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Character Counts! is hugely important

November 7, 2010
Messenger News

It's big. It's really big. And every year it gets bigger. What is it? National Character Counts! Week. This year more than 5 million youths celebrated in 51 countries. It was the perfect opportunity to highlight the Six Pillars of Character throughout our community.

What are we doing in Fort Dodge? Thanks to Trinity Regional Medical Center and the Healthy Living Department, we are making a difference in our homes, schools, businesses and organizations. This was particularly true during National Character Counts Week Oct. 17-23. This was the second year that we challenged everyone in Fort Dodge to "Pay it Forward" during Character Counts! Week.

"Pay It Forward" is a book written by Catherine Ryan Hyde about a young boy's attempt to make the world a better place by paying a favor forward, encouraging others to repay good deeds with new good deeds, creating a chain of positive actions.

The concept of bringing this project to Fort Dodge was unanimously accepted by the members of the TRMC Character Counts board of directors in 2009. They invited six individuals or organizations to participate in the inaugural Pay it Forward event. It was decided to provide these organizations with seed money of $50 for the sole purpose of making a difference to a person, a family or an organization in need. The six organizations were chosen to parallel the six pillars of character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. Included were:

First American Bank

Iowa Central student Megan Averill

Citizens Community Credit Union

Fort Dodge Ford

Hy-Vee Food Store

Frontier Communications

Last year the investment of $300 to make a difference grew to more than $3,500 by generous acts of kindness and volunteerism. It became contagious as people realized that you don't need a lot of money to Pay it Forward - a simple act of kindness will do. This year was even more impressive.

The six organizations selected this year were:

The Kiwanis,

Fair Oaks Middle School,

Phillips Middle School cross country team,

Iowa Central Community College Phi Theta Kappa chapter,

La'James International College and

Casey's General Store/Frontier Communications.

How did they choose to Pay it Forward? First of all they invited other businesses to join them so the response was amazing. The original six grew to include: The Salvation Army, Hy-Vee Food Store, seven Casey's locations, YWCA, Mary Kay's Gifts, Daniel Pharmacy, Wells Fargo Bank, Citizens Community Credit Union - nine locations, AmericInn, Per Mar Security, First State Bank, First Federal Savings Bank, Frontier Credit Union and Trinity Regional Medical Center - that's more than 20 organizations that chose to Pay it Forward in Fort Dodge.

What did they all do? Heartwarming acts of kindness abounded as they helped "stuff the truck" with food for The Salvation Army (more than $2,000 worth of food); volunteer yard work for the needy; free makeovers for women and children staying at the YWCA; full service gas pumping, window washing and free food samples at all Casey's Stores; Fair Oaks students visiting Head Start to read to the children and give them them an inspirational book; Phillips students planting wildflowers at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park; local Food Pantry donations; open house gifts to customers at Mary Kay's Gifts and employees at TRMC received a good morning treat.

Paying it Forward went full circle at TRMC. A thank you $50 gift certificate to the hospital gift shop was re-gifted four times in the spirit of paying it forward and ended up back at the gift shop with a request to spend it on flowers for patients who hadn't received any.

Thanks to all the Fort Dodgers who participated in Pay it Forward during Character Counts Week and helped to create a chain of givers by your kind actions and good deeds.

Your positive attitude is contagious. Remember that good character encompasses all aspects of our daily life - youth and adult sports organizations, civic and service organizations, businesses and our faith community.

I invite you to Pay it Forward all year and thank you for choosing to make a difference.

Pam Bunte is the Fort Dodge coordinator of Character Counts.



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