Small Business Spotlight: Stuart Burial Vaults

Small businesses are important to communities and running a business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!

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This month’s Small Business Spotlight is with a business that recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. While they provide a service that most people need at some point in their lifetime, it isn’t the kind of business most of us frequent or even know exists.

Does this sound like a riddle?

It’s not really. The company in question is Stuart Burial Vaults, a family owned business that is still in their original building in Bremen.

“The vault is not what the public sees.  They know us for the tent they see when they arrive to the site in the funeral procession” says John Boone who is just the fifth owner of the 100 year old business.  “We take pride in the vaults we make as well as helping to provide a tasteful presentation for family and friends who want to honor their loved ones.”

Stuart Burial Vaults was started by John Stuart, a contractor and businessman who was making a name for himself in the early 1900s through his quality of work and his 9-bag mix of concrete.  As his reputation grew so did the size and importance of his projects.  He worked on bridges and roadways throughout the county that long outlived their expected lifecycle. He was even asked to consult with the construction of the Hoover Dam in Nevada!  Stuart was able to send his son to be on-site during the construction while he stayed home to run the vault business he created in 1919.

80424136_1488441691310400_2659597844519845888_nStuart Burial Vaults was actually one of the first four concrete vault businesses in the country.  In addition to creating and running the business, John Stuart was also a founding member of the National Burial Vault Association, which helped establish industry wide guidelines and standards.

“Just like Mr. Stuart 100 years ago, we work hard and take pride in what we do and we’re proud of it” John Boone beamed.

To say there is more than meets the eye to the business would be an understatement.  It’s not commonly known, but the customer base for a vault company is primarily made up of funeral directors.  Funeral directors order directly from the vault company. Then John and his team arrange for the delivery of the vault, the set-up of the presentation as well as the installment, tear-down, and return afterwards.

John estimates there are five appointments on the schedule of a typical day.  However, there have been more than twenty scheduled for a single day in the past. While this is a challenge, he credits his team’s professionalism and determination for always making it work out.  “If it can be done, we’ll find a way.  It’s amazing – we always work it out!”

Stuart Burial Vaults has nine trucks, a fleet of “buggies” for vault transport, and eleven employees on staff in addition to John.  John is tasked with orders, logistics, billing, and much of the day-to-day business dealings but he credits Foreman Delbert Hammer for making the business operate smoothly. “These guys are my heroes” John says repeatedly when referring to his team. “And Delbert is critical to our business.”

On days with fewer appointments, the crew works on creating and maintaining inventory.  That way, when they do have couple of days or weeks with busy schedules, they have the inventory to fulfill orders.

“The crew of guys we have now has been with me for years.  They can go out and wrestle a 2,000 pound vault in a muddy cemetery – handling it safely – and still have to bring a nice white tent back to me after it’s all said and done.  We have to have our tent look like this (points to pristine white tent in a photo) on a cold, wet, rainy, muddy, snowy day and still bring it back looking like this.”“They’re always on call.  Saturdays, holidays, bad days, good days.  We’re always on call just like police or doctors or firefighters.  These guys are my heroes.”

John first joined the Stuart team when he was sixteen and has spent most of his life in the business.  Now in his fifties, he owns the business after a lifetime of watching the industry and society evolve.  Cultural and societal shifts, insurance costs and coverage, costs associated with materials, and the wants and needs of funeral directors are things that have impacted the business.  “It didn’t change a bit for eighty years!  And now in the last decade things are changing quickly… but at the end of the day, it’s cement, sand, water, and gravel for us.  And it always will be.”

In addition to crediting his staff, John also credits his customers for the sustained success of the century year old business.

“My customers are great people.  I don’t have to worry and deal with some of the not-so-fun stuff that other businesses have to worry about.” John explained.  “Most of our customers have been with us for a long, long time.  Decades.” John explained. “I’m so lucky!”

Stuart Burial Vaults is located at 527 Ford Street, on their original site in Bremen. Visit their website to learn more. Friendly Bremen Banking Center and the VCNB financial family would like to congratulate John and his staff, and all of the previous owners and employees on reaching such a milestone!

 

 

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!

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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

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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

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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

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

Alice McCloud
Teller in Wilkesville

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

 

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.

Crystal Gregor To Retire Friday

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When VCNB opened its Pataskala branch in 2006, Crystal Gregor was there to help move into the office and to greet new customers. She had just made the move from a big bank to VCNB, training at our Lancaster West Fair branch before helping open the newly constructed office in Pataskala. That means May 31 will mark the end of an era for our Pataskala customers and for Crystal as she will retire after a 32 year career in central Ohio banking.

While she is excited to retire, the longtime Head Teller at the Friendly Bremen Bank of Pataskala still gets a little teary eyed when she speaks of leaving her customers and coworkers.   “I am looking forward to retirement but will miss the people so much. My coworkers are a little like family and I just love everyone I work with,” she said. “

She also feels a fond attachment to many of her regular customers, smiling as she mentioned a few who she will particularly miss. “I’m here for the customers. It’s my job to take care of the customer but it’s not just a job for me. I love taking care of people and I’m really going to miss this part of my life.”

While Crystal will miss her customers and work family, she looks forward to spending more time with the people in her personal life, especially her husband Glen who she calls “the best” and her 86 year old father who she calls “the most gentle, kind man.”

Crystal has three sons in Pickerington, Worthington and Texas. She intends to visit her Texas son later this year. She also has four grandkids who she is already making arrangements to have quality time with. And then there are her three best girlfriends with whom she’s making plans for some fun adventures this year.

“It’s been such a journey and I’m lucky to have learned so much along the way,” she said. One of those lessons, she said, is to not let others make you feel bad. “Never let anyone get you down when you know you’re a good person and doing the right thing,” she said. “You have to be true to yourself.”

Another important lesson relates to money and kindness. “Money only means so much. If you’re not doing a service of kindness for another human being, what are you doing? Why are you here?” she asked.

Her last piece of advice?

Enjoy every day. “You get one life. Enjoy every day,” she said. “Coming to work here was truly a blessing. I feel like I’m where God wants me to be. But I also feel like it’s time to do something different and I look forward to what that might be.”

If you’re in the area, help Crystal celebrate her happy day with a reception at the Pataskala branch of the Friendly Bremen Banking Center from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on May 31. The reception will also celebrate the career of Debbie Harmon who will retire on the same day.

Bank Where You See Our Logo

Do you know how to spot a VCNB branch?

We have seventeen locations in eight Ohio counties and they operate under a few different names – Friendly Bremen Banking Center, Canal Banking Center, Hocking Hills Banking Center,  Jackson County Banking Center, Pickaway County Banking Center, Ross County Banking Center and, of course – Vinton County National Bank.

Embracing a community name is our way of embracing our communities!  While they may operate with different names, all of these bank branches are a part of the VCNB Financial Family and all embrace the same values and priorities that have been developed since our first bank opened in McArthur in 1867.

But how do you recognize a VCNB branch? That’s easy. Just look for our logo!

VCNB_V_CMYK

Regardless of which VCNB branch you went to when opening an account, you can bank anywhere you see our logo. Need help finding a VCNB office? Click here!

 

Bonnie McDevitt To Retire This Week

Bonnie McDevitt retires 2019

Bonnie McDevitt

Ask Bonnie McDevitt to talk about herself and her upcoming retirement and her initial response is that there’s not really anything to talk about. Her next response is to start talking about the people in her work life and how much she will miss them.

A seasoned banker and customer service professional, Bonnie will retire on March 29 after working as a teller in our Pataskala branch for twelve years.

Before coming to work at our Friendly Bremen Banking Center in Pataskala, Bonnie worked as a teller for another bank for several years. Before that, she was Head Cashier at the JCPenney Outlet Store, working at the popular store for nearly twenty years.

Bonnie’s customers and coworkers will tell you that customer service is always her focus and priority. It is these people – her regular customers and her longtime coworkers – who Bonnie says she will miss the most. “I’ll miss a lot of customers, people I see regularly. But I’ll really miss my coworkers. Some of them I’ve worked with for a lot of years,” she said.

Retirement is something that has been on the horizon for some time. She cut back to part time hours three years ago, something that she says has helped with the adjustment. “I’ve gotten used to having free time so it’s not like I’ll just wake up someday and have nowhere to be.”

The Scio, Ohio native has been working since she was just sixteen years old. From babysitting to running a cash register to lots of other jobs in between, she says that growing up in the small Harrison County town was beneficial. “Never have I regretted growing up in a small town. It was a good place to grow up and I got a lot of good experience and values from being from a small town,” she recalled. “I’ve had a good life so far!”

While Bonnie looks forward to retiring, she is conscious of the need to stay busy and to have purpose in her life once she is no longer headed to the bank every day. She has two grown children and four grandchildren and her eyes shine with pride as she describes each of them. She particularly enjoys seeing her two youngest grandchildren participate in extracurricular activities including basketball and football.

Bonnie also has a group of girlfriends from her JCPenney days. They gather regularly to socialize and play Euchre. “We’ve been playing cards together for years and years. Some of those girls, I’ve known since they were young. Some of them for 34 years!”

“My daughter wants me to stay busy. She’s all the time on me to stay active and to have things to do so I think she’ll keep me busy” she said. “You have to have the right mindset. You have to have a positive mindset and to find ways to not become bored. It’s too easy for people to become depressed when they’re not active. I don’t want that, I want to stay active,” she said.

Bonnie is thrilled that spring has arrived as she sometimes walks in her Pataskala neighborhood. She also enjoys jigsaw puzzles and isn’t intimidated by the challenging ones. She intends to volunteer some and hopes to soon begin volunteering at Mt. Carmel Hospital. She’s already talking about finding a small part time job once the newness of retirement wears off.

“Life is a journey and I’m ready to enjoy the next chapter,” she exclaimed!

Bonnie’s last day will be Friday, March 29. Customers are invited to stop by that day to celebrate and enjoy cake and punch.

 

Kathy Cooper Retires This Week

kathy cooperWhen Kathy Cooper talks about her years as a banker, it’s clear that this has been a career and a passion rather than just a job. She will retire January 31, closing a 35 year chapter of her life’s book. But she insists this is just the end of a chapter and that she still has a lot of life and maybe even some new pursuits ahead of her.

Kathy has been with Friendly Bremen Banking Center since 2001 but had a varied and interesting career with other banks prior to that. In fact, she began her banking career in 1983 when she started as a part time teller at Equitable Federal Savings and Loan in Lancaster. Six months later she moved into middle management and hasn’t looked back since.

Kathy grew up in Lancaster on what she calls “Main Street USA.” Her father owned retail businesses in downtown Lancaster which she said was a quintessential small town. She wanted to be an educator but, after some time in the education program at Ohio University, decided this was not the career for her and took that first position as a part time teller.

Customers in Bremen often think of Kathy as the face of the bank as they often see her out and about in the community and because she is a veteran Bremen banker who has helped many of them realize their life’s dreams as their lender.

She has worn many hats in the world of banking and says that she has seen and done almost everything. From a bank run in the early eighties to changes in banking culture to holding a stock broker’s license for one of her prior employers, she said that every job and each person she worked with over the years taught her something. “I’ve been fortunate to have great individuals, maybe you would call them mentors, who took the time to ask questions and give feedback and to help form me,” she said. “I’ve met many interesting individuals who have helped me in some way and I’m grateful for that.”

When it comes to banking in general and lending in particular, Kathy has some strong opinions about what it takes to be successful in a hometown atmosphere. “You have to be approachable and be able to talk to people on their level so they feel comfortable using you as a resource. You have to be knowledgeable about all products and be able to help them with the big picture. You have to ask a lot of questions and be able to identify what’s best for the customer and any weaknesses that might become problems,” she said.  “Availability is key too. Customers know where I live. They have my cell phone. They know I’m tied to the community and that I’m here for them always – evenings, Sunday mornings – when they need me. And most of all, you have to treat people in an honest manner. That’s extremely important.”

Once she retires, Kathy said she has plans for projects around the house and yard. She also looks forward to a little light travel and some volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and the Fairfield Heritage Society. More than anything, she looks forward to spending time with family including daughter Sarah, son Zachary and her four grandkids. In fact, her eyes light up when she talks about Marin, Joseph, Isabelle and Camden, her grandchildren who she says are involved with a host of activities.

While time off work sounds appealing, she doesn’t expect retirement to last forever. “I’m just taking off my Peter Pan cape for a while. You never know what I’ll do next but I can tell you this. I’m like a bad penny. I just keep rolling back,” she laughed.

“It’s been great! It’s been a fun ride but now it’s time to turn the page,” she said.

Pataskala Banker Embraces Spirit Of Holidays Through Music

Friendly Bremen Banking Center Personal Banker Mitchell McCrady has a busy month ahead of him. By day Mitchell helps customers in our Pataskala branch with everything from cashing checks to opening accounts. After hours he is a passionate musician who plays French horn with three different Central Ohio symphonies and a local opera company. This month, he will be especially busy with Christmas performances in and around the Columbus area.

In fact, he will take part in four Christmas concerts and a New Year’s Eve fundraising gala this month!

beautiful poinsettia in flowerpot, gifts and Christmas ballsMitchell began playing French horn at the age of ten, learning the instrument with the school band at Berne Union in Sugar Grove. During his teen years, Mitchell took lessons at Ohio University in Athens and further developed skills that he carried into college. In fact, he holds an undergraduate degree in Music Performance from University of Dayton and a Masters of Music in Horn Performance from Indiana University.

He is a member of the New Albany Symphony, Central Ohio Symphony, Newark-Granville Symphony Orchestra and Opera Project Columbus and participates in some seasonal projects as well.

Mitchell came to work at VCNB in 2015 and has since worked in our branches in Lancaster, Canal Winchester and now Pataskala, learning the ropes in retail banking and customer service.  “I feel lucky to work at the bank and pursue my passion at the same time. I’m so appreciative of that,” he said.

Here is the schedule of Mitchell’s upcoming holiday shows:

Central Ohio Symphony
Holiday Concert
Sunday, December 9 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Gray Chapel, Ohio Wesleyan University

New Albany Symphony
Santa and the Symphony***Sensory Friendly Concert***
Saturday, December 15 at 11:30 a.m.
Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts
This is a short 45 minute program; perfect for little kids and those with special needs.

Holiday Spectacular
Sunday, December 16 at 3 p.m.
Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts

Columbus Dance Theater
MATCHGIRL
Friday, December 14 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, December 15 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Otterbein University, Fritsche Theatre – Cowan Hall

 
Weathervane Playhouse/Newark-Granville Symphony Orchestra
New Year’s Eve Fundraising Gala
Monday, December 31 at 8 p.m.
Weathervane Playhouse (100 Price Road Newark, OH 43055)

Mitchell invites everyone to come out and support, not just these shows, but other local performances in the area. “Every show is different and I would encourage people to go out and support as many as you can. These are local musicians in your own community and we enjoy giving great performances for people,” he said. “We’re lucky to have such a rich, thriving art scene in Columbus and in areas all over Ohio.”

Santa Visits Set

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Here at VCNB we’re pretty good friends with Santa Claus which is why he’s kind enough to visit some of our branches every December. We know it’s his busy season so we really hope you’ll take advantage of his visits by coming to see him!

Boys and girls of all ages are welcome to visit, share their holiday wishes and have their picture taken. Just remember to bring your own camera or phone for pictures!

Here are the dates and locations!

Friday, December 7 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Canal Banking Center

Friday, December 14 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Friendly Bremen Banking Center in Bremen

Thursday, December 20 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Friendly Bremen Banking Center in Pataskala

Friday, December 21 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Friendly Bremen Banking Center Lancaster East Main