Tooting Our Horn

Article excerpt

When the new CEO arrives at Jim Thorpe National Bank in Pennsylvania this month, the first thing the executive is likely to hear is a request for a raise or a day off.

"Our new CEO will realize how overwhelming of a job this is and understand how much power this position holds," chuckles Craig Zurn, the bank's current CEO, who will relinquish his title for the day to a 15-year-old in conjunction with the bank's annual essay contest.

The contest, says Zurn, was thought up a few years ago as part of its Community Banking Month celebration and offers an up-close look by the winning essayist at the inner workings of a community bank and how its activities are driven by the community it serves.

"The kids really like it, and the parents think it's neat," says Zurn. "We take the CEO around to the different branches and introduce him or her to the bankers and then we go out into the business community and do a lot of handshaking."

April marks Community Banking Month, a nationwide celebration recognizing the various contributions community banks make to their customers and communities. Thousands of community banks participate in the national industry celebration every year by doing volunteer work with civic projects, organizing customer-appreciation events or teaching local students various financial skills.

Chuck Berg, marketing director for Oostburg Bank in Wisconsin, says his community bank awards several hundred dollars each year in various contests and giveaways as part of its Community Banking Month celebration. This year the bank's staff will give away "community cash" that can be spent at a local business in the area.

"Community banks are generally not a boastful bunch, but I always tell them they don't have to worry about shying away from reminding the community about all the work they do," says Frank Pinto, president and CEO for the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers.

Participating banks often donate to charities, teach students about financial issues, decorate their branches in a theme, serve refreshments in the lobby or even offer free car washes in their drive-through lanes. …