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For more than a year, we have spent holidays, milestones, wins, losses, work, and leisure in the new normal created by the pandemic. At this time in 2020, many banks were planning on how they could open their branches back up to full capacity in the coming months, hoping things would get better as the weather became warmer. A goal that felt like it never moved out of phase one is beginning to appear more likely each passing day. Now, banks are planning out how they will once again open their doors to their communities.

The pandemic made us realize how difficult it can be to not see the regular smiles of customers. Although we have seen fewer faces, the industry continues to keep spirits high. The total amount of PPP loans provided in Wisconsin reached nearly  $10 billion with this number still growing as the deadline was extended, helping the businesses in need to fight through the uncertainty.

This help has also gone beyond financial assistance and shows how bankers have volunteered their time. The outcome from Power of Community saw bankers volunteer their time to food drives, animal shelters, fund-raisers, roadside cleanups, and so much more. Many banks also participated in Teach Children to Save Day by recording a banker reading a book on financial literacy to send to classrooms or using online resources provided by the  Wisconsin Bankers Foundation.

Looking ahead, an ongoing push for the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America (ECORA) Act introduced in part by Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind aims to assist the farmers struggling through another year of instability. Removing the taxation on certain farm real estate loans will make it easier for those in the ag industry to acquire the credit they need.

We may not have seen the smiles, but rest assured they are there. Opening our doors again does not mean returning to how things were before the world shut down; it means expanding on what we have learned since this crisis started. It has made us stronger, and these struggles have given many of us new perspective. As an industry that has named our strengths in always growing, learning, and remaining nimble to change, this event has forced us to evaluate if this claim still holds true today. Wisconsin bankers have proven to be all this and more — not for themselves, but for the benefit of their communities. As many open their doors and others consider the next steps in their plans, be proud of those you have supported and thankful for those who have dedicated their time and effort to do so. The challenge may not be over, but neither is our will to provide for our customers, give back to our community, and further develop our industry.

By, Alex Paniagua

By Rose Oswald Poels

Members of community banks know that their financial institutions provide more than just a loan – they contribute to the progress, work through the challenges, and celebrate the achievements of every individual, family, and business throughout each neighborhood. April’s Community Banking Month highlights this relationship that has created countless positive stories between bankers and their customers, and WBA is excited to take these stories and share them throughout Wisconsin.

April is truly a month full of opportunity to showcase the many ways banks are involved in the growth of their communities. Alongside Community Banking Month, WBA’s Power of Community Week is off to a strong start as of Monday, April 19. This week encourages bankers to work within their communities to provide support and services to those in need, and we have already received word on some of the many ways banks are volunteering their time. From fundraisers to food drives, meal programs to park cleanups, and so much more, WBA is proud to map out each participating bank and their efforts and share them with others to see just how impactful the power of community can be.

This month further marks Teach Children to Save Day which spotlights the significance of teaching our youth why saving money is so crucial. Many bankers have ordered a free Reading Raises Interest Kit from the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation and have already recorded themselves or a colleague reading a financial literacy book that will be sent to classrooms to promote the importance of financial responsibility to Wisconsin’s students. In doing so, banks are playing a critical role in educating our state’s youth.

We at WBA know that you are assisting your communities year-round, but we are excited to dedicate this time during Community Banking Month, Power of Community Week, and Teach Children to Save Day to capture all the ways you give back. Each month, each week, and each day, you are spending the year making your communities a better place. Being a community bank means so much more than giving to a community – it means being a part of it. Thank you so much for participating in these important public events!

April is a lot of things. It’s a month of celebration, the first full month of spring, and the tail-end of winter for most northern Wisconsinites. But more importantly, April is the month we are reminded of how strong our impact is on the communities we serve. Our commitment to engaging in Community Banking Month and Financial Literacy Month are strong indications of this, and there are many ways for your bank to participate this year.

Teach Children to Save Day is approaching on April 22. This campaign highlights the value of teaching kids the importance of financial literacy, but last year’s drastic transition at the end of March highlighted the innovation and creativity of bankers as well. Many of you were excited to make it back into the classrooms then and were certainly hoping to by now, but your dedication to increasing smart spending habits has not been stopped by the pandemic. This has been apparent through the donations made to schools and libraries, as well as the recordings of bankers reading the financial literacy book which was distributed to schools.

The Wisconsin Bankers Foundation once again encourages all participating member banks to contact their local schools to see how they would prefer to hold the event this year and to once again show the many ideas our industry has to offer. You can also make the continuation of this program and other financial education projects possible with a tax-deductible donation to the Foundation. Visit www.wisbankfoundation.org or contact Foundation Director Mike Semmann (msemmann@wisbank.com, 608-441-1206) for more information.

April 19–24 marks the fourth-annual Power of Community Week, and we are excited to highlight another year of bankers engaging in one or more community service activities. The Power of Community campaign shows the many ways banks are the backbones of our communities. Although 2020 emphasized this, each year before and after continue to make it evident. The different ways to get involved in your community are endless, but if you’re looking for inspiration, please visit www.wisbank.com/community/power-ofcommunity-week.

The impact you have on your community’s growth and development does not go unnoticed. Whether it be through promoting the importance of financial literacy or helping the schools, places of worship, and businesses affected by the pandemic, the month of April is the perfect opportunity to showcase your bank’s involvement in making Wisconsin the exceptional state that it is. There is appreciation every step of the way, and there is power in every helping hand you lend.

Kohler is president and CEO of Charter Bank, Eau Claire and the 2020-2021 WBA board chair.

By, Alex Paniagua

By Rose Oswald Poels

WBA Board Candidates Announced 

Donna Hoppenjan, president and CEO of Mound City Bank, Platteville, has been selected to become the 2021-22 WBA vice chair by the WBA Nominating Committee.

The nominating committee, which is comprised of the current WBA officers and recent past chairmen from WBA, also selected the following candidates to fill seats for three-year terms on the WBA Board of Directors: Greg Ogren, Security State Bank, Iron River (Group 1); Joe Peikert, Wolf River Community Bank, Hortonville (Group 2); Jay Mack, Town Bank, Hartland (Group 3); and Dan Ravenscroft, Royal Bank, Elroy (Group 4).

Pursuant to the WBA Bylaws, the above candidates shall be considered elected on April 2 unless other nominees are offered by petition submitted to the WBA office by April 1. The Nominating Committee received many nominations of excellent candidates making the selection process very difficult.

The Committee, led by WBA Past Chair Mark Meloy, wishes to thank everyone for their interest in serving on the WBA Board, along with your continued strong support of WBA.

Harnessing the Power of Community

Since 2018 WBA has been proud to organize our Power of Community Week and it’s time to once again sign up to participate this year. This campaign was developed to showcase to elected leaders and the public the power of bringing member banks together for the purpose of engaging, serving, and celebrating our communities through volunteer efforts conducted over a concentrated period. During the first quarter of 2020, the campaign was set to be yet another great opportunity for over 2,000 bankers to showcase the thousands of volunteer hours you give to local charitable groups and other organizations that many of you also help year-round. Then, as March settled in a way no one could have ever expected, the phrase “Power of Community” suddenly held a new sense of urgency – and bankers were quick to acknowledge this.

As a result of the pandemic, bankers found new ways to volunteer and help their communities. It was inspiring to witness that in these moments of chaos and uncertainty, you still found ways to offer assistance and lend a helping hand. Whether it was supporting local restaurants, donating to food pantries, or distributing hand-sewn masks, the obstacles and limitations set forth could not prevent you from making a difference.

As the pandemic approaches another year, we again reflect on what it means to show the power of community. During the week of April 19-24, the fourth Annual WBA Power of Community Week campaign will call on our members to engage in these efforts, serve these communities, and celebrate these accomplishments. We invite you to offer your time however possible to support those in need. From creating a lesson plan on financial education for local schools to finding inventive ways of expressing gratitude to frontline workers, there is no shortage of ways, and there is no wrong way, to participate during another year that highlights how every community in our state is positively impacted by our industry’s efforts.

For ideas on how to take part in this year’s Power of Community Week, WBA has documented a few of the creative ways that our industry adapted in response to the global shutdown. You can sign up for this year’s Power of Community campaign here. Thank you for all that you do to make Wisconsin a better place, both in your neighborhoods and statewide.

In a world of financial options for consumers and commercial business, the community bank has never had a more impactful opportunity. Making a profound difference in the towns that our community banks call home is “food for the soul” of the communities we represent. While rates will always be a factor in lending, it is the on-going spirit of the community bank that nurtures and establishes the relationships that lead to long-standing, repeat business. It’s about giving back to those around us as much as it is about operating the day-to-day business of banking. And, community banking is about doing what is right for the greater good not simply the almighty dollar. We’ve proved that time and time again during this last year of business.

While community banks may not be “hanging their flags” on billion-dollar stadiums and concert venues, we are making a difference where it is needed the most, at home. We’ve taken the time to help our friends and neighbors through, what for some, has been the worst of the worst. Once again, we’ve shown that the beauty of community banking is being able to do the “right thing,” at the right time.

We’ve taken the time to sit and to listen. To understand our customers and empathize with the struggles they have felt during the pandemic. We have done more than write loans and deposit stimulus checks. We’ve been there for our people, internally and externally, making tough, yet thoughtful decisions, every day. In business, this might cost us a little more in both time and dollars, but the extra effort pays dividends many times over as we positively impact our communities, customers and employees. Think about that…fundamentally most banks do the same thing. But it is the gift of being a community bank that sets us apart from everyone else. “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” Winston Churchill. How many times in our business lives have we really stopped to think about that? The work of the community bank has the ability to fuel the spark that moves mankind forward. Our words reveal our thoughts but it’s our actions that reflect our character.

Social media has offered us all a platform to share the good work of both the things that we do and who our people are. While many community banks jumped on the social media bandwagon years ago, those more resistant to this form of marketing are now experiencing its tremendous and instantaneous effects. Telling our stories and sharing the success of those around us is literally at our fingertips and has made sharing the good news of community banking more in the moment than ever before.

As we move forward into this next year, it will be the structure within our industry that will continue to set us apart. Recovery from the past year will not happen overnight but together, we’ll continue to shine brighter than ever before. #powerofcommunitybanking. 

 

By, Alex Paniagua

Bankers Prove the Power of Community in April
Wisconsin Bankers Association Wraps Up Annual Power of Community Campaign

Communities across Wisconsin received a little more TLC than usual in April: over 2,400 bankers spent more than 2,700 hours volunteering as part of the second annual Wisconsin Bankers Association’s Power of Community campaign. While Wisconsin’s banks are active in their communities year-round, WBA created this campaign as a way to demonstrate in a concentrated time period all the support banks routinely provide to their communities as part of day-to-day business.

“Bankers are proud of their communities and their role in helping families grow and businesses prosper,” said Rose Oswald Poels, WBA president/CEO. “This was simply a way of showcasing the community service efforts of Wisconsin’s banks.”

“It was exciting to coordinate the usual service efforts of these bankers into one concentrated timeframe to really highlight everything happening across the state,” she added.

Launched by the WBA, the Power of Community campaign is a way for banks to celebrate the communities they serve, whether it's volunteering at a local non-profit, fundraising for a charitable organization, using a bank office to collect items to be shared with a local aid group, or participating in National Teach Children to Save Day. 

An interactive map is available at www.wisbank.com/BanksPowerWI where you can view which banks participated, what their activities were, and the location of the participating branches. 

Throughout the campaign, banks used #BanksPowerWI on social media channels during their events across Wisconsin. 

By, Eric Skrum