After the COVID-19 pandemic compelled the closures or limitations of companies earlier this yr, the Albert Lea Conference and Guests Bureau began a present card problem in response.

By means of the problem, folks should purchase reward playing cards in $25 increments from native companies, after which ask the enterprise to carry the reward card. The reward card purchaser will then fill out a type on the CVB’s web site, The CVB will then contact the enterprise with the identify of an individual in want who has been granted using the reward card. Individuals in want of quick assist can fill out a type on the CVB’s web site to be related with reward playing cards as nicely.

“Now greater than ever, procuring native is a matter of doorways ever having the ability to open once more for a lot of of our native eating places and retailers,” mentioned Holly Karsjens, Albert Lea CVB and Important Road Program government director, in an April interview with the Tribune. “They’ve labored so extraordinarily onerous to get the place they have been earlier than this storm overcame us, let’s pull collectively and sandbag round them with our help in order that they don’t get swept away.”

The problem has solely grown within the months since its inception. As of early September, 157 reward playing cards for a complete of $4,200 had been donated via the initiative. Originally of the problem, Farmers State Financial institution mentioned it might match the primary $1,500 in reward playing cards bought with extra playing cards bought from native companies.

Farmer’s State Financial institution matched the primary $1,500 in reward playing cards bought with extra playing cards bought from native companies. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“We’re a neighborhood financial institution, and quite a lot of the companies right here on the town are going via a singular time,” mentioned Brandon Brackey, the enterprise deposit officer and data safety officer with Farmers State Financial institution. “It’s the least we will do.”

“We had so many givers, it actually showcases how superior our neighborhood is, and prepared to help to our small companies in addition to the remainder of the neighborhood,” Karsjens mentioned in September.

She mentioned each name or e-mail to inform somebody has been met with gratitude and pleasure, and a want to pay it ahead.

“We had fairly just a few who wished to pay it ahead to others, and many who did. They’d flip round and buy one other card and donate it,” Karsjens mentioned. “Companies have been pleased to have folks shopping for playing cards, and to have possibly those that had by no means been of their retailer have an excellent excuse to now store there — both with curbside, on-line or in individual.”

She mentioned she would like to proceed the pay-it-forward program, however, above all, needs the neighborhood to know that they’ll pay kindness ahead all on their very own as nicely.

“Seize a present card out of your favourite retailer the subsequent time you’re there, and put it within the mail to a particular somebody to allow them to know you’re considering of them; have enjoyable with it, and go away it unsigned,” Karsjens mentioned. “Or the subsequent time you order meals, pay for the individual behind you.”

“It’s very straightforward, given what the circumstances are, to do every little thing on-line,” Brackey mentioned. “However Amazon isn’t going to help sports activities or different neighborhood tasks. This neighborhood makes this city what it’s.”

“This system was actually profitable due to the folks, I hope they know that,” Karsjens mentioned. “And that they’ll do it any time, any the place on there personal.”


About Colleen Harrison

Colleen Harrison is the picture editor on the Albert Lea Tribune. She does pictures and writes general-assignment tales.

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