Joe Gibson To Retire New Year’s Eve

Since 1998, commonly heard phrases around our McArthur office have included things like “ask Joe” and “Joe will know what to do.” That’s because Joe Gibson has been the Building Manager, taking care of everything from ordering supplies and moving furniture to managing maintenance projects for parts of the last four decades. It will be the end of an era when he retires on New Year’s Eve.

Joe Gibson

“Everyone here has been so good to me. They’ve all treated me like their own family so I’m really going to miss everyone,” he said.

This job was actually a part time role after he retired from 42 years in sales at Chillicothe Electric Supply. “I wasn’t looking for a job but Bob Will called and said that he had loan officers doing things around the bank that took away from their time with customers. He needed someone part time to take care of things and it sounded like a good fit,” Joe explained.

Joe is a quiet man who simply takes care of things that others might not notice. At the age of 86, he is youthful and more energetic than many younger coworkers and always at the ready to assist in any way he can.

He grew up in Chillicothe where he graduated from Chillicothe High School. After graduation he did a peacetime stint in the Army National Guard. “It was after Korea and just before we got into Vietnam. They wanted me to train to be a helicopter pilot but I decided not to stay in. I have often wondered what might have been but I don’t regret anything about my life. It’s been a good one,” he said.

He bought a farm near Allensville in Vinton County in 1972 and relocated. At Chillicothe Electric Supply, Joe worked in sales with accounts at places like Kenworth and with all the hardware stores in a 40 mile radius. It wasn’t long after retiring from that job that he joined the bank family.

Shortly after that, tragedy struck at home. His wife Phyllis was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. “Life stopped as we knew it. She became a patient and I became a caregiver,” he said. Joe worked to keep her at home for as long as possible, even taking a leave of absence from the bank for a while. When that was no longer possible, she moved to the nursing home in McArthur where Joe visited her every day. “The bank was good to me and let me set my hours so I could feed her lunch every day before work and dinner afterward. In fourteen years, I only had to miss visiting her for two weeks after my heart attack,” he explained.  “She was never, ever a burden. I know she would have done the same for me.”

He even trained to be a nurse’s aide and spent a few years working at his wife’s nursing home so he could help other residents while being close to Phyllis. He often signed her out to go for rides, to get ice cream or pick up lunch to enjoy together at the lake. She passed away three years ago.

 When asked what advice he might have to offer, Joe spoke of helping others. “When we have a new teller, I like to go to them and ask if they need a customer to practice on. I’ll ask them for a money order or whatever I need and tell them to take their time. It helps them and puts them at ease and gives them the opportunity to practice things that are new to them,” he explained. “I always tell them to slow down. You have a customer in front of you. Take care of that customer, focus on that customer. They’re the most important person in that moment. If you try to hurry it will take twice as long because you will make mistakes.”

How does Joe stay so youthful? He stays active. He enjoys outdoor activities like fishing and hunting. He exercises and loves to get outside. He feeds the birds, squirrels and deer and has a woodworking shop for projects. “I’m probably the only person you know trying to design a bird proof squirrel feeder,” he exclaimed. “It’s usually the other way around! I made one and it didn’t quite work so I’m still working on it.”

Joe also has a lady friend who has introduced him to her hobby farm. He has discovered that he really loves chickens and enjoys caring for them.

He’s already looking forward to a quiet winter at home where he can look after his outdoor friends and plan his garden. “The rocking chair is a death sentence. Once you sit down, your body stops. Your heart is a muscle and you have to work it to keep going.”

“I have enjoyed working here. It’s been a good run and I’m going to miss everyone. The people here have been so nice to me. Everyone has treated me like their own family. It’s just time to go.”

Joe’s last day at the bank will be December 31.

Community Spotlight: Vinton County Creating Healthy Communities

Living a healthy life is easier when you live in a community that promotes healthy living. In Vinton County, there’s an effort underway to make it easier for residents to live safely and to embrace healthy choices. The Vinton County Creating Healthy Communities coalition (CHC) addresses healthy eating and active living through projects that will potentially have far reaching and long lasting effects.

The coalition exists thanks to a five year grant received by the Vinton County Health Department. Spearheaded by CHC Coordinator Jeri Ann Bentley, the coalition is made up of citizens, organizations and government offices that have partnered to provide everything from input to boots-on-the-ground workers. While the CHC has accomplished a lot in their first year, there is much on the agenda for 2021 and beyond.

The Coalition is divided into two subcommittees, allowing for volunteers to help with the projects they find most inspiring. The Healthy Eating Committee has been instrumental in creating a larger, more robust system of farmer’s markets in Vinton County. They have also created a healthy vending project and started a community garden this year. The Active Living Committee is working on a Complete Streets policy for McArthur, bike infrastructure and a major playground renovation project at Wyman Park.

A Vinton County native, Bentley is passionate about building a healthier community for her own family and neighbors as well as for generations to come. “A healthy community gives every person, regardless of age, ability or socioeconomic background the same opportunities to enjoy a good life, to eat well, to move about and to access all the resources the community offers just like everyone else,” she said.

Thanks to the CHC and a partnership with Vinton Industries, farmers markets can be found every Saturday morning in McArthur, Hamden and Wilkesville. Fresh produce, honey, Amish baked goods, handmade items, plants and flowers are among the things shoppers may find throughout the season

Vinton Industries is also spearheading the community garden where a $10 annual fee gives gardeners access to a plot of land as well as access to tools, Seven Dust and watering. Their program to offer healthy vending services and education for local businesses has been successful too. The goal is to offer a selection of tasty, healthier snacks that employees enjoy as much as traditional vending machine faire.

“I can’t say enough about Vinton Industries and what it has meant to have their support. They just took all these healthy eating initiatives and ran with them. It has really freed up my time and resources to focus on other things,” she said.

For example, she is working on a Complete Streets policy, written with support from McArthur Village Council. This will help village leaders plan for future projects that make the streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and people with disabilities. A walking audit last fall revealed many streets with broken sidewalks, missing curb-cuts and no sidewalks that are treacherous for pedestrians. “We aren’t saying the town needs to run out and put in all new sidewalks but we are helping them see places where new sidewalks are needed. We found places where there’s no curb cut so if you’re in a wheelchair you have no choice but to backtrack and find a way off the sidewalk so you can go out into the street,” she said. “By identifying the issues, we are making a sort of wish list that will allow us to make positive changes in the future.”

Pedestrian traffic before and after school will be addressed in the future too. “We’ve all seen how dangerous it is for kids just trying to get to school or trying to cross after school to get from the high school to McDonalds. There are simple, low cost solutions that can make it safer for our kids to cross the street when there’s a lot of traffic.”

The biggest project that Bentley and the CHC have taken on is a major playground renovation at Wyman Park. The aging playground equipment is potentially dangerous for youngsters. There are few opportunities for kids with disabilities to enjoy the playground and very small tots may struggle to play safely here.

The two existing large structures will be replaced with new ones. There will also be a number of smaller, ground level pieces of equipment like a fire engine and a caterpillar for imaginative play. Swings designed to hold children with disabilities, a sign language board, a tic-tac-toe board, a twister beam and metal park benches are part of the plan as well. A new rubberized surface is planned to be installed for enhanced safety.

CHC has received grant funding and some private donations have been promised to the Wyman Park Board but more funds are needed to complete the project. The Wyman Park Board has applied for some additional grants and is appealing to potential donors to help fund this project as well. Donors will be publically recognized for their generous support.

Meanwhile, the CHC will host Wyman Park Appreciation Day on June 26 from 4 p.m. until dark to raise funds for the playground project while celebrating the park and its importance to the community. Scheduled events are not yet set in stone but the group plans to have an adult cornhole tournament, vendor and craft fair, face painting, inflatable slide, food, live music, Kona Ice, and much more! This free community event will have fun activities for all ages to enjoy. Registration forms for the cornhole tournament and vendor fair will be available soon.

“We take pride in where we live and love our community. We just want to make it better for everyone, safer and easier for everyone to make good choices for themselves and their families. We’ve accomplished a lot in the last year but we’re excited about the future and all that we can do to improve this place we call home.”

Want to donate to the playground project or get involved in the other CHC projects? Contact Bentley at jbentley@vintonohhealth.org or at 740.596.5233.

Meet Your Banker: Sandy Wachenschwanz

Sandy Wachenschwanz was just a teenager when she took her first job in the banking industry. Forty two years later, she has worked in several aspects of local banks and recently transitioned into a new one here at VCNB. She is the bank’s newest Retail Lender in our McArthur location.

Sandy began her career serving in the Operations Department of a bank in Athens where she was a jack-of-all trades in the days before computers. “We did everything by hand. Returned checks, wires, balancing the general ledger. It was all done manually,” she recalled as she reminisced about the reasons she fell in love with banking. “I liked the logic of it all and solving problems,” she said.

Sandy Wachenschwanz is now a Retail Lender at VCNB’s McArthur location.

After nineteen years in that department she moved into mortgage lending and also assisted commercial processors with some duties. She moved up the ladder to work as a branch assistant manager while continuing to hone her mortgage lending skills. Along the way she learned well all sides of banking and the ways banks can help customers.

Sandy came to VCNB’s McArthur location in 2019 as branch Assistant Manager but was pleased this year to move back into her lending roots as a Retail Lender. “I really enjoy helping people achieve their goals and helping people figure out their finances so they can make their lives better. That’s a lot of fun and something I have always enjoyed,” she explained.

She credits having good teachers over the years, other bankers who led by example and helped her be a better lender. The Albany area resident has three children and three step-children. She and her husband Robert enjoy their nine grandchildren and the benefits of having a big family. She is actively involved in her church as a Sunday School teacher and Church Secretary.

“I’m happy to be here in McArthur helping local people achieve their dreams and build better lives. I invite anyone seeking a loan or who is not sure where to start to get in touch so we can talk,” she said.

Reach Sandy in the McArthur office at 740.596.2525, Extension 2212 or email Sandra.Wachenschwanz@vintoncountybank.com.