Meet Your Banker: JJ Wright

Some of our lobbies are open while others are available by appointment only but we are still here to help with what you need! Today we continue our “Meet Your Banker” series by talking with JJ Wright. JJ is the Branch Manager of our Hocking Hills Banking Center in Logan.

While JJ has worked in our Logan office since 2018, customers in three markets will recognize him. That’s because he’s also been the Branch Manager for our Canal Banking Center as well as the Friendly Bremen Banking Center on East Main Street in Lancaster.

JJ Wright

JJ Wright is the Branch Manager of our Hocking Hills Banking Center.

The 2006 Lancaster High School graduate has a degree in Business Administration from Liberty University. His career has been spent in banking, starting out as a teller and working his way up through the ranks at another bank before moving to VCNB in 2015 to be the Branch Manager in Canal Winchester.

“It’s going to sound cheesy but I love helping people, especially the problem solving aspect of what I do,” he explained. “I appreciate that we are taught about why a policy or procedure exists and the bank gives us the tools and leeway to work with our customers. We’re sometimes able to find ways to help the customer whether it’s helping them get approved for a car loan because their car just blew up or finding ways to help them stop over drafting an account,” he said.

JJ grew up in Lancaster but has lived in Hocking County for the last ten years. He and his wife LaBreeska will soon celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. The couple have two children – McKenna, who is five and Jayce, who is three.

In his free time, JJ has taken up woodworking, a hobby which he is able to share with his wife. “I do the building and she’s phenomenal at the finishing – whether it be with stain or paint. So a lot of times, I’ll be working on a project and she’ll be over there finishing another,” he said while describing the blanket ladders, tv stand and other pieces they have completed. “It’s just a really good way to let go of stress after a long day. It’s nice to have that creative outlet and to have that sense of accomplishment when you can see what you’ve done.”

He is also very involved in the New Life Christian Center, belongs to the Logan Rotary Club, and serves on the United Way of Hocking County Board.

Many Hocking County Fair supporters will recognize JJ and the Logan staff for their work organizing and running the fair’s livestock sale. “This is a ton of work that extends beyond the fair but it’s an incredibly rewarding thing to do. Those kids have worked so hard on their 4-H projects. We love the small part we play in helping them sell their animals at the livestock sale.”

While VCNB has taken numerous safety precautions, the Logan branch did have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in April. While everyone is healthy, they continue to operate with drive-thru service only. “We are profoundly grateful to our customers for their understanding and willingness to let us work with them to best serve their unique needs and circumstances. So many of them have been concerned about our health and I honestly can’t stress how grateful we are for their caring and cooperation.”

Meet Your Banker: Megan Cline

Our lobbies are available by appointment only but our bankers are still here to help you! Today we continue our “Meet Your Banker” series by talking with Megan Cline. Megan is the Branch Manager of our Pickaway County Banking Center in Commercial Point.

Megan Cline

Megan Cline is the Branch Manager of our Pickaway County Banking Center in Commercial Point.

Ask Megan to describe her job and she immediately hones in on the people – the customers, community and bank employees she interacts with daily.

She started in banking at the age of 18, fresh out of high school and ready for a career. She worked as a teller at another community bank before moving on to a credit union and another corporate bank, gaining supervisory experience along the way. In all, she’s been a teller, a teller supervisor and a personal banker. She actually worked for the Citizens Bank of Ashville at the time this bank joined the VCNB Financial Family in 2014.

Megan has been the Branch Manager at Commercial Point since last fall and says that supervising and helping others in their career is one of the most rewarding parts of her job. “I like a lot of what I do but the biggest part for me is helping people get what they want out of their careers and helping them advance,” she said.

She also enjoys spending doing good in the community. “We were really excited because we had just formed a partnership with the Pickaway County Dog Shelter when all this started. We’ll be donating our time at some of their events and donating money to help with things they need. That’s the best part of the job – just being able to help others.”

She also serves on the board for Fishing Has No Boundaries, an organization that provides people with disabilities the opportunity to go fishing and promotes this recreational activity as something accessible to all. She had been looking forward to helping with their spring event and to the bank helping sponsor the event until COVID-19 forced its cancellation. “It’s a great cause and helps all kinds of people with special needs. I just love it.”

The Ashville native is a graduate of Teays Valley Local Schools and has two little boys. “They’re four and eight so I’m busy with them. They’re pretty much my whole life outside of work,” she laughed.

Back at work, Megan said that limited access to the lobby has been a challenge for employees who miss seeing their regular customers. “We’ll be glad to see everyone again!” she said.

VCNB Announces Plan For Reopening Branch Lobbies

We have some exciting news to share! We will begin reopening our lobbies for transactions, new account openings, loan inquires and other everyday banking on June 1, 2020. However, we will be taking extra safety precautions to keep our customers and our employees safe.

Here for You BadgeThe following branch lobbies will reopen on June 1, 2020:

McArthur
Lancaster (East Main Street)
Chillicothe (Main Street)
Canal Winchester
Ashville
Logan
Wilkesville (closed on Wednesdays)

The remainder of our branch lobbies will reopen for business on June 15, 2020.

Business as usual will look a little different when we reopen. Please read carefully so you know what to expect should you visit the branches after they reopen. Remember, the safety and the health of our customers and employees is always our first priority.

  • Masks: Our employees will be required to wear masks in areas where they are not able to maintain a 6 foot social distance or where a barrier is not installed between customer and employee. We strongly encourage all of our customers to wear masks when visiting our lobbies, for the safety and health of our employees and for other customers. Should you be unable to wear a mask due to a valid medical concern, please allow us to handle your transaction in a manner which keeps both you and the employee safe while maintaining distance. It may also be difficult for us to identify you properly while wearing a mask. Because of this, we ask that you please bring your identification with you when visiting a branch.
  • Limited Occupancy: Each branch will have their maximum occupancy posted on the door. Please read all signs posted on the doors before entering. We will do our best to have an employee at each door, directing traffic flow and assisting customers. Should the lobby be at maximum capacity, we may ask that you wait outside or in your car until a customer exits the building. We thank you for your patience when this occurs.
  • Maintaining a Social Distance: Each lobby will have proper 6 foot social distance stickers marking the floor. We ask that you maintain that distance when standing in line to see a teller at their window. In addition, we have installed plexiglass barriers and have some movable plexiglass shields in offices where maintaining social distancing may be of concern.
  • At-Risk Individuals: Those individuals that are the most at-risk may visit each branch lobby between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. During that time, only the at-risk population will be able to enter the branch lobby. The branches will open to the general population at 9:00 a.m.
  • Cleaning and Sanitation: The branch employees will conduct regular sanitation and cleaning throughout the business day. This will include wiping counter tops, door handles, pens and other high traffic areas. Our cleaning companies will conduct a deep cleaning and sanitation routine each night, ensuring that the branch is up to CDC cleanliness standards. We do ask that every customer sanitize their hands on the way in and on the way out of the branch lobby. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the branch.
  • Lobby Restrictions and Signs: Please be sure to review all signs posted on the doors before entering the branch lobby. Additionally, if you are feeling ill or have any symptoms of COVID-19 we ask that you do not enter the branch for the safety of others. You will notice that our branches will look different, with the furniture arranged to maintain a 6 foot social distance. We will not be providing beverages, food, lollipops, dog treats, etc. during this time to maintain a healthy standard.
  • Drive Thru, Technology and Appointments: While the branch lobbies are reopening, we still encourage our customers to conduct their banking business in the drive thru when possible or via “curbside service.” Additionally, the VCNB Mobile app and our Online Banking are available to conduct everyday business. Our network of over 32,000 surcharge-free ATMs through MoneyPass® will allow you to get cash when you need it. Our bankers and lenders will be available to customers by appointment as well.

We want to thank each and every customer who has been patient with us while we have made changes and have adapted to a new normal. We always strive to do the right thing for our customers, employees, shareholders and communities. We appreciate you! We miss our customers and hope to see you all soon . . . from 6 feet away of course!

 

Meet Your Banker: Brittany Walters

Our lobbies are available by appointment only but our bankers are still here to help you! Today we continue our “Meet Your Banker” series by talking with Brittany Walters. Brittany is the Branch Manager of our Ross County Banking Center on Main Street in Chillicothe.

Brittany Walters

Brittany Walters is the Branch Manager of the Ross County Banking Center on Main Street in Chillicothe.

Brittany started her career, not in banking, but in customer service. She first worked for a major cell phone provider before becoming a personal banker at a big bank. Consequently, care for customer satisfaction is evident whenever she talks about helping customers.

She talks a lot about educating customers so that they can help themselves. “I don’t want to just tell a customer what kind of product they need. I like to guide them and help them feel comfortable with their choices,” she said. “It’s rewarding to educate someone about how their choices effect their credit and then to see their credit score go up because of their hard work.”

Brittany believes that offering this kind of education to customers is an important part of community banking. “You don’t find that community feel just anywhere but our involvement in the community allows us to be a resource to customers,” she said. “That extends to employees too. When your staff and coworkers feel like family, you all work together better. You help each other out more and you feel like we’re all in this together.”

The Jackson native went to Shawnee State University. She has been married to her husband Tim for eight years and the couple have two young boys. They live just outside Chillicothe where they have spent the last few years transforming their property with fruit trees, berry bushes and garden space. They even raise chickens for the farm fresh eggs and have enjoyed having baby chicks this spring.

She said they attempt to expand their crop every year and work to preserve beans, spaghetti sauce and other goodies to enjoy later. “We love doing anything outdoors! We especially enjoy hiking and spending time in the woods as a family,” she said. “And we love our garden! It’s a lot of work but it’s so rewarding to eat the food you grew yourself!”

Brittany is also involved in the community through annual events like Salvation Army bell ringing each Christmas and working the Buck Fifty. The Ross Chillicothe Chamber of Commerce is another organization she is involved with. She especially enjoys the Chamber’s quarterly New Member Breakfast which the bank sponsors. “It’s a lot of fun to network with new members. There’s good food and you get to hear about their plans for their businesses in the community and about how the bank might help,” she explained.

“And after all. Isn’t that what community banking is all about? Getting to know your neighbor and seeing how you can help?”

 

Saving Money On Groceries

Money is tight in most households right now. With the kids home for three meals a day, many families have seen their grocery bills unexpectedly skyrocket. You want to feed your kids nutritious foods but you also don’t want to go broke doing it or spend all day in the kitchen. So what do you do?

Here for You BadgeWe don’t have all the answers for your unique circumstances but we have some ideas to help you brainstorm what will work in your house!

Meal plan and make a shopping list – Think of your meal plan as your road map through shopping and meal prep. Jot down what you want that week’s meals to look like. It’s best to base this off of what you already have and what’s on sale. From there you can start a shopping list to insure you buy everything you need.

Shop once – The more exposure you have to a store, the more money you are likely to spend. For example, you run in to pick up milk only to walk out with two bags full of extras. Do all your weekly shopping at once and avoid those extra trips.

Eat in season – Seasonal foods are cheaper and they’re typically more flavorful. Summer is a wonderful time for fresh, affordable foods like sweet corn, cucumbers, berries, tomatoes and melons.

Support your local farmers – Help a neighbor while feeding your family. You might be surprised at how much fresher, cheaper and more flavorful your meals are when food comes straight from the local field to the market. Farmers markets can also be a good source for eggs and other goods.

Buy frozen – If you can’t find or afford fresh meat and produce, hit the frozen section! The produce you find here is still good for you, often picked at peak and flash frozen. Frozen foods will keep for a long time if you don’t need them now.

Be flexible – Brand or store loyalty can be costly when you’re on a budget. If your kid only eats Heinz Ketchup with their chicken nuggets, we get it. But they might not notice the store brand french fries. If you only buy boneless skinless chicken, you might find that another cut of meat is just as good.

DIY – If you’re trying to save money on food, there’s no better way than to cook your own meals. That means reducing the take-out and most prepared foods from the grocery. That pretty little container of sliced berries is way more costly than slicing your own. Most frozen meals are convenient but they’re packed with sodium and often don’t stretch very far for the money. Frozen pancakes are convenient but it’s easy to whip up a batch of cheap homemade pancakes for the freezer. Don’t have time to cook every day? Take a few hours one day to prep some casseroles or meal kits for the freezer. Check out Pinterest or ask friends for favorite recipes.

Slash the snacks – Snack foods like chips, pop and little packaged cakes are so expensive. Try cutting back or offer alternatives. Keep a pitcher of Kool-Aid in the fridge and cut up a block of mozzarella in lieu of string cheese. Even if you don’t want to make something from scratch, a cake mix and can of icing are way cheaper per serving than a box of Ho Hos.

Take short cuts – Lots of folks swear by their Instant Pot or slow cooker. The Instant Pot allows for quick cooking. The slow cooker requires planning but is a good tool for making cheaper ingredients delicious.

Audit your grocery bill – Do you see trends in your spending? What’s the thing that costs the most or that feels like the biggest waste? There may be nothing you can do to reduce this expense but knowledge is half the battle and will help you understand how your family’s choices impact the budget.

What do you do to save money on groceries? Tell us in the comments below! We’re always looking for good ideas!

Meet Your Banker: Nicole Scott

Our lobbies are available by appointment only but our bankers are still here to help you! Here we continue our “Meet Your Banker” series by talking with Nicole Scott. Nicole is the Branch Manager of our Friendly Bremen Banking Center in Bremen.

Nicole Scott

Nicole Scott is the Branch Manager of our Friendly Bremen Banking Center in Bremen.

When Nicole talks about life as a community banker during COVID-19 the conversation quickly turns to others. “I miss seeing our regular customers and I worry about many who are struggling. In fact, I really miss a lot of the face-to-face contact that we’ve always taken for granted,” she said. “Most of all, I miss being able to shake hands with my customers.”

Nicole’s path to Branch Manager was somewhat unusual. She has a degree in Human Services and Corrections from Hocking College but she took a job with another bank’s operations department about fifteen years ago. The work suited her and she moved to a similar role at VCNB four years later. She calls her time in that department “rewarding and training like no other.”

In 2016, Nicole was involved in an accident that put her on a year-long path of recovery, nearly causing the loss of her arm. “I did some soul searching. That kind of experience makes you wonder what will happen if you don’t get better. It makes you question if you’ve done everything you should be doing” she said. “I define failure as making the choice not to do more when you know you can do more. So when I felt like I hit a plateau in my position in operations, I knew it was time to challenge myself and set new goals.”

She believed her purpose was to help customers. So she took the leap into the VCNB Personal Banker Program and worker her way up to Branch Manager in Bremen. Today she enjoys leading her branch employees and helping them grow. She also has strong feelings about community involvement. “I just love helping where I can.”

Nicole is Vice President for the Bremen Area Chamber of Commerce and will soon graduate from the Fairfield Leadership Program. She also seeks opportunities to show kindness to others both in her personal life and through charitable giving at the bank. For example, when she heard about an effort by the Mithoff to provide Fairfield County families with Easter baskets and holiday dinners, she jumped right in to help. “They provided dinners for about six hundred families and baskets for several hundred kids. What the bank was able to contribute, what I was able to contribute, was very small in the context of so many in our community who stepped up to help,” she said. “I was in awe of what they were able to accomplish with everyone pitching in.”

Nicole has three children and is the author of two published novels. She also enjoys long range rifle shooting and is proud to say she can hit a target at a thousand yards. An avid traveler, she seeks out unique and memorable experiences.

She looks forward to the day lobby doors are again open to customers. “We try to check on many of our customers now. We want them to know we are thinking about them but it will be a joyous day when we can open our doors and see them again!”

Credit 101 For Teens and For Everyone

Our bankers spend a lot of time in local schools during the spring. We talk to little kids about spending and saving money and to high school kids about topics important to them. As they’re about to venture out on their own we give them an overview of real world money topics like how to open a checking account, how to apply for a loan, and what it takes to build good credit.

Here for You BadgeWe can’t go to the classrooms so we wanted to bring the credit talk to the blog! Since every consumer needs credit for a variety of reasons, this is helpful information for everyone – not just those high school students!

What is a credit score?
A credit score is numerical summary of a person’s credit worthiness. It takes into account several factors including length of credit history, outstanding debt, pursuit of new credit, types of credit in use, and payment history. The higher your score, the better your credit.

Why do I need good credit?
Your credit score will be considered when you apply for a loan or a credit card. Many employers look at your credit as do insurance companies, landlords, and even cell phone companies. In other words, your ability to get a cell phone, rent an apartment, get a credit card, insure your home, start a new job or afford a loan for a car is tied to your use of credit. In the world of borrowing money, someone with excellent credit may qualify for a lower interest rate than a customer with good or acceptable credit. Good credit can literally save a customer hundreds if not thousands of dollars in their lifetime.

How can I improve my credit?
– Pay your bills in full and on time every month.
– Use 25% or less of your available credit. In other words, if your credit
limit is $10,000, carry a no more than $2,500 of debt.
– Maintain steady employment. You will be perceived as being reliable and
better able to pay bills if you are able to hold down a steady job.

What negatively impacts my credit?
– Late or missed payments.
– Using more than 80% of your available credit.
– Bankruptcy.
– Liens or foreclosures.
– Periods of unemployment.
– Too many requests for new lines of credit.

How do I establish good credit and keep it that way?
– Pay your bills, on time every month.
– Open a credit card and pay it off every month, or keep a very low manageable
balance.
– Do not open too many credit cards or credit accounts at one time.
– Avoid using the mantra “I’ll pay it off later” as a crutch for going into
debt for things you cannot afford.
– When it comes to credit cards, only charge things you can afford.
– Only apply for loans where the payment is manageable using your current
income.
– Do not stretch your budget too thin. Ask yourself, could I afford this car
loan if I lost my job or got sick and couldn’t work?

What is a good credit score?
740 – 850           Excellent Credit
680 – 740            Good Credit
620 – 680            Acceptable Credit
550 – 620           Subprime Credit
300 – 550           Poor Credit

Who tracks my credit?
Your use of credit is reported to three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Each time you pay a bill, apply for insurance, change jobs, or exceed your credit card limit, that information becomes part of the permanent record known as your credit report. You are advised to request a free credit report annually through www.annualreport.com. This report is a snapshot of your credit worthiness. It is important review regularly for accuracy.

Teach Your Children To Save

Full coins in a jar. Saving money. Growing concept.Save money for children and future.

Every spring, our bankers go into local schools to talk with youngsters about saving money. It’s part of a national effort called Teach Children To Save, led by the American Bankers Association. While we can’t go into classrooms this year, we are working to reach out to students in other ways.

With young kids, we talk about why someone might need a bank, why money is safe when kept in a bank, and the importance of saving money. Here’s some food for thought for you to help your kids develop money saving skills and understand the difference between needs and wants.

  • Make saving visual. Piggy banks are wonderful but a clear jar will allow your child to see their savings grow. If your child has a passbook savings account, help them keep their passbook current or even have them draw a chart so they can see their money grow.
  • Help your child see that things cost money. Don’t just tell your child that a toy costs $10. Help them make the connection between that cost and their money by helping them count out their money and show them how their savings decreases.
  • Talk about the difference between needs and wants. We need food, shelter, and clothes. That means we need shoes to wear but we don’t need Nikes. We want Nikes but could wear something cheaper. We need to buy food for dinner but junk food like Oreos are a want.
  • Make them buy some of their own wants so that they can see how hard it is to save money. Use this process to show them opportunity cost. “If you buy this toy, you won’t have enough money to buy a video game later.”
  • Give them savings goals. When they’re small, those goals might be to save for a special toy or game. As they age, those goals can be built on and will mature to save for a car or college.

Saving money is a habit best formed in youth – even if all they have to save is spare change or chore money. The will to save money is like a muscle that gets stronger with use. Developing good childhood habits will serve them well for a lifetime.

 

Meet Your Banker: Kati Maple

Our lobbies are available by appointment only but our bankers are still here to help you! Today we continue our “Meet Your Banker” series by talking with Kati Maple. Kati is the Branch Manager of our Pickaway County Banking Center in Ashville.

Katie Maple

Kati Maple is the Branch Manager of the Pickaway County Banking Center in Ashville.

Ask Kati what she likes best about her job and she immediately starts talking about her customers. The twenty-year banking veteran says that her career has always been centered on helping others and that this is the best part of her job.

Before coming to work for VCNB, she had experience working for another bank, was a stay-at-home mom, and sharpened her customer service skills helping antiques venders through the Scott Antique Company. But she describes coming to work for VCNB as “a little like coming home.”

While she has been in Ashville for the last five years, customers in Bremen and Lancaster will know her as well. She started out as a teller in Bremen before being promoted to Head Teller and then to New Accounts Officer before becoming Branch Manager. From there, she moved to our branch on East Main Street in Lancaster to be Branch Manager for five years.

When the bank acquired branches in Pickaway County, Kati’s experience with VCNB and her attention to customer satisfaction made her a good leader for the Ashville office. “I love to offer good customer service. I like to problem solve and love when I can figure out a customer’s issues. That’s rewarding to help and to be a resource for them,” she said. “Even with seventeen branches, we are still a community bank. We’re still allowed enough leeway to help customers in a way that you just don’t find at big businesses. I mean, we all know the Executive Team here. We all know the President. We all are given the confidence and the freedom to work together.”

Kati has a tightknit family and one built around their faith. Her two grown daughters also work in careers of service to others – Haley is a teacher and Lydia is a nurse. She was also proud to welcome a son-in-law, Bryce, to her family last year. As her family’s middle child, she remains close to both her sisters as well.

Her husband Mike is deceased, but Kati remains close to his family and spends much time with her church family where her father-in-law is the pastor. She teaches Sunday School and helps with Bible School every year.

In Ashville, Kati and the staff are involved in a number of community activities. They help with weekend packs of food and snacks for students at Teays Valley Local Schools. The bank provides the chicken for the community’s free Gazebo Gatherings picnic over Labor Day weekend and the staff helps serve. They also pass out water at the 4th of July celebration fish fry. “It’s important to be out in the community and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said.

Relationships and people are important to Kati and are at the heart of everything she does. “My home family, my church family, my community family and my relationship with God are the most important things in my life,” she explained. “My relationship with the Lord has brought me to this point and I just want to be a blessing to everyone around me.”