From supporting a former co-worker in her fight against cancer to buying beds for needy families in the community, Pay It Forward funds have touched lives near and far throughout the past 10 years.
Here, we highlight three efforts that stand out.
More Than a Bed
During the first year of the Pay It Forward program in 2008, 34 employees teamed up to help provide beds for those in the Fargo-Moorhead community.
Connecting with HopeCare Ministry out of Hope Lutheran Church in Fargo, they found, “there are so many people in this community that don’t have a bed to sleep in,” says Rock Messerschmidt, SVP/regional sales director in Fargo. “So we put that $30,000 to work.”
Parishioners raised an additional $10,000 for the cause and together the group bought and delivered 164 beds for needy families.
“We went into some pretty tough areas where kids were just sleeping on an air mattress or something in the closet,” Rock recalls. “They were super excited to get on the bed and have a good night’s sleep. They were just gushing over us out there delivering.”
But perhaps the most surprising part of the experience was the realization that the need existed in employees’ own backyards.
“It was pretty eye-opening for all the employees,” Rock says.
Comfort During Chemo
Diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in October 2015 at just 27 years old, Amy Suek knew she had a financially demanding battle ahead of her. But when former Bell Bank coworker Tiffany Tessmer heard the news, she knew she had to help.
“I knew I wanted to use my Pay It Forward funds to help her in her fight,” says the mortgage accountant in Minneapolis.
Rallying 35 employees to donate their funds, Tiffany and coworkers pooled $32,500 to cover medical costs, lost wages and more.
“When presented with the funds, I was able to actually take a deep breath for the first time since I was diagnosed,” Amy recalls. “It’s easy to go through each day and not fully realize how much people really care. The abundance of love and support was overwhelming.”
Because Amy was in the middle of chemotherapy treatments, vulnerable to sickness and not able to welcome many guests, Bell employees made her an encouraging video – something she would later re-visit during some of her most difficult days.
“We had no idea just how important that video would be to her,” Tiffany says.
Today, Tiffany and Amy still keep in touch, talk frequently and attend Bell’s holiday party together. Amy continues to live cancer-free.
“I’m thankful we were able to help Amy in such a big way and hopefully relieve at least a little bit of stress in her journey,” Tiffany says.
Building Bikes and Dreams
When 73-year-old Keith Schoon, owner of Keith’s Bike Repair in West Fargo, received complaints from city officials requiring him to install a fence for his business in 2008, he was at a loss. He didn’t know where he’d find the money to continue fixing bikes which he often donated to local children and others overseas in Uganda, Kenya and more.
But as news of Keith’s situation spread across the media, his mission resonated with many, including Fargo’s VP/virtual and debit program manager Brian Haugen.
“Keith is an incredibly giving person who has found his passion for improving others’ lives,” Brian says. “He loves to do this and always does it with a smile on his face, even when he may have some tough things going on in his own life.”
Over the past 10 years, Keith estimates he’s fixed 3,000 to 4,000 bikes. One of his favorite memories dates back to the summer of 2016, when a woman from a local church brought three Iranian refugee children over to pick out bikes. A week later, Keith had the bikes fixed up and ready to go.
“They were so excited for their bikes,” Keith recalled. When the woman asked Keith how much she owed him, he said, “They won’t cost you anything.”
The very next day, the three children visited, each handing him a full-page thank you note.
“We’re praying for you,” Keith read. “God will take care of you and keep you well.”
Having survived a heart attack and nearly fatal bacterial infection, Keith says he plans to continue his work “as long as my Lord gives me strength to keep doing it.”
“At this rate, I’ll be out here until I’m 105,” he says, chuckling.
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