Hero is defined as a person who has performed a heroic act or service and is regarded as a role model.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week in southern Indiana, I looked into the eyes of and shook hands and spoke with heroes. Of course, they don’t think of themselves as heroes. In fact, they will be embarrassed that I have called them heroes, but that is what they are. And they are all community bankers.
On March 2, a series of tornadoes touched down in southern Indiana and devastated the small towns of Henryville, Marysville and rural farm areas around Daisy Hill and Borden. Several community banks serve those communities and surrounding farms and villages. One of the banks hardest hit was The New Washington State Bank of Charlestown, Ind. The bank has branches serving Henryville and Borden. The branch at Henryville was heavily damaged as was most of the town (many places totally destroyed). And many of the farms and homesteads surrounding Borden were devastated.
Pat Glotzbach is president of The New Washington State Bank and this year’s president of the Indiana Bankers Association. Almost immediately after the tornadoes hit, Pat defined what great leadership is by leading his bank’s staff in doing what community bankers always do, helping their towns recover in any way possible. The New Washington State Bank is symbolic of every community bank in this nation that serves their local towns, villages and rural areas.
In this case, Controller Scott Benner, Operations Officer Judy Shepherd and Loan Officer Adrienne Hill were instrumental in carrying out the bank’s recovery plan. They opened the Henryville branch less than 72 hours after the tornadoes hit late Friday afternoon.
No power and no phone, but they opened, and with only sunlight to see, Branch Manager Jay Stephens and his team cashed checks and handled deposits without any machines or computers. They went “old school,” manually hand writing all transactions. At the end of the day they put smiles on customer’s faces and gave them hope that this was the beginning of bringing the town back.
Betty Carver, the bank’s board chairman, and Marilyn Walden, a teller at the Henryville branch, lost their homes, and many more employees had damage. But instead of dwelling on their own losses, they extended helping hands, helped others clean up and kept a positive spirit. They talked more about the people who experienced the storm with them. They gave hope to people who saw their life’s work or their homes and keepsakes totally destroyed. They truly cared that everyone made it through the storm. In short, they did what community bankers do every day.
Touring the hardest hit areas of southern Indiana with Pat Glotzbach, Joe DeHaven, the outstanding president/CEO of the Indiana Bankers Association, and David Geis, president/CEO of Jackson County Bank of Seymour, Ind., I had the privilege of meeting dedicated and truly caring community bankers like Karen Johnson, head teller at Henryville, Darrel Burton, teller, and Borden Branch Manager Brenda Ooley to name just a few. You could see the courage, dedication and resolve in their eyes. The “never give up” attitude in their demeanor and their words.
In times of crisis, from Joplin, Mo., (whose bankers, among others, traveled to southern Indiana to help their fellow community bankers) to the Gulf Coast states of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida, and from the swollen lakes and rivers in North Dakota to the hills of southern California, community bankers help their fellow citizens in the towns, villages and rural areas they serve. They do it not for gain, recognition or a personal agenda, but because they are invested in the communities they serve and, most importantly, because it is the right thing to do. At its core, community banking is people helping people, and there is no better example of that principle than the officers and staff of The New Washington State Bank of Charlestown.
To all the officers and staff of The New Washington State Bank, thank you for your service to your communities and to your fellow citizens. Your actions again remind us of what it means to be a community banker. In my book, you are all heroes.