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'It's a warm, fuzzy feeling,' say co-workers uniting to help nonprofits during the holidays

FARGO -- When March Madness rolls around, tournament brackets circulate the office. When the Powerball jackpot is running high, hopeful workers pitch in for tickets. And for some employees in the Fargo-Moorhead area, Christmas brings another kind...

Deb Loos, left, and Marci Horack of Bell Bank hold some of their collected donation materials Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Marco employees Courtney Getzloff and Tanya Stillwell rang the bell for the Salvation Army Tuesday, Dec. 20, at Cashwise on 32nd Avenue in Fargo. (Submitted photo)

FARGO - When March Madness rolls around, tournament brackets circulate the office. When the Powerball jackpot is running high, hopeful workers pitch in for tickets. And for some employees in the Fargo-Moorhead area, Christmas brings another kind of office pool:

Co-workers collect donations to support causes such as the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center and the YWCA. Others give of their time by ringing the bell for the Salvation Army.

Miguel Gutierrez, a salesman at Kia of Fargo, organized a toy drive this year to benefit families with loved ones seeking treatment at the Roger Maris Cancer Center. He was inspired by Chris Lord and Ismael Perez, organizers of the annual Childhood Cancer Awareness Car Show hosted by the Originals Car Club.

Gutierrez said his co-workers enjoyed the toy drive so much he hopes to make it an annual event.

"Some of them said they felt really good going out shopping and buying toys for kids in need," he said. "It's a warm, fuzzy feeling you get inside when you give to others."

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Here is how employees at several other local businesses are giving back this year:

Bell Bank

Bell Bank became well-known for launching its corporate giving program, "Pay it Forward," in 2007, but its employees began pooling their own money to support a worthy cause years before that.

In 2001, at the suggestion of then-manager Dolly Strand, the North Fargo branch adopted a family from the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center and interested employees purchased Christmas gifts from the family's wish list. The effort soon became company-wide.

Deb Loos, a receptionist and one of the organizers, believes they adopted 19 families and donated about $17,000 worth of Christmas gifts two years ago.

Last year, the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center began asking people to adopt a need rather than a specific family. Loos said the interest in helping continued to be strong. Employees have purchased mounds of diapers, grocery store and gas station gift cards, art supplies, and more to benefit clients of the nonprofit year-round.

"We like the idea that it's going to help many more people throughout the year instead of just at Christmas," Loos said.

United Way

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Instead of a holiday party, employees of the United Way of Cass Clay chose to apply those dollars toward buying gifts for a family at the YWCA this year. The team went shopping together and then met at President Kristi Huber's house for a "wrapping party."

Kristina Hein, United Way's marketing and brand manager, said they chose to adopt a family because it coincides with their mission.

"The family we adopted most likely struggles with hunger, homelessness, poverty, and we want to ensure the children are prepared to succeed," Hein said. "These are part of the bold goals we work toward every day through our work at United Way."

Marco

Employees of Marco, a local provider of voice, data and print services, logged hours this year manning kettles for the Salvation Army.

Strategic accounts manager Jason Boutwell said employees were paid for their time and that the Salvation Army is just one of many nonprofits the company supports year-round.

Corporate philanthropy has both internal and external benefits, he said.

"As much as we like to say that we're all about the community, and we absolutely are, some of it is about giving people a place where they can be proud to work," Boutwell said. "They're not just working for the man or working for a place. They're working for an organization that embraces the community we serve. We firmly believe that a happy employee is much more likely to create happy customers."

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Arvig

Employees of Arvig, a full-service telecommunications and broadband provider serving communities in Minnesota, have been collecting donations for several nonprofits all year as part of a new Company-Wide Giving Drive.

Emma Olson, content and consumer marketing coordinator, said management established the initiative to bolster fundraising projects its employees have been supporting around the holidays for years. Participation was voluntary and employees carried out fundraisers as they saw fit.

Among those benefiting from recent donations were the Lakes Crisis Resource Center in Detroit Lakes, and food pantries in Perham and Pelican Rapids.

Related Topics: BELL BANK
Angie Wieck is the business editor for The Forum. Email her at awieck@forumcomm.com
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