting the need in our community,” Jordan notes. “Bell’s donation was so appreciated and allowed us to serve almost 25% more households than last year.”

Recipients are referred to Furniture Mission through local organizations, mainly American Red Cross Minnesota and Dakotas Region, Churches United for the Homeless, New Life Center, YWCA Cass Clay and Frasier, Ltd.

Furniture Mission accepts gently used items and focuses mainly on the basic essentials someone would need to furnish a home. Beds, dressers and kitchen tables and chairs are in high demand. They pick up most of the donations – using a truck donated by Fix It Forward ministries.

Even more than a table to eat at or a bed to sleep in, what Furniture Mission ultimately provides is hope.

“We’ve had so many families and individuals move from sleeping on floors to having a new bed,” Jordan says. “We are so grateful for Bell’s partnership, and can’t express enough how meaningful the effort was for us, the agencies we support and so many we serve directly.”

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