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Bank pays it forward to Patriot Assist. Dogs

On hand for the presentation were (front row, left to right) PAD trainer Linda Wiedewitsch with assistance dog Rocky, Nancy Baker, Bell State Bank, PAD Vice Chairperson Mary Jimmerson and assistance dog K.D. Colt, Bell State Bank’s Debbie Schoenborn and Julie Glawe, ‘Pay It Forward’ donor Erlene Davis, PAD Chairperson Paul Goecke; (back row) PAD board members Treasurer Nancy Zehnacker, Secretary Pam Gregory, Jeff Leichter, Bruce Kunz and Jack Fay. DL NEWSPAPERS/Vicki Gerdes

Since its inception two and a half years ago, the Patriot Assistance Dogs program at Lucky Dog Boarding & Training Center in Detroit Lakes has made a difference in the lives of more than a dozen area veterans — and the dogs they have been paired with.

This past year, the program received a $3,000 boost thanks to the Bell State Bank “Pay It Forward” program. A total of five Bell State Bank employees, and three community members all decided to donate their “Pay It Forward” dollars to PAD.

Bank employees Nancy Baker, Carissa Roerick, and Debbie Schoenborn each contributed $500 directly to PAD.

Two other employees, Julie Glawe and Tamar Clark, donated their “Pay It Forward” money to community members Erlene and Jack Davis — as well as a third community member who wished to remain anonymous — and these three people, in turn, “paid it forward” to the PAD program as well.

These contributors were all honored at PAD’s Jan. 14 board meeting with certificates of appreciation for their donations.

“It’s a significant donation for our organization,” said Pam Gregory, secretary of the PAD board of directors.

“It will enable the PAD program to continue to train canines for the purposes of providing military veterans with (certified psychiatric assistance dog) companions.”

“We all chose PAD because of our love of animals, and our commitment to give back to those who have served our country,” said Schoenborn. “We have all witnessed first-hand the difference these animals can make in the lives of veterans.

“Animals are great companions; you walk into our local nursing homes and see birds, cats and dogs who serve as companions to those residents who may have had animals when they lived independently,” she added.

“Something as simple as a touch or a nudge from these animals can make a big difference in their lives, and our veterans benefit from these animals in the same way.”

“Each of us has family members who have served or are presently serving,” Baker said, adding that her own family has a long-held tradition of military service.

Her father served in the U.S. Army, 1961-64, and she now has two brothers actively serving, making their careers with the Army National Guard in Iowa and Minnesota. In addition, she has a nephew who will be reporting to boot camp with the Iowa Army National Guard after his graduation in May.

Glawe, whose father served with the U.S. Army during World War II and the Korean War, also has a nephew serving with the Army’s Special Forces unit in Texas, while Roerick’s brother is an active member of the U.S. Air Force, based in Nebraska.

Erlene Davis’s father fought in the Korean War, and her brother served during Vietnam.

“This was my first opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ as a Bell State Bank employee, and PAD was the first program I thought of,” added Baker, who started work with the bank in March 2012.

Volunteers also needed

Gregory said that Bell State Bank contributes to PAD in other ways, by allowing its facilities to be used for training the dogs to receive their Public Access certification.

This is a federally-mandated certification — one of two such certifications that each dog, along with its veteran handler, must receive in order to be permanently placed in the veteran’s home as a certified psychiatric assistance dog.

The other required certification is for completion of the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen training program, Gregory said.

In addition, dogs that have been homeless or rescued from neglect are also temporarily placed with a foster care family, Gregory said.

This is, in part, so each dog can be evaluated to make sure their temperament is suited to being a psychiatric companion, as well as to allow them to become acclimated to living in a home with a family (or single person), she explained.

“About 82 percent of our canines are rescue dogs,” Gregory said. “All of them need feeding, training and veterinary care… and all of that requires time and money.”

Bell State Bank’s “Pay It Forward” program is just one way in which the PAD program has received much-needed monetary support since its inception, Gregory added.

“The Detroit Lakes area is such a giving community,” she said — but volunteer contributions are just as valuable.

In 2013, a total of 2,015 volunteer hours were given to the PAD organization, with community members providing volunteer canine training hours for the program in the Public Access phase of training, Gregory said.

For more information about the Patriot Assistance Dogs program, call Lucky Dog at 218-847-4100, or go online and check out the website,

‘Paying it Forward’

Since 2008, Bell State Bank & Trust has been giving its employees the opportunity to “Pay It Forward” to people in need. Every full-time employee receives $1,000, and every part-time employee $500, to give to an individual, family, organization or cause.

To celebrate the fifth year of the program, every full-time employee was offered an additional $1,000, and every part-time employee another $500, which they could, in turn, give to a customer, vendor or community member to help “Pay It Forward” through what they call the “Community Connect” phase of the program.

Follow Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454