BEMIDJI -- The Gifts of Hope program returned in December and once again, it was a success.

After a solid run in spring, the Bemidji Alliance brought back the Gifts of Hope campaign to assist hospitality businesses that were closed because of Gov. Tim Walz's shutdown efforts to mitigate the coronavirus. The first campaign ran in the spring months and made $40 gift cards to local businesses available at a $20 cost, with the program covering the rest.

The revised version of the program for this month worked in a similar fashion, running from Dec. 14-18. Participating businesses included restaurants, bars, hotels, gyms, fitness centers, indoor recreation companies and entertainment venues.

Businesses involved in the campaign were listed on the Bemidji Alliance's website, which then allowed customers to select the company and purchase a $50 gift card. As part of the program, those who purchased a $50 gift card were given a free $20 gift card to the same establishment.

Additionally, the program also included donations which went to the Pay it Forward campaign, run by the United Way of Bemidji Area. Those funds went to the families of hospitality staff affected by the recent closures and families in need.

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According to a Facebook post from the Bemidji Alliance, the campaign concluded with $212,000 raised in five days and invested back into the community. The program helped more than 58 businesses and over 85 families. More than 1,900 gift certificates were purchased during those five days.

Sponsors for this round of the program included:

  • Security Bank USA.
  • The Idea Circle.
  • Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union.
  • Bank Forward/Insure Forward.
  • Deerwood Bank.
  • Dondelinger Chevy/Heartland Chevy Dealers.
  • First National Bank Bemidji.
  • Former Security Bank USA President John Baer.
  • Paul Bunyan Communications.
  • Pinnacle Marketing Group.
  • RiverWood Bank.

The Bemidji Alliance is made up of the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, Visit Bemidji, Bemidji Downtown Alliance and Greater Bemidji Economic Development.