As autumn approaches Western Washington, Peoples Bank branches in Skagit County and elsewhere would normally be preparing for their annual Socktober campaign, which supports local homeless organizations by encouraging sock donations – one of the most requested and in-demand items.
But with bank lobbies restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peoples Bank set out to come up with an alternative fundraiser to continue supporting these important local organizations. A friend’s running T-shirt inspired Peoples Bank marketing specialist Will Butela, and a great idea came to life.
One of Butela’s close friends is a runner who competes in marathons, 5Ks and 10Ks. He’s also one of the few people Will has seen in-person during the pandemic, outside of his immediate family.
One day his friend was wearing a shirt that promoted a virtual race sponsored by the New York Yankees. Butela was intrigued by the concept of a socially-distanced run and thought it would be the perfect thing for Peoples Bank to try.
And so, Peoples Bank introduced the “Pay It Forward Virtual 5K/10K.” By registering online, participants can choose to cover a five-kilometer or ten-kilometer distance on their own between September 1 and October 31. The entry fee is $20, and all proceeds will be donated to local nonprofit organizations. In Skagit County, funds will go to the Anacortes Family Center, which provides emergency and transitioning housing for women and families with children.
The race serves two purposes. First, it allows Peoples Bank to give back to the organizations they would typically support at this time of year, but in a safe way, given the pandemic. Second, it reinforces the Bank’s September challenge of encouraging its employees and customers to stay active and healthy as fall arrives.
“The idea is to encourage people to get outside for exercise, in a socially distant way of course, while at the same time raise money for nonprofit organizations that do so much for our homeless neighbors who are struggling because of COVID-19,” Butela says. “It’s a win-win.”
For anyone choosing to participate, options are not just limited to walking or running. It’s perfectly fine to hike, bike, skateboard, or even dance your miles. “Our community is so creative, and we’re excited to see what people come up with,” Butela says.
Peoples Bank is also encouraging social media sharing of the ‘Pay-It-Forward’ Virtual 5K/10K, using the hashtag “PBVirtual50K10K” to accompany photos and videos. Three participants will be chosen at random to receive $500 prizes, awarded as charitable donations to the organization of their choice. Everyone will receive a medal to celebrate their participation.
For the Anacortes Family Center (AFC), being the focus of a virtual fundraiser is a big help during a tough time.
Dustin Johnson, executive director of the AFC, says they’ve canceled primary fundraisers while also needing to expand help to clients affected by the pandemic. They also had to establish a fund for rent relief, as about 70 percent of their affordable housing clients became unemployed during the first weeks of the pandemic in March.
“We’ve had to expand our programs and get creative to meet the growing need for our services,” Johnson says. “Events like the ‘Pay-It-Forward’ Virtual 5K/10K help offset the loss of fundraising opportunities.”
In addition to increasing sanitization efforts and food and rent relief, the AFC has also hired an educational coordinator to work with children in pod groups for schooling purposes, as parents are often unable to handle the additional burden of helping with distance learning.
The relationship between Peoples Bank and the AFC has included numerous events and volunteer opportunities over the years, and the bank is proud to keep finding ways to support the organization, says Gina Walsh, a district manager based at the Peoples Bank Anacortes Office.
Walsh is also a board member of the AFC and is a core instructor for the AFC’s weekly life skills program for adults. This class helps participants broaden their financial literacy by understanding how to open bank accounts and utilize checking systems.
“Many AFC clients come to our branch, and we work with them to help them get their finances in order,” Walsh says. “We believe in what the AFC does to help people get back on their feet and keep families together, so we’ve been deepening this relationship.”
Johnson is quick to echo those sentiments.
“Peoples Bank has always been an incredible partner,” he says. “Their bankers are so kind to work with our families, even if they’ve had difficult banking and financial histories.”
In the last year, the AFC opened the first of two planned affordable housing buildings consisting of 20 apartments each. These units will be open to the public with preference to existing AFC clients. Families are charged monthly rent up to 30 percent of their income, but the money goes into an escrow account, which the AFC presents back to them when they move out, hopefully giving them enough money for a down-payment on a home, or rent payments and a damage deposit towards an apartment. These buildings complement the AFC’s existing housing services, like its transition shelter, where families can live up to 18 months.
Thanks to the partnership between Peoples Bank and the AFC, Skagit County clients are getting the help they need. And by working up a sweat during this virtual 5K/10K, you can help them even more. Register now by visiting the Peoples Bank website.