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.

 

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!

 

 

 

Protecting the Elderly From Financial Abuse

You, or someone you know, could become the victim of a growing crime in America — financial abuse of older Americans.  Seniors are increasingly becoming targets for financial abuse.  As people over 50 years old control over 70 percent of the nation’s wealth, fraudsters are using new tactics to take advantage of retiring baby boomers and the growing number of older Americans. Senior financial abuse is estimated to have cost victims at least $2.9 billion last year alone.

What Is Elder Financial Abuse?

It’s a crime that deprives older adults of their resources and ultimately their independence. Anyone who sees signs of theft, fraud, misuse of a person’s assets or credit, or use of undue influence to gain control of an older person’s money or property should be on the alert. Those are signs of possible exploitation.  Older Americans that may have disabilities or rely on others for help can be susceptible to scams and other fraud.   Advances in technology can also make it difficult for seniors to know who to trust and what’s safe.

Despite these threats, taking simple steps to safeguard personal information and being aware of warning signs can protect aging men and women from financial abuse.

Tips for Seniors:

What should you do to protect yourself?

  • Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed.  Talk to someone at your financial institution, an attorney, or financial advisor about the best options for you.
  • Shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
  • Carefully choose a trustworthy person to act as your agent in all estate-planning matters.
  • Lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
  • Order copies of your credit report once a year to ensure accuracy.
  • Never give personal information, including Social Security Number, account number or other financial information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and the other party is trusted.
  • Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
  • Never rush into a financial decision.  Ask for details in writing and get a second opinion.
  • Consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
  • Get to know your banker and build a relationship with the people who handle your finances. They can look out for any suspicious activity related to your account.
  • Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances.
  • Pay with checks and credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.
  • Feel free to say “no.” After all, it’s your money.
  • You have the right not to be threatened or intimidated. If you think someone close to you is trying to take control of your finances, call your local Adult Protective Services or tell someone at your bank.
  • Trust your instincts. Exploiters and abusers often are very skilled. They can be charming and forceful in their effort to convince you to give up control of your finances. Don’t be fooled—if something doesn’t feel right, it may not be right. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

What should you do if you are a victim of financial abuse?

  • Talk to a trusted family member who has your best interests at heart, or to your clergy.
  • Talk to your attorney, doctor or an officer at your bank.
  • Contact Adult Protective Services in your state or your local police for help.

Tips for Family and Friends:

What are the warning signs of financial abuse?

The key to spotting financial abuse is a change in a person’s established financial patterns. Watch out for these “red flags”:

  • Unusual activity in an older person’s bank accounts, including large, frequent or unexplained withdrawals.
  • ATM withdrawals by an older person who has never used a debit or ATM card.
  • Changing from a basic account to one that offers more complicated services the customer does not fully understand or need.
  • Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts the customer cannot explain.
  • New “best friends” accompanying an older person to the bank.
  • Sudden non-sufficient fund activity or unpaid bills.
  • Closing CDs or accounts without regard to penalties.
  • Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money.
  • Suspicious signatures on checks, or outright forgery.
  • Confusion, fear or lack of awareness on the part of an older customer.
  • Refusal to make eye contact, shame or reluctance to talk about the problem.
  • Checks written as “loans” or “gifts.”
  • Bank statements that no longer go to the customer’s home.
  • New powers of attorney the older person does not understand.
  • A caretaker, relative or friend who suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of an older person without proper documentation.
  • Altered wills and trusts.
  • Loss of property.

What should you do if you suspect financial abuse?

  • Talk to elderly friends or loved ones if you see any of the signs mentioned here. Try to determine what specifically is happening with their financial situation, such as a new person “helping” them with money management, or a relative using cards or credit without their permission.
  • Report the elder financial abuse to their bank, and enlist their banker’s help to stop it and prevent its recurrence.
  • Contact Adult Protective Services in your town or state for help.
  • Report all instances of elder financial abuse to your local police—if fraud is involved, they should investigate.

 

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!”

Products We Love: Mobile Deposit

February is traditionally a month for celebrating love. Here at the bank, we are loving one of our newest products ‑ Mobile Deposit.

Son And Father Using Mobile Phone To Deposit Check

Mobile Deposit uses your smart phone’s camera to take pictures of your check and submit the images electronically to make a deposit into your checking or savings account. If you have a smart phone with an Android or iPhone operating system and  a camera, all you need is our TouchBanking app!

That means you can deposit your checks from anywhere that you have cell service.

We know that life is busy and sometimes it can be hard to find time for a trip to the bank. So while we love having customers fill our lobbies, we also love providing you with a service that simplifies your life.

Signing up for TouchBanking is free and is super quick and easy. Click HERE to read step‑by‑step instructions.

Once you are signed in to TouchBanking, here’s what you do to deposit a check:

‑ Click Deposits on your screen.

‑ Click New Deposit.

‑ Select the deposit account.

‑ Enter the amount of the check.

‑ Endorse the check “For Mobile Deposit only” and your signature.

‑ Capture a picture of the front and back of the endorsed check.

‑ Confirm all details and click Yes to deposit.

Please note, there is a .50 cent fee for each deposit and transactions are limited to $2,500 per business day. Also, normal data rates may apply.

We hope you will give Mobile Deposit a try the next chance you get. Want more information? Visit our website!

 

 

Count the ways you can use Popmoney®

Have you used Popmoney ® personal payment service at VCNB yet? Do you know what it is?

Popmoney is a way that you can send money to someone electronically. All you need is that person’s email address or mobile phone number. If you are a Bill Pay customer at VCNB, you have access to Popmoney for just .50 cents per transaction.

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Owe your roomate for rent this month? No need to write a check or hit the ATM – just use Popmoney® personal payment service.

There are countless ways you can use this service. Here are just a few!

  1. Gifts – Have you ever forgotten someone’s birthday? Maybe you have a nephew graduating college? Send a monetary gift with an e-card through Popmoney at VCNB!
  2. Basketball with friends – One of our employees went to a game with friends but for the group’s tickets to be together, one person had to put it on their card. All the friends just sent the funds through Popmoney. And if you’re the person who shells out the cash for tickets, you can send a reminder to your friends for the amount they owe!
  3. Dinner out with family – Some restaurants won’t split checks for large groups. Make it easy on yourself and let one person put down their plastic while you just use Popmoney to send your share to them.
  4. Kids at college – Kids who are away at college are notoriously short on funds. Help out your child or grandkid by sending them a little extra money!
  5. Monday Night Football – The gang is all together for Monday Night Football. That means pizza and wings and drinks for everyone! If someone forgot to hit the ATM on the way, they can just send funds through Popmoney.
  6. Flowers for the Boss – It’s your boss’ birthday and you know she loves roses. Invite your co-workers to pitch in a few bucks and ask them to send it via Popmoney!
  7. Rent money –Set up a Popmoney transaction to send your share of the rent to your roommate on the same day and for the same amount each month.
  8. Gas money on a trip – Taking a road trip with an old friend? Splitting the cost of gas is easy with Popmoney. You can schedule the funds on your smart phone while you travel down the highway.
  9. Neighborly help – Your kids are sick and you’re out of everything at home.  You’re low on cash and can’t get to the bank. If your neighbor offers to pick up some milk, bread and soup for you, just use Popmoney to reimburse them.
  10. When you just don’t have cash – Let’s face it – sometimes you just don’t have cash. Popmoney is a great way to payback someone or send funds when you’re low on cash.

There are lots of ways to use Popmoney. Learn more by visiting our website.