It was a scene that, unfortunately, has been repeated too many times over the past six years. It began innocently enough …
While vacationing in Palm Desert, California, my wife and I decided to attend church services at a familiar church on Saturday night. We arrived about five minutes early and the couple sitting in front of us turned around to welcome us. When the man asked “what do you do,” I proudly replied “I am a banker.” His expression darkened and he said “you guys never can keep your hands out of the till when times are good, can you?” (He didn’t smile when he said it.)
After swallowing hard and taking a deep breath, I replied “you can travel Iowa from border to border and you’ll not find a successful community without at least one, and usually more, community banks in the community.” I don’t remember his exact reply, but it wasn’t complimentary. I finished by simply asking “don’t judge us all by the actions of a few.” His wife nodded in agreement, but the man seemed to remain unconvinced.
My thoughts immediately turned to the Knoll Ridge Country Club in tiny North English, Iowa. MidWestOne has an office in North English and is the only bank in town. Naturally, any time something “big” happens in North English, you can be sure MidWestOne played a supporting role.
For several years, Knoll Ridge had been charged with the task of conforming its pool to the Americans With Disability Act and had been unsuccessful in its attempts to raise the funds to install a lift in the pool. Finally, the verdict was in: the pool would be unable to open for the 2013 summer season unless the lift was installed. Funds were not available to purchase a lift.
At that point, MidWestOne stepped forward with the funds to secure a lift and allow the Knoll Ridge pool to open for the summer. It was not a difficult decision, really. After all, what do strong community banks do? They support their communities!
Shortly after announcing to our employees that our company was doing this, I received an e-mail from a North English employee who said, in part: “I personally would like to thank all involved for the generosity of MidWestOne for the funds for the pool. It brought tears to my eyes to know a vital part of our community would be able to stay open and serve the young and old. I personally didn’t have the opportunity growing up to learn how to swim. When I had children of my own, this was very important to my husband and myself that our kids learn how to swim. Not having the North English Pool close by would have had a negative effect on achieving this goal for my children. Our family has many memories of weekend getaways to spend in a hotel just so they could swim.”
“With the gracious gift of MidWestOne, children and adults can continue to utilize the pool for lessons and recreation.”
To my friend in Palm Desert, I simply say this is what community banking is all about. Community banks and community bankers contribute to the betterment of our society every day of every year.