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Community Stories

If you have a community service story you would like to share,
please contact Carla Bush at carlab@minnbankers.com.

 

WNB Financial Kicked-off the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign

February 29, 2024 - WNB Financial kicked-off the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign Wednesday, February 28, with its sixth annual Grocery Grab event, collecting 1,172 pounds of food and personal care items for the Winona Volunteer Services Food Shelf. The event took place at Midtown Foods.

Nine teams participated, with HBC taking home the Golden Grocery Cart traveling trophy and setting a new event record with a total of $908.55. Each team had 90 seconds to race through the store and collect groceries, with the winner being determined by the total dollar amount of groceries collected. The standings were as follows:

1. HBC, $908.55
2. Farmers Insurance, $669.50
3. Saint Mary’s University Athletics, $627.03
4. WNB Financial, $625.03
5. Winona Health, $566.82
6. Fastenal Industrial Services, $457.76
7. Sugar Loaf Senior Living, $353.68
8. Excel Images, $276.90
9. Winona Daily News, $219.60


$4,704.87 in food and personal care items were purchased at Midtown Foods. Winona Volunteer Services Director Sandra Burke addressed the crowd to officially kick-off the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign. Local sports personality Dean Beckman delivered live play-byplay as the teams raced through the store.

The Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign is the largest grassroots food and fund drive in the state, accomplished by participating groups and individuals engaged in the fight against hunger in support of 300 partner food drives.

Since 2018, a total of 7,355 pounds of food have been collected through the Grocery Grab event to benefit the Winona Volunteer Services Food Shelf. In addition, a total of $26,088.74 has been spent through the Grocery Grab at Midtown Foods.

Lake Region Bank Donates Food to Kandiyohi County Food Shelf

April 2024 - Food insecurity is a major concern for many in Minnesota. In March, Lake Region Bank stepped up to help by donating 34 pounds of food plus $3,323 in cash to the Kandiyohi County Food Shelf. The gift was the result of donations by the bank, its staff, and customers.

Lake Region Bank prides itself on giving back in ways that directly benefit residents of the communities it serves. The Kandiyohi County Food Shelf was established in 1982 and primarily serves the communities of Willmar, New London and Raymond. According to their website, in 2023 the Food Shelf helped an average of 604 families per month and distributed more than 432,000 pounds of food. (source)

March is also the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign, the largest grassroots food and fund drive in the state, bringing together organizations, businesses, faith communities, and individuals to help stock and support the capacity of nearly 300 food shelves. Learn more about how you can help relieve food insecurity in Minnesota here.

One Family, One Rescue at a Time

September 2023 - The most recent family of Ukrainian refugees to arrive in our area is the Chibova family: mom Tetiana and daughters Sofiia and Olena. There are now more than 20 families in the area who have arrived since Russia began its most recent war on Ukraine.

Meeting the Chibova family at the MSP airport last month were sponsors Keith and Nancy Markwardt (at left) and Tetiana’s father Oleksii (in back, at right). Tetiana (center) arrived with her daughters Olena (first grade) and Sofiia (sixth grade), and they are now living in Kimball. Submitted photo.

The Chibovas are from Kherson, one of the most devastated and war-torn areas of Ukraine, in the east along a corridor established to allow Russian troops and supplies to flow freely from Russia all the way to Crimea (another territory stolen from Ukraine, in 2014). In June this year, Russia destroyed the civilian Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant dam in Kherson, partially or fully flooding at least 40 villages and cities, disrupting agriculture (including livestock) and fisheries throughout the area, and putting the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant downstream at even more risk. (The United Nations immediately decried this act, and one delegate called it “a new low in [Russia’s] conduct of this brutal war.”)   Read More...

As with our ancestors who arrived in Minnesota from various parts of the world, so each Ukrainian refugee family has its own story of how they got to be here.

Before the most recent Feb. 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, starting this most recent war on its neighbor, Tetiana’s husband Sergey signed up to serve as a contract officer in the defense of Ukraine, serving in the hotly contested eastern region of Ukraine. He continued to serve after the full-on war began. Not long into the war, Sergey called Tetiana and told her that bad things will come soon to Kherson; please take the girls and get out soon. And she did. On May 5, 2022, the family fled to Kyiv, to the northwest of Kherson.

They were in Kyiv for about a month. It was during that time that Tetiana received word that Sergey and his entire tank unit were missing in action. That was a year and a half ago, and today she is told that there is now 100% chance there were no survivors, although there may never be documentation of his death, nor remains found that can be -buried. He is one of thousands who have given their lives defending their homeland, and their families. It’s been hard for Tetiana to explain to her daughters what happened to him, even as they continue to flee their home.

From Kyiv, the family traveled to Poland where more than 15 million Ukrainians have also fled. After three months, they went to Norway where they spent nearly a year. An extremely difficult language, foods they found unpleasant, and an inability to work without knowing the language fluently made Norway less than ideal for the Chibova family. The girls did spend one school year in Norwegian schools, with difficulty.

Enter Dr. Karina Burger, a veterinarian in Cokato. She and her husband have sponsored and hosted families themselves, and she continues to help other families, as she is able, in their process to come to the United States through the Uniting for Ukraine humanitarian aid program administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The program is designed to reunite families that have been torn asunder by war, often impossible for refugee families to do on their own. Their website explains: “Uniting for Ukraine provides a pathway for Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members who are outside the United States to come to the United States and stay temporarily in a two-year period of parole. Ukrainians participating in Uniting for Ukraine must have a supporter in the United States.”

Keith Markwardt, CEO of Harvest Bank in Kimball, stepped forward as sponsor for the Chibova family. And Susan Harding in Kimball agreed to let them live with her indefinitely, until they can get established here.

Tetiana’s father Oleksii had arrived in Minnesota about five months ago, and he lives in Farmington. He does not have the space or resources to host or sponsor them, so he enlisted Dr. Burger’s help. He was at the airport to greet them, and all four of this family were guests of Keith and Nancy Markwardt for a long weekend after they first arrived. Then Tetiana and her daughters came to live at Harding’s home.

It has been a busy month since the Chibovas’ arrival. Tetiana has applied for and received a Social Security card; she was authorized to work immediately upon arrival in the U.S. She took and passed her Minnesota driving exam and received her permit; now she just needs to practice driving for her behind-the-wheel test. And the girls were registered and have begun school. Olena (or Lena) is in first grade, and Sofiia is in sixth grade at the high school building. The girls have made friends, and they like school – especially the school lunches.

They are all settling into a comfortable family routine. This week, Tetiana will start her job.

“It’s been wonderful,” says Harding about her new house guests. “I’m so pleased. Having children in the house [again] is amazing.”

In Ukraine, before the war, Tetiana was a cook, working in cafés and pizza joints. She hopes at some point to get back to working as a cook, and maybe some day to have her own café.

Another family will arrive later this month. They come from Odesa, the port city on the Black Sea that Russia has been trying to destroy for the past two months. They have sponsors, and a place to live. But there are other families in the pipeline, waiting for either a sponsor or housing, or sometimes both, before they can receive their invitation from the U.S. State Department. They will then have 90 days to obtain their own tickets and make their way here. Most are leaving their homeland – or an intermediary country – with nothing; they’ve lost everything in the war, or sold whatever they had to buy their ticket to the U.S. Many of them arrive here with a suitcase or two and nothing more. They often need furnishings and housewares to fill an apartment or home they will rent. They may need winter clothing in a few weeks. They will need a functioning car so they can get to their jobs. And they may need a bit of cash to get them through their first few months until they get settled into jobs and can pay their rent, utility bills, and more on their own.

Dr. Burger is especially moved to help, to the extent that she can. “It’s been a special joy for me to put people back with the ones that they love, when the war has separated them,” she says. “I think, as a veterinarian, I approach the world through this perspective of trying to heal things. There is so much that I cannot heal from this war, but this piece, I can do. I hope that the power of being reunited with those that you love has a lasting healing effect on everyone whose lives are touched. And I also hope that people touched by this will look for ways to pay it forward and help someone else in need in some future time.”

You can help!

Here’s where you  come in: if you can provide any of these needed items, please let us know. There are a few of us coordinating what is needed, and how we can provide it. Any contribution toward their stays here is appreciated.

If you’re really moved to help, and you have the means, we are always looking for sponsors and housing for future families to be able to come.

Sponsorship involves agreeing to be a financial safety net during their two-year stay under the United for Ukraine program. You may need to help them find a job, get kids registered for school, drive them to various government appointments during the first few weeks, and fill in with unmet needs. Dr. Burger supports sponsors and refugees through the process, as she is able. Both sponsors and refugee families undergo background checks and are vetted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Housing means a clean and appropriate place to live for a family. Sometimes they arrive with their beloved pets. Some may smoke, but rarely indoors. In some circumstances, families may be eligible for short-term financial assistance for -housing. Temporary, emergency housing for at least a month is needed at times, but the goal is to find -longer-term housing for all. It is expected that each family is able to pay rent and utilities on their own.

There are other ways to help Ukrainian refugee families in our area. Furniture, linens, dishes, and other items are frequently needed to help them set up house here. Each family will need a reliable car, and they will need rides in the meantime – to job interviews, to work. Some, like Tetiana, will need to practice driving (with a licensed driver), and others will need to be taught to drive – many Europeans (including Ukrainians) do not need to drive because public transportation is so good there. And cash donations can be helpful from time to time as each family gets established here.

Although their abilities to speak and understand English vary, they are adept at using their phones to aid in translation and conversation. So don’t let a language barrier prevent you from befriending them.

Finally, prayers are always helpful: for the refugee families as they navigate yet another country, language, and lifestyle; and for protection for Ukraine and all those who are still there fighting for their freedom and, often times, their very lives.

With so much devastation and heartache half-way around the world, it’s hard to feel that one individual can make a difference. But you can, and it can feel wonderful to be any part of the solution.

To learn more, or offer help, please email me ateditor@tricountynews.com. Thank you, and Slava Ukraiini!

Old National Celebrates First Better Together Volunteer Event 

Old National Bank celebrated its first Better Together Volunteer Days on September 28 and 29. The two-day event provided team members across Old National’s seven-state footprint the opportunity to volunteer together in the communities where they live and work. During the event, 1,572 ONB team members served 110 organizations by volunteering more than 5,300 hours. There were also virtual volunteer opportunities for those who could not participate in person. 

“As Old National grows geographically, serving in our communities really keeps us grounded in terms of our mission as a community bank,” said Kathy Schoettlin, Chief Brand & Culture Officer. “We’re excited for this opportunity to help strengthen our communities through volunteerism, and we’re proud of our team members for making service a real part of our company culture.” 

First Southeast bank takes on a ‘monster’ project  

September 2022 - First Southeast Bank in Harmony and Canton wanted to give back to the community with a hands-on activity together. The bank contacted Jay Masters, president of the Monster Bash Haunted House, regarding painting the Monster Bash building in Harmony. “We knew painting the building has been on their agenda for a while, so we felt this was something we could take off their plate as they prepare for their 10th season next month,” stated Samantha Koch, Assistant Vice President of Operations for First Southeast Bank. Koch continued, “This amazing charity has given back so much to the Fillmore Central arts programs, we wanted to help give back to them. Plus, we love attending the Monster Bash each year. It never disappoints!” 

Monster Bash in a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation that supports the Arts in Fillmore County. Each year Monster Bash produces and builds a new haunted house at its building in Harmony. To date, Monster Bash has given back nearly $108,000 to support the art, theater, band and choir departments and their families at Fillmore Central High School. 

For more information on this project or First Southeast Bank contact Samantha Koch at 507-886-6922.  For more information on Monster Bash, contact Jay Masters at 507-273-3143. 
 

Citizens Bank Minnesota hosted three employee blood drives in 2022

September 2022 - Citizens Bank Minnesota hosted three employee blood drives in 2022 with the American Red Cross. Collectively, from their January, May, and September blood drives, employees donated 91 units to the American Red Cross which equates to 11.375 gallons! 

Donors of all blood types are needed, especially those with types O negative, B negative, and A negative. According to the Red Cross, type O negative is the universal blood type that can be safely transfused to anyone and is often used to treat trauma patients. Simply go to redcrossblood.org to find a community blood drive near you. Citizens and their employees were proud to be a part of this effort! 

Citizens delivers 'random acts of kindness'

NEW ULM October 1, 2021 — Citizens Bank Minnesota employees spent September carrying out several Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs) in the communities they serve. Citizens donated $750 for 15 teams to spread kindness in a creative way. Many employees also contributed towards their RAKs.

The teams donated blood, delivered snacks to local hospitals, had gift card giveaways at local gas stations, grilled lunch for local law enforcement officers, delivered food for first responders, picked up trash at a park, unpacked and sorted snacks for Project Lunch Box and delivered freezer meals to families and snacks in appreciation of schools and bus drivers.

This effort was in conjunction with the Minnesota Bankers Association’s Community Impact Month. Across the state, 88 banks and over 342 branches joined forces in September to serve 243 distinct cities. Launched by the Minnesota Bankers Association, the Community Impact Month creates an opportunity for banks to highlight the many volunteer opportunities available to help build stronger local communities.

Old National employees gather to package food for local food shelf


October 1, 2021 - Last Tuesday evening, employees of Montevideo's Old National Bank gathered in their downtown building to work on a project to help provide food to local families. The bank's corporate office recently partnered with Meals from the Heart, a non-profit Minnesota-based company as a part of their initiative for Community Impact Month. 

The Community Impact Month initiative is a program that the Minnesota Bankers Association launches annually in September to provide a space and time for banks that are members of the Association to engage employees in activities such as this that give back to the community. Old National's chain of banks has been a part of Community Impact Month for a few years, and this year chose to partner with Meals from the Heart to package food for various food shelves around the state. 

The Montevideo Old National employees packaged food that would in part be contributed to Prairie Five in Montevideo. “As a community bank, it’s really part of our culture to give back, and we are thrilled to partner with a nonprofit that has helped us engage so many of our team members. We are also appreciative that Meals from the Heart gave us the opportunity to help direct the distribution of the meals so that we could benefit local neighborhoods and nonprofit organizations that we already know,” said Julie Anderson, Government and Nonprofit Relationship Banker at Old National, and Chair of the ACE Committee, which coordinates Community Impact Month activities for the bank.

The Montevideo Old National Bank employees packaged sixty-six boxes of meals, the best average of all four sites with a total of 14,442 servings packaged. The grand total was 102,564 servings between all of the four Old National Bank locations. 
Old National Bank has 31 locations around the state, and other beneficiaries of the meals packaged by Old National are: Big Lake Food Shelf, Buffalo Food Shelf, CAPI USA in Brooklyn Center, ECHO Food Shelf in Mankato, Keystone Community Services in St. Paul, Madison Food Shelf, VEAP in Bloomington, and Waconia Food Shelf.

Combat-wounded veteran honored with keys to new vehicle at the Minnesota State Fair 

Wells Fargo and Apple Autos donated a 2021 Ford Escape SE Hybrid through Military Warriors Support Foundation
ST. PAUL, MINN. – September 8, 2021 – For combat-wounded veterans, transitioning from the military back to civilian life can be a challenge. That, combined with the cost of a new vehicle, can put added burdens on our nation’s military service members and their families. To help, Wells Fargo teamed up with Apple Autos and Military Warriors Support Foundation to present a payment-free 2021 Ford Escape SE Hybrid to former U.S. Army Sergeant Michael Diehn on Tuesday, August 31, during Military Appreciation Day at the Minnesota State Fair. 
“It is such an honor to receive this vehicle and be a part of this program because it will give our family so much more freedom to do different things and visit new places. Personally, I hope to be able to start my own farm with a garden and animals, participate in more veteran events, and volunteer to help my fellow veteran community. As a family, we’ll get to take more road trips to different U.S. destinations and learn how to budget and save money for the future,” shared former U.S. Army Sergeant Michael Diehn. 
The donation was made through Military Warriors Support Foundation’s Transportation4Heroes program, which awards payment-free vehicles and provides one year of family and financial mentorship to combat-wounded veterans and Gold Star families. According to the Foundation, the counseling has helped families in its program pay down, on average, about $30,000 in debt.  
Michael Diehn was born and raised in Arlington, Minn. He joined the Army in 2001 and completed his basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia. Sergeant Diehn also attended Airborne School, and later was assigned to Company E, 51st Infantry Regiment, serving as Long Range Surveillance in Darmstadt, Germany. In 2003, while deployed to Iraq, he sustained injuries while supporting combat operations and received a Purple Heart. He was flown back to Germany to recover from his injuries. After six months of rehabilitation, he re-enlisted in the military and got deployed back to Iraq. After six years of service, he was honorably discharged in 2007 and received many awards for his bravery, including a Combat Infantryman Badge, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Iraq Campaign Medal and more. Today, Sergeant Diehn resides in Plato, Minn. with his wife and three children and enjoys fishing, gardening, cutting wood and going on road trips. 
Wells Fargo Auto, a division of Wells Fargo Consumer Lending, started the Sponsored Vehicle Donation Program in 2015, and since then have worked with auto dealerships across the country to sponsor the donation of more than 50 payment-free vehicles and family and financial mentoring, valued at over $1.5 million, to combat-wounded veterans and Gold Star families through Military Warriors Support Foundation’s Transportation4Heroes program. 
 
About Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a leading financial services company that has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets, proudly serves one in three U.S. households and more than 10% of small businesses in the U.S., and is the leading middle market banking provider in the U.S. We provide a diversified set of banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through our four reportable operating segments: Consumer Banking and Lending, Commercial Banking, Corporate and Investment Banking, and Wealth & Investment Management. Wells Fargo ranked No. 37 on Fortune’s 2021 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In the communities we serve, the company focuses its social impact on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all by supporting housing affordability, small business growth, financial health, and a low-carbon economy. News, insights, and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories
 
About Military Warriors Support Foundation 
Military Warriors Support Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity, founded by LTG Leroy Sisco (Ret), in 2007. Their mission is to provide programs that facilitate a smooth and successful transition for our nation’s combat-wounded heroes and Gold Star families. Their programs focus on housing and homeownership, recreational activities, transportation assistance and leadership development. Through select programs, they have awarded nearly 900 mortgage-free homes and over 100 payment-free vehicles to combat-wounded heroes, Gold Star spouses, and their families in all 50 states. In addition to the home or vehicle, the families receive family and financial mentoring. For more information, visit MilitaryWarriors.org.  

About Apple Autos
Apple Autos is a family-owned business that has served the south metro for more than two decades. Apple Autos operates Apple Ford Lincoln Apple Valley, Apple Ford Shakopee, Apple Chevrolet Buick in Northfield, and Apple Used Autos in Shakopee, Minnesota. The company pioneered "Best Price" selling 25 years ago, providing up-front pricing without the uncertainty and hassle of negotiations. Being a good citizen is one of Apple Autos’ key values. They give willingly to and are actively involved in the support of our communities. 

Old National Bank Foundation announces $42,000 in grants to
Minnesota-based nonprofit organizations


Minnesota (April 29, 2021) – Old National Bank Foundation, philanthropic arm of Old National Bank (NASDAQ: ONB), announced its quarterly contributions totaling $42,000 to four organizations throughout Old National’s Minnesota market, and an annual total of over $2 million footprint-wide, with some contributions being multi-year commitments.

Three times a year, the Foundation presents grants to organizations throughout its footprint that fit the following strategic initiatives: Affordable housing, education achievement, economic development, financial literacy and workforce development.

This quarter, the Foundation approved the following grants to four Minnesota-based nonprofits:
  • Hiawatha Academies, a Minneapolis-based organization, received a $10,000 grant for its Program Support for Hiawatha Through College. The program provides academic, socioemotional, and logistical/practical support for scholars and alumni from Hiawatha Academies so they will research, apply to, earn admission to, enroll in, persist in, and graduate from college.
  • Rebuilding Together Twin Cities, a Minneapolis-based organization, received a $12,000 grant for its Making Home Happen Campaign. This campaign will enable the organization to make home happen for more seniors, veterans, and low-income households.
  • Youth Farm and Market Project, a Minneapolis-based organization, received a $10,000 grant for its North Minneapolis Programming. The program engages youth ages 9-24 in experiential education, leadership and employment training, community organizing, and urban agriculture. These young people will build leadership skills while planting, growing, preparing, cooking, and distributing fresh food in their own neighborhoods.
  • Youthprise, a Minneapolis-based organization, received a $10,000 grant for its Youthprise COVID-19 Community Support. Youthprise has established delivery systems, supply networks, nonprofit relationships, and broad geographic capacity to reach low-income and BIPOC youth who have been impacted by COVID-19.
“We’re delighted to partner with these four organizations and applaud their unwavering commitment to their missions during a difficult 2020,” said Kelly Elkin, Old National Bank Foundation board member. “In their own way, they all inspire hope, which I think a lot of us can use right now.”

Since July 2018, the Foundation has donated over $600,000 in grants to Minnesota-based nonprofits.

To learn more about the Foundation, please visit www.oldnational.com/giving.

An area bank is paying it forward to health care workers with a new initiative that in turn supports local restaurants

Arcadian Bank, formerly known as Farmers State Bank, on Thursday delivered meal vouchers for Mayo Clinic Health System employees at the Albert Lea campus. 

See the full story here.

Premier Bank Collecting Donations for The Landing MN

ROCHESTER, MN, 2020 - As winter approaches, donations are needed for the homeless population in Rochester. Monday, September 28, and Tuesday, September 29, Premier Banks in Rochester will be collecting donations for The Landing MN.

The Landing MN is an organization that provides clothing, housing, meals, and medical care for those facing homelessness in the Rochester area. Co-founder Dan Fifield says every bit helps, but the organization needs men's blue jeans from waist size 32 to 36.

"You generally got a pair of clothes that you wear 24 hours a day seven days a week,” said Fifield. “I can't imagine going days and weeks on end wearing the same clothing and not being able to have a change of clothes.."

U.S. Bank outlines details of its $15M Rebuild and Transform fund – the first $5 million went to the Twin Cities.

August 18, 2020 - U.S. Bank announced today details of a $15 million Rebuild and Transform Fund, which will help small businesses impacted by civil unrest and support organizations working to address systemic economic and racial inequities. The U.S. Bank Foundation will make philanthropic investments in Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)-led organizations, with a priority on Black-led nonprofits. The initial $5 million in grants will be distributed in the Twin Cities as general operating support and will include funding to grantees to support trauma care for staff or residents in impacted areas. The Fund is part of the bank’s previously announced $116 million commitment to address social and economic inequities.  Read more