Brenda Prater Brooks To Retire This Month

When Brenda Prater Brooks came to work for Vinton County National Bank in 1979, President Bob Will joked that she was kicking the slats out of the cradle. Just over forty years later, Brenda is retiring as the second most senior employee in the bank.

Brenda BrooksShe never intended to stay this long but instead planned to work while going to college and eventually move on. “This is where God wanted me. I got married, had two kids and never left. Life is good,” she smiled.

Brenda began her banking career as a teller – first inside the lobby and later at the drive-thru. “On my first day, they gave me a cash drawer and told me any money out, write on the right side and money in gets written on the left. And you know what? I balanced my first day!”

When she started at the bank, the lobby was open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily and until noon on Thursday and Saturday. “We didn’t have any of the technology we have today. Everything was done by hand and no one left until the General Ledger was balanced. You didn’t want to be the reason it wouldn’t balance,” she joked. “You felt about an inch tall because everyone had to wait around all because of your mistake.”

With everything filed and kept manually, when a customer wanted to know if a check had been cleared, the teller went downstairs to find the check. “We didn’t have an elevator back then so it was a lot of trips up and down the stairs. I was thin back then!” she laughed.

She speaks about many former colleagues with admiration, especially those who were here when she first started and who taught her to be a good representative of the bank. She is especially fond of Rosemary Reynolds and Ruth Molihan who were New Accounts Officers for many years. “I always thought they were the classiest ladies ever. Never a hair out of place, make-up done perfectly.  They were always so professional and kind. I wanted to be like them,” she said.

When Rosemary left the bank in 1991, Brenda got her chance to be like those ladies in New Accounts. “They put me across from Ruth and I learned so much,” she said. “I’ve done everything on the deposit side but never loans. I’m not sure I could tell someone who really needed money that I could not do a loan for them,” she said.

Brenda points out that many of her early customers have passed away. Now she’s serving their children and grandchildren. “I’ve loved every minute of getting to know my customers,” she said before talking about some of the births, marriages, retirements, deaths, celebrations and sorrows that she has witnessed in the lives of her customers. She even remembers two current VCNB employees when they were just tiny tots sitting on her lap while playing with her typewriter. “They’re all grown up now!” she exclaimed.

It is her own life experience that Brenda believes has helped her better relate to some of her customers. She specifically mentioned how the passing of her first husband has allowed her to relate to customers who have lost spouses. “I’m a firm believer that our experiences make us who we are and that we should use the knowledge and compassion we gain to help others,” she said.  “I’ve been able to better relate to my customers who have lost spouses because I’ve been through it. And unless you’ve been through it you just don’t know,” she said.

She will miss her bank family and customers but looks forward to having more time with her own family. With a husband, two grown kids, three grandsons, lots of friends and elderly parents, she has much to keep her busy and to look forward to. “I am so excited to just do my own thing and to have more time for what I need to do,” she said.

Brenda reluctantly admits that some of her customers will miss her. “People don’t like change and honestly, I don’t either. I remember when Rosemary left, so many people were reluctant to give me a chance. And when I started, if the system went down, that meant my pencil was broken and I needed to sharpen it,” she laughed. “So much has changed in these forty years but it’s a necessary part of life.”

Brenda is known for her good customer service so when asked what advice she would give someone in a customer service job, her response was decisive. “Never judge someone for their appearance and never treat anyone differently than you yourself would want to be treated. Every customer is important. They are the reason we have a job.”

“I will miss the people. Some have become like family but to everything there is a season. It’s time for me to leave,” she said.

Brenda will retire on January 31 along with three other longtime employees. Jane Nickelsand Barb Clemons in McArthur and Elaine Praterin Richmond Dale will retire that day as well. An informal reception will be held for customers and friends in McArthur on January 29 and a reception for Elaine will be held on January 29 in Richmond Dale.

 

The End Of An Era: Jane Nickels Will Retire This Month

Jane Nickels is certain that no one will miss her at the bank after she retires on January 31. But it will be a sad day for the scores of customers she serves as well as coworkers she has mentored along the way. That’s because Jane has been a fixture at the bank’s first office in McArthur for most of the last 45 years.

Jane NickelsJane first came to work at the bank as a teller in 1974. At the time, the bank had just the one location at 112 West Main Street in McArthur and was about to open its first branch in nearby Wilkesville. With an approximate asset size of seventeen million, the bank employed a fraction of the people it does today.

Since then she has worked in a variety of roles including Head Teller, Loan Clerk, Customer Service Representative, Installment Lender, New Accounts Officer and Customer Service Supervisor. She left in the late eighties but was gone just five years before resuming her career with the bank. Most McArthur customers know her well and many customers from across the bank nation have benefited from her years of experience and problem solving skills.

Jane has been the McArthur Branch Manager for fifteen years and, through that leadership position, has taken on another role that is not listed on her business card –  that of mentor.

Jane has mentored countless bankers throughout her career. Men and women of all ages have learned from her extensive institutional knowledge, customer service experience and proven abilities when it comes to getting the job done. Anyone who benefited from being taken under Jane’s wing will say that she taught them that what is good for the bank and what is good for the customer are not necessarily two different things.

Women in particular have benefited from seeing Jane in action as the working mom balanced the bank and home while still making time to be active in the community and to hold a sincere interest in the lives of her customers.

But Jane would be embarrassed to have such things said about her. Instead she prefers to focus on the progress of the bank and the people who helped her along the way.

With no computers, direct deposit, debit cards or ATMs, customers came into the bank to do all their business. “There was no direct deposit so all lanes would be backed up on Friday afternoon, people bringing their paychecks to the drive-thru to be cashed. I got to see and meet a lot of people and I established relationships with a lot of those customers. Over the years they become more like friends than just customers and that’s the best part,” she said.

Depot girls with Bob

Jane is pictured with President Bob Will and coworker Doris Adelmann in the early days of her career.

She remembers especially fondly the opening of The Depot Drive-Thru, a building that resembles a train depot, where she and Doris Adelmann served customers on the go under the supervision of VCNB President Bob Will. “I remember that Bob moved his office down there for the first three months. It was a bit nerve racking having the Bank President there all day but I learned more about what was expected of me, what Bob wanted for the bank than I did at any other time,” she recalled.

She spoke fondly of Bob as she discussed the many people who mentored her over the years. “Oh, I learned so much from Bob. He didn’t miss anything. I also learned from many other mentors. There have been too many to name but the earliest people to help me, besides Bob, were Jerry Griffith and Belle Jenkins. They were wonderful role models for how to conduct oneself in the workplace and for how to treat a customer. But really, I have been fortunate to have so many people who took the time to help me,” she said.

She always laughs when talking about Jerry Griffith and how discouraging it could be to work alongside him. “He was a genuinely kind man who knew his customers and took an interest in them all. Working next to him was humbling because people would line up out the door to see Jerry and when you asked if you could help them they would say they would wait for him. I learned the phrase ‘May I help you?” because I repeated it so much!” she said. “Maybe it was from Jerry most of all I learned the importance of kindness and truly caring for the customer before you.”

Another person whose name popped up more than once in conversation was Belle Jenkins, the bank’s first female employee. “Belle ran a tight ship. She set the standard and was a role model for how to treat customers, how a lady should behave and how we should act professionally both inside and outside the bank,” Jane said. “What a good role model she was. I was lucky to have many good role models to learn from. It’s so important to have that person to share how VCNB wants things run and how the customer should be treated.”

She speaks fondly of some of the more unusual projects the bank took on over the years. For example, when the bank expanded to Wilkesville with the opening of a new coal mine, Jane and other bankers would go to the mine to open accounts and help the miners with their business. They would visit between shifts and set up a table just outside the showers.

“The idea of a community bank is that you’re a part of the community, providing services and getting out into the community whenever possible. It’s not just about banking services. It’s about supporting Christmas in Downtown and helping with the concessions stand at ball games. It’s about helping out with coat drives or volunteering in the community,” she explained.

She pointed out that the one constant in the world of banking is that nothing ever stays the same. Regulatory changes and changing customer demands dictate constant change each year. When asked about some of the better changes over the years, she recalled several. She remembers the bank’s first ATM, a large machine placed in the front of the building facing Main Street in McArthur. “Earl Cecil and I went outside and showed people how to use it. Bob’s idea was that people would use the ATM if we helped them feel comfortable with it,” she said.

Another improvement was the addition of the South Lobby and parking lot. “This was a big improvement for the customer, having a place to park next to the door. Parking along Main Street isn’t always easy to do and this made banking so much more convenient. “

When asked if she has advice for the young bankers she won’t be here to guide, her answers were very customer focused. “There’s nothing more important to a customer than their finances and they trust us to take care of things for them. Bob always advised three things. First, you always listen to the customer. You always express empathy for them. And then you try to resolve their problem. You can’t always resolve a situation in a way that makes the customer happy but you should do what you can,” she said. “I also think it’s important to remember that the customer is why we’re here and that the bank is only as good as the quality of the information you share. There is nothing wrong with telling a customer that you don’t know the answer as long as you’re willing to find that answer for them.”

While Jane is excited to retire, she says she will miss the people.  “This office has always been a family. Here coworkers are your second family and your customers are your third,” she smiled.

She plans to volunteer some and spend more time with her two granddaughters. She also wants to take some small trips and soak in the sun at the beach for a while. But first, she looks forward to simply staying inside this winter.

“I hope that individuals know that I truly care about them. I have enjoyed my customers and getting to know them and their families. They have made my career here rewarding and I will miss them,” she said.

Customers are invited to join Jane for an informal reception in the bank lobby on January 29. This day we will also celebrate the retirements of Brenda Brooks and Barb Clemons who all will retire from McArthur on January 31.

 

 

Barb Clemons Will Retire January 31

Barb ClemmonsThe tellers who work with Barb Clemons like to tell newcomers not to be offended when customers don’t want their help. That’s because Barb has a following of customers who would simply rather wait for Barb. She’s been working at our McArthur office for almost 33 years and her customers have come to know her and trust the work she does.

She knows them well too. “You get to know them and how they want their work done. They like to just hand you their stuff and know that it will be correctly done. You learn who you can joke around with and they will tell you about their life and things that are important to them,” she said. “I’m glad people want to come to my window. It makes you feel appreciated.”

Barb has a good sense of humor and an easy laugh but she takes her work seriously, always focused on the task at hand and on pleasing the customer. “People don’t realize how much is involved in teller work. There’s a lot to do and remember and it can get stressful. A lot of people think we just stand there and count money but it’s a really complicated job,” she said.

She’s so good at what she does that she trains most of the new tellers in McArthur. In fact, countless tellers have benefited from Barb’s years of experience. “I have trained a lot of tellers. Lots and lots of tellers. You know I trained Mark Erslan when he came here,” she said.

Now the bank president, Mark started with VCNB as a management trainee, a program that required he learn several jobs including teller. She laughs as she recounts the day that his drawer was off a single dime. “He likes to tease me about that day.  He went home that night and found that dime in the cuff of his dress pants,” she said.  “He came in the next day with that dime and we teased him about it. Sure, Mark, it was there all the time!”

When asked about the advice she gives new tellers she thought for a moment before saying “you know there’s really so much that you need to know but the first thing you need to do is pay close attention to what the customer is saying. You need to hear what they want and if you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to repeat things so they can confirm it,” she explained. “The customer in front of you should be the most important person. Make them feel special and important. Make them feel comfortable.”

Before coming to work for the bank, Barb worked at a local nursing home for close to ten years. Some former classmates who worked for the bank thought she would be a good fit for an open teller position in Wilkesville and they asked her to apply for the position. But after a month of training in McArthur then President Bob Will was so impressed with her that he asked her to stay on in McArthur where she would have more opportunity for advancement.

Barb tried working in new accounts but quickly realized that she really enjoyed being a teller and that the new accounts position was not for her. “I would like to think that I’m good at what I do and I like that every day is different. Yes, I do the same things all day but the customers are different every day and that keeps things interesting.”

After close to 43 years in the workforce, Barb is excited to have some free time. “I can’t even imagine what it will be like to get up when I want and not have to come someplace but I’m looking forward to it. I just want to sit on the porch swing and do what I want to do,” she exclaimed.  “I’m looking forward to having time to get out and do things, to go to lunch with my friends, to keep up with stuff around the house.”

She and husband Mark were high school sweethearts and have been married for 45 years. They have two grown children and four grandkids. “I’m looking forward to spending more time with them and having time to go to the kids’ ballgames and things. But I will miss my customers and my coworkers. Some of my customers have expressed that they’re sad to see me go but that they’re happy for me. I want them to know I’ll miss them too.”

Barb will officially retire on January 31 alongside longtime coworkers Jane Nickels and  Brenda Brooks. Customers can stop by the bank on January 29 to wish the ladies well during an informal reception. A reception will also be held at our Richmond Dale office that day to honor Elaine Prater who also will retire on January 31.

 

Elaine Prater To Retire This Month

Elaine praterWhen Elaine Prater started at the bank in Richmond Dale, she was a part time teller with no thoughts of making it a career. The bank was close to home and to her kids’ school, providing a convenient opportunity to make some extra money.

More than 38 years have passed since then. She’s now the much beloved manager of that branch and is looking forward to her retirement on January 31. “In the beginning I worked as part time teller on Monday, Friday, Saturday and on the first and third of the month. I covered vacations too,” she laughed.

“I discovered that I really enjoyed the people and I never left,” she said.

The branch changed hands a few times over the years before joining the VCNB family in 2008. Over time she worked her way up to Branch Manager, a position she’s held since 1997. “I’ve been a banker for 38 years and worked for four banks but I’ve done it all right here!” she exclaimed.

During that time she’s witnessed significant changes in the industry and the way customers want to bank. “When I started we didn’t have a single computer in the branch. Then we got a computer for behind the teller line and now we all have computers. It’s really changed the way we work,” she said.

Elaine also remembers when ATMs and online banking were introduced. “Our customers loved the ATM but the thing that impressed them the most was online banking. Customers were quick to adopt to banking with their own computer, being able to do things for themselves,” she said. “Some of our older customers still don’t use online banking and we have people who can’t get internet at home but that’s ok. We can help them in other ways. That’s the beautiful thing about being a community banker,” she said.

She went on to talk about the many ways community bankers can look out for their customers. “Sometimes we balance checkbooks. We know the families including all the kids and grandkids. Sometimes we just visit with them,” she said. “When I ask a customer how they’re doing, it means something to me. It means a lot to know that they’re ok or that I can help when there’s a problem. It means something knowing that I can be happy for them when there’s good news. They’re not just customers. They’re all important to me,” she said.

Elaine looks forward to having the free time that comes with retirement but doesn’t necessarily intend to slow down. For example, she hopes to volunteer at the hospital. “It sounds kind of corny but I want to give back. I want to give comfort” she explained while remembering a time that her grandson was quite ill while in Guatemala, waiting for his adoption to be finalized. “I was so thankful he had compassionate people to care for him. He needed the surgery by the time he was six months old. When they stepped off the plane, he was already scheduled for surgery two weeks later, on the day he turned six months.

Elaine and her husband Gary recently celebrated 51 years of marriage and she’s looking forward to having more time with him. The pair work together running a concessions business that takes them to events across Ohio and Kentucky. They have two grown children and four grandkids. Two of those grandchildren live in California and it is her hope visit them soon. She would also like to continue volunteering with Salvation Army and remain active with her church.

She laughed when she talked about coming back to “visit with the girls” at the branch. I worked with Brenda for 22 years and Lauren for seventeen. That’s a long time to just stop coming around!”

“It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long. It’s been fun. We all have those days that it gets overwhelming or that it isn’t fun but I’m grateful for every single day. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had here. I’ll miss the people but I think this is the right time to go,” she said.

Elaine’s last day will be on Friday, January 31. Customers can stop by the branch on January 29 to have cupcakes and visit with her.

Beth Bayless To Retire January 15

Beth BaylessCanal Banking Center customers know Beth Bayless as the quick witted banker who is always ready with a kind word and smile. Her coworkers see Beth as a smart cookie who knows her business. All of them will be sad to see her go when she retires on January 15.

Beth joined the VCNB family in 2002 just before the completion of the bank’s new Canal Winchester location. She likes to joke that she came with the building as she remembers tracking the construction progress for months leading up to their opening. “They practically built it around me,” she quipped.

The Canal Winchester native has a total of 35 years in banking after a short stint in education. She went to college in Arizona where she taught Physical Education for three years. She later transitioned in to banking and built a name for herself at two banks in Phoenix.

When she was moving back to Canal Winchester in 2002, her mother told her about a billboard she saw on Route 33. It advertised the new Canal Banking Center and her mom thought it sounded like a good opportunity. “Mom saw the billboard on 33 and picked up an application at E. Main. The rest is history, I guess you would say.”

Beth’s philosophies toward her customers have served her and her customers well over the years. “Ask yourself – how do you want to feel when you go in someplace you’re not familiar? How do you want to feel when you have a question that you’re not sure about or a problem you don’t understand? It’s important to put people at ease and laughter is sometimes the way to do that,” she explained. “You have to be available to listen and to help.”

She also spoke of the benefits of working for a community bank as opposed to a big one. “We still have the opportunity to know everyone in the bank, to know who to call for an answer or to take care of a problem quickly at a critical time in a customer’s life.  How cool is it that we can affect a customer’s life in that way? Every one of us has that power within this organization and I really do love that,” she said.

She says she will miss the people but is looking forward to the free time and relaxation that will come with retirement. She has a trip planned and has her eye on some non-profits she would like to help. “Other than that, I’m just going to wait and see what happens,” she said. “It’s been incredible. Working here has been the best over-the-top fun and a good ride but I’m happy for the opportunity to do something else.”

Beth’s last day will be on January 15. Stop by the bank to wish her the best in her retirement!

 

Out With A Bang: Sheila Stickel Will Retire On New Year’s Eve

Sheila S.JPGWhen Sheila Stickel started with Vinton County National Bank in 1999, the bank had just three locations in McArthur, Wilkesville and Chillicothe. Much bank work was still done manually and online banking hadn’t even been invented.

Since then, the bank has expanded immensely and Sheila has worked in several branches and jobs, helping countless customers in many ways. But no matter her role here, Sheila always has the needs of the customer at heart.

That’s why her customers will be sad to learn that Sheila’s career with the bank will end when she retires on December 31.

A Vinton County native, Sheila worked for Society Bank in Columbus in the seventies and eighties before she went to an ophthalmic distributor where she sold equipment to eye doctors. When her sister, longtime VCNB lender Brenda Fee, called and suggested she apply for the Head Teller position in Chillicothe, Sheila thought it was worth a shot.

Today she is part of the VCNB Products and Services group, a team of five that tests, implements and maintains new products and services. They also assist both personal and business customers as well as bank employees who need help with those products and services.  She is well known to Business Online Banking customers as their go-to person for all answers about that class of products that she just calls “BOB.”

When she’s not helping customers, she’s busy generating several daily reports as well as monthly reports for lenders, New Accounts Offers and Personal Bankers.

Before going to Products and Services in 2012, Sheila worked directly with customers as Teller, Head Teller, New Accounts Officer and Branch Manager in a few different locations including West Fair Lancaster, Canal Winchester, Main Street Chillicothe, Laurelville and Tarlton. Since joining Products and Services, she has also worked in Ashville and Circleville, bringing the total number of branches she has worked in to seven.  She has visited all of the branches except the newest in Jackson. “I’m proud to say that I got to work in so many branches and see so many grow,” she said.

“I’ve seen the construction of some branches and the merging of some. We’ve gone from teller machines to online banking. Probably the most impressed I’ve been was going from the old teller machines to computers,” she smiled, explaining that teller machines were basically just large adding machines.

During the years before computers, everything was done manually. From manually stuffing statement envelopes to bundling up work for the Proof Department to process in another office, everything took longer and was more challenging than we find in the tech friendly bank of today. When the bank introduced online banking they held a contest for naming the product. Her entry “Bank to the Future” didn’t become the name of online banking but was used as the slogan. “I won a day off for the idea and Marketing went to town and used that to promote our Online Banking!”

Much has changed since Sheila won that contest as customers can now do almost all their business and personal banking online. “Today businesses can do almost everything they need with the click of a mouse. It just fascinates me how much control they have over their accounts and activities,” she said.

While she says she will miss the people, Sheila has a lot to look forward to including spending time with her recently retired husband and two grown children. She is especially excited to spend time with her seven year-old grandchild and a new grandbaby expected in June.

She looks forward to traveling some and to simply doing what she wants to do on her own time. “I have enjoyed my job but it’s time to hang up my hat,” she smiled. “Happy trails to me!”

The bank will celebrate Sheila’s retirement with a party on New Year’s Eve. Stop by the Pickaway County Banking Center in Circleville that day to wish Sheila good luck in this exciting new stage of her life!

 

 

 

What We’re Grateful For: VCNB Employees Give Thanks

Thanksgiving Greeting Card

Every day is a good opportunity to give thanks but we’re especially mindful of how fortunate we are during November and this season of thanks. As a community bank, we know we are lucky to do business in such wonderful towns and communities across southern and central Ohio.

We are thankful for customers, many of whom have been with us for years if not decades. Some hail from families that have done business with VCNB since the 1860s. We are also incredibly thankful for our employees. Some of these folks have spent their entire careers with VCNB and are eyeing retirement while we have many newcomers who are eager to learn the VCNB way.

We asked our employees to tell us what they’re thankful for this year and here are some of the responses we received. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

*  *  *

I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made here at VCNB! I came in and was instantly made welcome by almost everyone! I’ve built a lot of wonderful friendships here and for that, I am forever thankful!

Johnathon Bentley
Personal Banker in McArthur

*  *  *

I am thankful first and foremost for my family! I am also very thankful for all the military men and women that are or have served to keep us safe!! Finally I’m grateful to be living in Perry County around some wonderful neighbors that look out for each other!

Alyssa Holbrook
Personal Banker in Bremen

*  *  *

I am thankful for the past seventeen years of employment with VCNB and the privilege of working with a great group of people.

Beth Bayless
Senior Personal Banker in Canal Winchester

*  *  *

I am thankful for my wonderful family, my great friends and my health and job.

Alice McCloud
Teller in Wilkesville

*  *  *

I’m thankful my wife and I were each able to transition to working in Columbus this past year. This has allowed us to move back to where we grew up and be close to family. It’s been so great to be back around both of our families, especially our niece and nephews.

Josh Palmer
Branch Manager in Pataskala

*  *  *

I am most thankful for my boys who push me every day to be a better person and remind me what is most important in life. I’m thankful for the success and growth we continue to have at VCNB and the great people I get to work with across all lines of the bank. I am also really thankful for the holiday season that, despite all the to-do’s and crowds, gives us time to spend with loved ones, reflect on the past year, and look forward to the next.

Justin Pike
Chief Auditor

*  *  *

Most of all, I am thankful for my four boys – they are the loves of my life. I am also thankful to have an amazing fiancé, beautiful home and a job I love.

Melissa Wietelmann
Assistant Branch Manager in Ashville

*  *  *

Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.

Erin Hart
Teller in Laurelville

*  *  *

I’m so thankful for the family and friends in my life. They all mean so much to me. So happy to still have Mom here and doing well and that she and I can still travel to see family in Tennessee and Florida.

Paula Goodfellow
Senior Retail Accounts Officer in Chillicothe

 

Vicki McCathren Retires From VCNB

When Vicki McCathren started her career at Vinton County National Bank, the banking industry was just ramping up its use of computers in branches. Online banking was still in its infancy and the concept of a phone app where customers could take charge of their money was still a few years down the road.

On Friday, she will retire after almost 21 years with the bank and a wealth of knowledge about tasks that customers likely never think about but that are important behind the scenes work.

Vicki McCathren 2019 Retirement“It’s incredible the changes I’ve seen over the years,” Vicki said. “The changes in how we do things, in the technology is pretty amazing. Banking is so much easier for the customer too.”

Vicki started in the VCNB Customer Service Department, eventually working her way up to be department supervisor. At that time, Customer Service encompassed not just traditional customer service responsibilities but other work including inputting account information, balancing savings bonds, managing debit card disputes and a host of other things. “We all shared the work. Everyone knew how to do everything and we rotated responsibilities. It was a great group to work with,” she said before describing how she went on to take a position in the bank’s Operations Department in 2007.

As Senior Operations Processor, Vicki has several daily responsibilities, most notably in the area of debit card disputes. “I’ve done debit card disputes for nearly 21 years,” she laughed. “No matter where I went in this bank, they went with me!”

That may be because Vicki has a flair for problem solving, the patience and attention to detail needed to work through a complicated situation and a customer service mindset that helps her appreciate how important this work is to the customer.

But she calls herself a “Jack of All Trades” and emphasizes how well her department works together. “There are things that I do every day and things that I know how to do so I can help if someone needs help or if they’re on vacation. We keep really busy but we work well together. It’s been a great group of ladies and gents to work with,” she explained.

Vicki said that her department is experienced at problem solving – both from having years of experience to draw from and because of their research skills – and that they often serve as a resource for bank employees who need assistance for the customers. “Everything we do is for the customer. Without our customer we wouldn’t have a bank so it’s important to take care of them,” she said.

She is looking forward to retirement, hopeful that she will have the time to simply enjoy life and to spend more time with loved ones. She’s especially looking forward to having more time with her husband and eleven grandkids and may take on a volunteer gig at her grandson’s school. “I have no big plans for sleeping in or anything like that. I just want to see what I can get into!”

She smiles at the thought of lunches with her sisters and beams at the idea she will soon have time to cook big meals for her family – about 75 people including her siblings and their children and grandchildren. “I like cooking and feeding my family but it’s hard to do when you’re working,” she smiled.

“I remember when I was a kid and how simple things were. Time was slower. Life was easier. Sunday was a day to rest and to have a big dinner as a family. You’d sit on the porch and watch it get dark so you could catch lightening bugs. I’m hoping to recapture some of that,” she said while talking about bringing loved ones together.

Never one to be the center of attention, Vicki has asked that her last day of work be low key. In lieu of a party, she requested cake and a quiet celebration with her coworkers in the Operations Department. She will retire Friday, just two days shy of her 21st anniversary with the bank.

Congratulations Vicki! We will miss you!

 

 

 

Darlene Merckle To Retire After Fifty Year Banking Career

When Darlene Merckle came to work for the Bremen Bank, she was a student at Fairfield Union High School who landed a part time job at the bank. On June 15, she will celebrate her well-earned retirement after a fifty year career with the bank.

Darlene Merckle 2

The kindness and professionalism of Darlene Merckle will be missed after her retirement from the bank this week.

Darlene’s name isn’t one that most customers know. However, scores of loan customers over the years have benefited from her expertise, hard work and dedicated approach to her job. That’s because she is an Indirect Loan Processor. That means she’s part of a select team of employees who are responsible for processing the loans that customers receive after applying at the dealership where they buy their automobile, RV, boat, motorcycle or other type of vehicle. While the loan documents can be signed at the dealership, there remains much work on the back end to insure that the loan is processed properly and the dealership paid.

But Darlene hasn’t always worked behind the scenes making dreams come true for customers.

She actually started at the bank at a time when employees had to be trained to do a lot of different jobs. “Back then, you did everything. Teller work, bookkeeping, you name it. We had to be able to do it all,” she said.

In those days, bookkeeping was a manual affair where posted checks were checked against hand written ledgers. She recalls the bank using lots of large machines such as a proof machine which was used to process checks at banks prior to the advent of computers.

Since then, she has moved around some within the bank and has seen more changes in the banking industry than she can count.

At the Bremen Bank on Main Street in Bremen, she recalls several remodeling projects, town floods, the addition of new branches and the many shifting responsibilities of staff. She even recalls a time when a stray cat had a litter of kittens in the crawl space underneath the bank. “Lots of good memories,” she said with a chuckle and a twinkle in her eye.

While Darlene started as a teller, she also worked in new accounts for a period before finding her niche in loan processing. At that time, a customer’s loan documents were kept all together in large paper files. As the bank grew, it became necessary to begin breaking out files by loan type and to change the filing system. Later, computers made it easy to scan and file documents, altogether eliminating the need for paper records.

She also recalls the many regulation changes that impact how a customer applies for a loan and the kind of information needed from the customer. “There was a time when there were no disclosures given, no application. There was just a note you signed promising to pay it back,” she said. “And I remember when we first started having customers fill out an application. It was a hard thing for some of our customers because they had never had to apply.”

Today, buyers can apply for a VCNB loan from the dealership. It’s a quick process that provides the customer with a convenient way to borrow money from VCNB when and where they need it and without making a trip to the bank.

Once the borrower is approved and they sign the documents at the dealership, Indirect Loan Processors like Darlene take over. They build the loan into the bank’s system and pay the dealership from their office in Lancaster.  “I like doing the behind the scenes work and I’ve always been fascinated by numbers,” she said. “It’s been a good fit.”

With just a few days left on the job, Darlene says she is looking forward to retirement. “It’s time to retire. Sometimes you just know. There’s not a reason I want to go now but I don’t want to wait too long either. I don’t want to wait until it isn’t fun anymore,” she explained. “Fifty years is enough time.”

The Fairfield County native looks forward to spending time with family including her two grown children and her five grandchildren as well as Mark, her husband of 45 years. “I’ll miss the people. Yes, I will miss my coworkers. A lot of them are like family,” she said wistfully.

And Darlene’s coworkers will miss her too.

Vice President of Indirect Lending Trisha Kyer is visibly saddened when speaking of Darlene’s upcoming retirement. The two have worked together for 25 years, forming a bond that extends beyond work. “She’s a good person and once you’re friends with her, she’s there for you for life,” Trisha said. “I think she knows everyone in the bank and they all lover her. I know this is best for Darlene but we’ll miss her.”

The bank will celebrate Darlene’s fifty year career with a reception at our West Fair branch in Lancaster on Friday, June 15 from noon to 3 p.m. The public is invited to stop by for cake and to wish Darlene well as she starts a new chapter in her life’s book.

“Who would’ve thought that little seventeen year old girl would still be here all these years later?” Darlene asked. “It’s hard to believe!”

Debbie Harmon To Retire Friday

Debbie HarmonDebbie Harmon’s career has been a long and winding road since she started out as a Performance Dance major in college. Debbie will soon retire from the VCNB Family after a successful banking career and, while it isn’t the line of work she studied for, Debbie says her career working with customers has been rewarding.

She appreciates the community aspect of working for a community bank. “I like that the community is important to us and that people matter,” she said, pointing out that the branches are encouraged to support their communities and individuals are rewarded for their volunteerism.

“Community banking was a good move for me,” she said of her decision to take a position at VCNB about nine years ago. Prior to working for VCNB, Debbie was employed by a big bank and before that by Ohio State University as Coordinator of Student Loan Services.

Many of Debbie’s customers will remember her as Head Teller and later Branch Service Manager at Canal Banking Center. She moved to the Pataskala branch about a year and a half ago to help out as Branch Service Manager during an interim period.  “I liked my job before but had the opportunity to do more, to make the last year more interesting and to do more than I’ve always known,” she explained.

Helping people is a passion that has made Debbie a good community banker. “I like helping people, especially when I can take a customer’s problem or question and guide them to a solution from beginning to end. I don’t like to pass a customer off to another department or another person but enjoy working through the issue for them,” she explained.

Her eyes light up when she talks about the free time she will soon have. “I’m looking forward to having more time to take care of myself better. It may sound fuddy-duddy but I’m looking forward to being at home too. I love going and doing things, especially visiting places I’ve never been. It’s a big world and there are a lot of things to see and do but I like home too,” she said with laugh. “I’m not at all worried about how I’ll fill my time.”

Debbie reads a lot and enjoys writing as well. She and husband Guy have been married for 40 years and they have two children. She looks forward to having more free time with her family as well as time to work in her flower garden.

“It’s been easy coming to work here. Good friendships, good relationships, good customers – that’s truly been a blessing. But it’s time. It’s time to retire. Nothing has changed. I still like my job and still want to do a good job. You don’t always know why but you know it’s time to start a new chapter and now is the time for me,” she said.

Debbie will officially retire on May 31. A reception will be held on May 31 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Pataskala branch of the Friendly Bremen Banking Center to honor both Debbie and Crystal Gregor who will retire the same day.