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'Holiday It Forward' provides unconventional method of giving

Community members are passing along envelopes stuffed with cash throughout the Grand Rapids area. The envelopes are connected to Holiday It Forward, a nonprofit program implemented locally that encourages individuals to assist the needy during the holiday season.
Holiday It Forward envelope

Holiday It Forward envelope /Carol Perrott

For the second consecutive year, community members are making the holiday season brighter by participating in an unusual method of giving based on the honor system.   

Community members are passing along envelopes stuffed with cash throughout the Grand Rapids area. These envelopes are connected to Holiday It Forward, a nonprofit program.

According to its website, Holiday It Forward is a program implemented locally to encourage individuals to assist the needy during the holiday season.  

Holiday It Forward was introduced to the Grand Rapids area by Carol Perrott, of Cohasset, Minn. Perrott was inspired to implement Holiday It Forward locally after hearing about the program on a Minneapolis-St. Paul news station.

According to Perrott, Holiday It Forward was founded by an Iraqi war veteran in Wisconsin who began handing out envelopes containing $1 to strangers on the Minneapolis Skywalk. Each envelope carried a message encouraging people to add money to the envelope and pass it on.

The goal of the project was for the money to end up in the hands of individuals or families in need during the holiday season.

Perrott commented on the idea behind Holiday It Forward.

“It is completely a faith-based concept,” Perrott said. “You either believe in people or you do not. I do believe,” she says.

Ann Will, a participant in the project, also commented on Holiday It Forward.

“I believe that most people are honest and caring,” Will says. “This program gives people the chance to do something good and positive for others.”

Last year, Perrott started the project with several friends. They began by distributing 20 envelopes that each contained $20.

This year, Perrott began the Holiday It Forward project in Grand Rapids with 40 envelopes.

The envelopes were distributed in various areas of the community in order for them to reach a diverse audience. The status of each envelope becomes unknown from that point on.

“Once the envelopes leave my hand,” Perrott says, “they are footloose and fancy free. I have no more connection with any of them.”

Each envelope recipient has a variety of options, including contributing to the envelope and passing it along, passing along the envelope without contributing, or taking the money from the envelope.

The response to Holiday It Forward has been overwhelmingly positive, Perrott said.

“This year, the project is going great,” she said. “I've had people calling me to see if I had any more envelopes left.”

Although Perrott is unable to track the status of the each envelope, she believes the effort’s anonymity is crucial to its success. She has heard positive reports, however, of families who benefitted last year from the effort.

A woman told Perrott an envelope had found its way into her book club. The individuals in the club pooled their money and gave the envelope to a single mother and her two children.

Another community member told Perrott that an envelope had ended up in an early childhood facility. The facility’s staff members contributed daily to the envelope, and eventually gave it to a local family in need.

Perrott discussed the seemingly faultless nature of Holiday It Forward.

“As far as problems with the program, there are none,” Perrott said. “That's the beauty of it. There is always the possibility that someone may take the money from the envelope that may not be deserving of it, but it is not something I choose to dwell on.”

Will also commented on this potential downfall of the program.

“If someone takes the money and really doesn't need it,” Will said, “maybe someday down the road they will realize this and help someone else.”

Envelopes will continue to circulate throughout the Grand Rapids area until Dec. 15. On that date, participants are asked to forward the envelopes to individuals or families in need.

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