ENID, Okla. — NBC Oklahoma is encouraging its employees to "Pay it Forward" by giving each employee $100 in cash to donate to their favorite charitable cause.
The idea for the Pay it Forward campaign came from the story of a church in Cincinnati, Ohio, that gave each of its members cash, and allowed them to choose where to donate it, according to a provided statement from NBC Oklahoma CEO H. K. Hatcher.
"We were inspired by the widespread and meaningful impact that a recent church in Cincinnati had on its community when it gave its members money to do the same thing," Hatcher wrote in an email announcing the project to NBC Oklahoma's employees. "So we want you to make a difference. There are no strings attached, nor will we be holding you accountable for what you do with the money, although we’d love to hear about it if you want to share."
Hatcher wrote he hopes the campaign will inspire "a ripple of generosity that spreads to others."
"NBC employees are already generous and community-minded, and we all have so much for which to be thankful," he wrote. "The bank wanted to foster that spirit even more for the holidays."
Lillie-Beth Sanger Brinkman, communications director for NBC Oklahoma, said the $100 gift was made to each of the company's 130 employees in seven locations in Enid, Altus, Oklahoma City and Kingfisher, including 15 employees in Enid.
Brinkman said the Pay it Forward gifts, which were made before Giving Tuesday, already have given rise to many stories of giving.
"Across all of our markets, I have heard from employees who have paid off families’ layaways; given to people who have lost jobs and are trying to finish continuing education; given to two children whose mom had died; donated to various nonprofit organizations they are involved in; bought leashes, puppy and cat food and litter after calling the local animal shelter to ask for their most pressing needs; bought gifts for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, and more," she wrote. "Many have matched the gifts and given their own money. Many consider this $100 as extra money to give away, in addition to their regular planned holiday giving."
Scott Bixler, president of the bank's Enid branch, said he added to the Pay it Forward gift, and gave it to Calling to Continent, a faith-based nonprofit that supports missionary work in Africa.
Bixler said he was inspired to give to that particular group after hearing a missionary speak at his church.
“He provided some personal testimony which presented tearful moments and he shared with us life-changing scenarios which people encountered,” Bixler wrote. “He spoke of how positive people-changing measures led to other lives being uplifted in a kind and meaningful way. It was like people were paying forward their good works and deeds. Suddenly, it struck me this is an awesome opportunity for NBC to plant seeds in Africa.”
Donna Gannon, a teller at the bank, donated to the Virginia-based nonprofit FACT (Families with Autistic Children in Tidewater), which provides support to families of and a summer camp for children on the autism spectrum.
Gannon said she chose the group because she has a cousin, whose husband is stationed in Virginia with the Navy, with a son in the program.
"I started thinking about what to do with the money, and I immediately thought of them," Gannon said. "I thought it was such an awesome, wonderful gift. This was just fantastic."
Gannon said she was happy, but not surprised, NBC Oklahoma opted to let the employees decide where to give their own donations.
"It's quite the family unit we have here at the bank," she said, "and they let us all participate in this, which is wonderful."
Sarah Buffalo, a personal banking representative in NBC Oklahoma's Enid branch, said Pay it Forward gave her an opportunity to give to one of her favorite causes, Panda Paws Rescue, a nonprofit animal rescue, rehabilitation and hospice program in Washougal, Wash.
"I'm just very passionate about the care and treatment of animals," Buffalo said, "and when I first heard the bank was doing this, I was excited to be able to support their work there."
Aaron Abbott, vice president at the Enid branch, said he and his wife decided to pass his Pay it Forward gift along to Hope Outreach Ministries, to support their work in breaking cycles of addiction, incarceration and poverty in Enid.
"We just thought this was a great way to start the holiday season and I just feel blessed to work for a company that's willing to help with that," Abbott said. "I have worked for big corporations most of my life, and they never would have dreamed of doing this, and I feel very blessed and very fortunate.
"I think it challenges all of us on a daily basis to look outside ourselves and outside our families to see other people in need," Abbott said.
Bixler said the Pay it Forward campaign is timed for the holiday season, and is a reflection of the employees' giving spirit.
"We're a very community-minded organization, and our people are very active and generous in the communities we serve," Bixler said, "and this was an opportunity to take that to the next level."