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Gate City Bank team members surprise representatives of Rape and Abuse Crisis Center with a $50,000 Giving Hearts Day gift

Donating $50K to Support Abuse Victims in ND & MN.

FARGO-MOORHEAD – Thanks to a sizeable Giving Hearts Day donation from Gate City Bank, Rape and Abuse Crisis Center is growing its team of victim advocates to meet a critical community need.

Giving Hearts Day 2024 had officially arrived, and as Dr. Christopher Johnson climbed the steps to the main event stage at Dakota Medical Foundation, he curiously shifted his gaze to the sea of Gate City Bank team members and community partners who had suddenly gravitated toward him and his colleagues. Shuffling into place behind the podium, they each exchanged quizzical smiles and whispers as the room fell silent and two nearby bank emcees clutched her microphones in anticipation.

Something unexpected was most definitely in store.

The Rape and Abuse Crisis Center (RACC) team had supposedly been invited to the region’s biggest philanthropic occasion of the year for a mere interview, to discuss the event’s impact on fellow charities. But after being randomly called on stage, the group began to wonder otherwise. Then it dawned on them: Not only had Gate City Bank recently put a big donation on the table as part of its annual community nomination contest for Giving Hearts Day, but the bank had earned a reputation for orchestrating surprise reveals for unwitting donation recipients over the years. And that’s when one of the emcees spoke up.

“It’s weird that we had you all join us on stage, isn’t it? I bet you’re wondering why you’re up here,” exclaimed Amanda Torok, Senior Vice President of Culture at Gate City Bank, who cracked a sly grin as the crisis representatives’ puzzled looks slowly transformed into expressions of pure joy. “Well, we can answer that for you – you’re the winner of $50,000!”

Rape and Abuse Crisis Center representatives react with excitement onstage as Gate City Bank team members and others look on
Representatives of Rape and Abuse Crisis Center react upon hearing the surprise announcement that they were the recipients of Gate City Bank’s $50,000 community nomination contest for Giving Hearts Day 2024.

A Victory for Victims.

The room erupted. Crowd members broke into cheers, Gate City Bank President & CEO Kevin Hanson jumped onstage with a $50,000 cutout sign and the RACC team shared a round of celebratory hugs. In the midst of all the excitement, Johnson took a moment to close his eyes and clutch his hand to his chest in appreciation. Little did many in the community know, the last few years had been especially hard for the region’s only rape and abuse response team, as well as those they lovingly serve. In the wake of an unprecedented surge in violence – where the number of local sexual assault incidents had more than doubled within a year – the bank’s funds were quite literally a “saving grace” for a nonprofit that was frantically short-staffed.

“The timing of this gift was truly incredible. Not only had we been seeing an increase in the amount of abuse in the community, but in the intensity of the abuse. We had come to the realization that our on-call pool of victim advocates was simply no longer sufficient to meet the growing community need,” says Johnson, CEO of RACC. “As we faced a new brand of violence, Gate City Bank’s generous gift allowed us to move forward with plans to grow our team. It was truly a game-changer for our mission.”

Without access to RACC’s trained professionals, sexual assault victims who show up at area emergency rooms would otherwise have no one to properly guide them through crucial next steps with law enforcement and medical staff, Johnson adds. Those individuals also wouldn’t have immediate access to the comfort and empathy needed to recover and heal. That’s why steadfast community partners like Gate City Bank are essential – they can provide access to unrestricted dollars to ensure community needs are met in real time.

“One of the challenges of being a crisis organization is that grant dollars aren’t always immediately available, and because of this, budget is often an afterthought,” Johnson says. “When it’s a matter of life or death, you simply move forward to provide the service, then re-evaluate your financial position after the fact. Thanks to wonderful community partners like Gate City Bank, we’re able to continue serving the community under these difficult circumstances.”

Christopher Johnson, CEO of Rape and Abuse Crisis Center in Fargo-Moorhead, speaks onstage during Giving Hearts Day 2024
Dr. Christopher Johnson, CEO of Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, addresses a 2024 Giving Hearts Day crowd after learning that the nonprofit had been selected to receive $50,000 as part of Gate City Bank’s annual community nomination contest.

Advocating for the Advocates.

Not only was Gate City Bank’s donation a blessing for abuse victims – it also provided much-needed relief for RACC’s advocates. Operating in the community 24/7, they witness unimaginable circumstances on a daily basis, and it understandably takes a toll. In 2022 alone, the nonprofit experienced 45% turnover due to employee burnout that largely stemmed from mounting violence following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the pandemic, everyone was asked to shelter in place, which meant that victims were essentially trapped with their abusers. Kids were no longer in the classroom, so teachers weren’t able to identify scenarios of child sexual abuse. On top of that, law enforcement was limiting how many people they were processing in jail,” Johnson says. “The system became significantly compromised, and it eventually led to the significant service bubble we’re experiencing now.”

Therefore, in addition to growing its team of on-call advocates, RACC plans to bolster support services for its valued staff members. Their mental and physical well-being are of the utmost importance.

“In addition to looking out for the community, we also have a responsibility to address the vicarious forms of trauma that our staff experience from helping abuse victims,” Johnson says. “Unfortunately, there are occupational hazards that come with our line of work, but I’m happy to say that Gate City Bank’s funds will make a difference there, as well.”

Combating Crisis – For a Better Way of Life.®

At the end of the day, Johnson and his team are eternally grateful for the fact that Gate City Bank backs their mission. RACC has proudly served the community for nearly 50 years, and as long as community partners like the bank continue to step up and provide support, they aim to be around for 50 more – so crisis will never have the final say.

“Gate City Bank is one of the most generous entities in the community. It feels comforting to know that they continue to walk beside us,” Johnson says. “The bank consistently reminds us that we and those we serve are not alone, and it fills my heart.”

Other Community Giving Initiatives:

Giggling girl surrounded by red heart-shaped confetti, celebrating Giving Hearts Day in Fargo, ND

Giving Hearts Day

Since 2014, we’ve been honored to partner with Dakota Medical Foundation – donating countless volunteer hours and dollars to benefit local charities across North Dakota and Minnesota.

special-needs clients and roommates of Creative Care for Reaching Independence give a thumbs-up for the camera from the kitchen of their home

Creative Care for Reaching Independence (CCRI)

In honor of Gate City Bank’s 100 years, our record-breaking $100,000 Giving Hearts Day donation is being used to enhance accessibility and mental-health services in Moorhead, MN.

an outdoor-view design rendering of Hospice of the Red River Valley’s new hospice house facility in south Fargo North Dakota

Hospice of the Red River Valley

Gate City Bank provided a $16 million, low-interest line of credit with no fees to build a state-of-the-art house for Hospice of the Red River Valley!

Three volunteer drivers with Valley Senior Services smile and stand between two delivery vehicles donated by Gate City Bank

Valley Senior Services

By donating over $50,000 to purchase two brand-new delivery vehicles for Valley Senior Services in Fargo, ND, Gate City Bank is continuing to serve the elderly in our communities.