New Lenox, IL – The program was simple enough. In calling
for essays for a state-wide scholarship contest sponsored by the Community
Banking Association of Illinois (CBAI), Town Center Bank decided they would also
choose their own local winner among submitted essays and award that student
By January 31st, twenty-four essays had been submitted to Deanie Clare, Branch Manager in New Lenox and Shirley Pirko, Branch Manager in Frankfort. "We were very pleasantly surprised," says Bob Taylor, President/CEO. "Our hopes were high that we'd get some response, but we did not expect so many and we didn't expect such quality."
The surprises didn't stop there. After a panel of bank officers read and ranked the essays blindly, with nothing to identify the student writer or the school the writer attended, they reached a consensus on the top three submissions to send to the CBAI. But they found that the three students' work was so thoughtful and structurally sound, they couldn't decide upon just one to receive the Town Center Bank scholarship.
"These students did such a fantastic job in discussing the role of community banks, we just couldn't turn away any of our top three. So we decided to give them each $500," smiles Taylor.
At Honors Night, Ryan R. Hesslau of Lincoln-Way East, Rebecca Reidenga and Dale Robey of Lincoln-Way Central were pleasantly surprised themselves when they were each handed a $500 award from Taylor.
"I am truly honored to receive this scholarship," said Hesslau. "It will be put to good use at Trinity Christian College." Hesslau titled his essay "More Than A Community Bank" and explained how a community bank such as Town Center Bank is a vital part of the neighborhood and how the philosophy of personal service and community participation is much different from a larger bank.
Reidenga named her essay "Small Town Lifeline" and explained the higher standard of ethics displayed by community banks and how decisions are driven by actual customers' needs, playing a key role in local economic growth.
"Neighborhood Resurgence" was Robey's title. His essay detailed the role of community banks in our national economic recovery, spurred by local lending and relationship-based problem-solving for both personal and business customers.
"These students demonstrated a refreshing intelligence about how important community banks are to the neighbors they serve," says Clare. "We believe in what we do here and it's invigorating to see these young people understand its importance too."
Pirko mentions that Town Center Bank was also the sponsor of each Honors Night at Lincoln-Way East, North, West and Central High Schools. "This is exactly the reason that community banks are important," she smiles. "Supporting our students and helping to celebrate their achievements is a vital piece of what we do."
Also surprising, mentions Clare, was the arrival of thank-you notes from the students. "We started opening the mail and found hand-written notes of gratitude for our sponsorship from students at each high school – that just made us feel so great." Pirko agrees, saying that after enjoying her evenings at the Honors Nights, the thank-yous were just the icing on the cake.
Taylor says, "With students like this in our community, it was an easy decision to triple our initial commitment of $500. Town Center Bank is proud that we could award these scholarships – just like a community bank should."