This is a story of success. The story of a first-time project that bested the expectations of those who created it.
Bank of the West, located at Main and 12th streets, was looking for a holiday project that would involve community. According to the branch manager, the employees spent months trying to find a project that was just right.
And then in August, they found it. Universal Banker Joey Palich brought up that his mother, Teri Palich, works for St. Francis Community Services in Wichita — and that foster children need a little help to have a merry Christmas.
They tapped Teri on the shoulder.
“She was willing to help us cut through the red tape and reach out to the leadership in Newton to gauge their level of interest in starting a partnership with the bank,” said Brian Donley, branch manager
The bank launched an Angel Tree project, first reported on by The Kansan Nov. 25. The bank placed signs out front and started collecting gifts for foster children. They decorated a tree in the lobby with paper angels listing gift ideas.
With a deadline of Dec. 1 for donations, no one really knew what to expect.
All the angles were picked up — and more than 150 foster children will receive Christmas gifts as a result.
“I did not realize the impact that this would have on the people in the area,” Donely said. “We have had such an out-pouring of support, which at times has brought the staff and the participants to tears in the lobby of the bank.”
Donnelly told the story of one family — represented by a mother and two daughters — who drove from Moundridge to take angels off the tree and go shopping.
“[They took] four angels from the tree, spent the day shopping here in Newton and brought back what looked like a couple hundred dollars’ worth of toys and clothes that were items directly from the four children’s wish lists in gift bags ready to be delivered.,” Donnelly said. “Just watching the faces of that family and seeing the understanding that those kids (9 and 5 years old) had of what they were doing leads me to believe that this mom is raising her girls to think not only of themselves but of those that may not have anything — during a time of year that we all should be thankful for the gifts that God has given to us.”
The youngest child with an angel on the tree was 1 year old, the oldest 18. Bank of the West was able to find gifts for them all.
“My story ends with not only the 151 local foster children getting the toys that they wanted but also a renewed faith in the kindness of complete strangers who have come together to make a difference,” Donely said.