April Is Community Banking Month!

By Melby, Todd | Independent Banker, April 1998 | Go to article overview

April Is Community Banking Month!


Melby, Todd, Independent Banker


It's time for community banks to celebrate and say, "We're here to stay"

In Wagner, S.D., you don't have to go to the bank to find out April is Community Banking Month. The chances are pretty good that one of Commercial State Bank's 24 employees will come to you.

Last year, Commercial State Bank employees delivered Meals-OnWheels to homebound seniors. They popped popcorn at the Good Samaritan Center and visited Heritage Court Apartments for senior citizens. They also dropped in at day-care centers and encouraged school children to come into the bank to examine the off-center likenesses of presidents on freshly minted $50 and $100 bills.

Says Mary Jo Kuhlman, Commercial State Bank's assistant marketing manager, of the new bills: "I always keep hold of them tight."

The children toured the vault, tried to lift $500 of unrolled quarters and stared longingly at money Kuhlman won't let them touch. Of course, Kuhlman also encourages youngsters to put a little aside for the future and marvel at the mysterious beauty of compound interest.

Located on Main Street just a few blocks east of the Two Spurs Steakhouse (where prime rib is the house special on Saturday nights), Commercial State Bank is in the center of downtown Wagner, population 1,462. The community bank, which has $93 million in assets, snared an award from Independent Community Bankers of South Dakota for its action-packed Community Banking Month in 1997.

"Every day of the week we had something different," Kuhlman says. From Food Pantry Day (Wednesdays), to Customer Appreciation Day (Fridays), to Drive-Through and Walk-Up Customer Appreciation Day, consumers stopping in to make a deposit or check on CD rates discovered something new.

With each promotion, Kuhlman found ways to entice people to donate items for the local food shelf. Visiting school children received extra chances to win U.S. savings bonds if they brought canned goods; ditto for employees wearing blue jeans on casual dress Fridays. By month's end, the bank had collected 12 boxes of nonperishable food.

"For us, it's what we can do for the community," Kuhlman explains.

FINDING NEW VALUE

In larger markets like Springfield, Mo. (population 140,000), emphasizing local ties in a merger-crazed banking environment can be motivation enough to begin promoting Community Banking Month. In 1997, Citizens State Bank of Rogersville, which has two branches and $32 million in assets, didn't get around to the celebration. This year will be different. …

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