'Pass it on' campaign captures holiday spirit
JANESVILLE "What's the catch?"
Matt Wohlers and Laurie Van Horn heard that response repeatedly Wednesday as they passed out 30 envelopes, each containing $10 cash.
The two are among a group of employees and board members at Blackhawk Community Credit Union employees who have volunteered to help hand out $10,000 through Monday at various locations in Janesville, Edgerton, Delavan and Stoughton. BCCU has branches in each of those communities, said Tammy McCaslin Krebs, director of membership development for the credit union.
"It's part of the credit union's two-year-old 'Holiday Spirit: Pass It On' Christmas campaign," she said, noting the campaign also gave away $10,000 in 2011.
Envelope recipient Jeff Bolden of Milton admitted shock Wednesday as he left the Shopko store in Janesville, where Wohlers and Van Horn were ringing bells for The Salvation Army.
"I've just never seen anybody do that before," he said. "I'll pass it along when I'm out shopping and say, 'Here, buy something for yourself or family or pass it on just like I am.'
"For some people, $10 is a lot of money."
Keith Kraus of Evansville also was stunned by the random act of kindness.
"Now, that's something new," he said, still shaking his head in disbelief.
Wohlers, senior vice president and chief administrative officer at BCCU, said the hardest part of giving the money away is helping people understand there's nothing to understand.
"There really are no strings attached," he said. "If there is such a thing as holiday spirit, this is it. It's a good example of holiday kindness, and there's not enough of it in the world today."
Envelope recipient Cheryl Morrison of Sharon agreed.
"I love random acts of kindness," she said. "They should happen a little bit more."
McCaslin Krebs said the credit union's philosophy has always been to give back to communities it serves, but that this effort multiplies what's being done.
"If they (envelope recipients) buy someone a cup of coffee or a hamburger at McDonald's for the next person in line, that's our intent of passing along the holiday spirit," said Teri Barnes, director of financial reporting at BCCU. "If that person needs that $10 bill, that's OK if they don't pass it on."
And when the credit union gives that money to 1,000 people, it's amazing how many more people it will touch, McCaslin Krebs said.
"It's also touching people we normally wouldn't reach through normal corporation donations and sponsorships, and that's what's unique," she said. "It's touching other good causes."
McCaslin Krebs and Barnes recently gave $10 to a couple who told them they were going to add it to money their children were raising at church for a program to stop human trafficking.
"It made us stop and think what we just did to help with that $10 bill," McCaslin Krebs said.
"Being given the opportunity to do a random act of kindness really makes an impression on people," Barnes added. "Hopefully the concept catches on so they can do something all year and not just during the holidays."