MarkleBank's holiday routine different this year

Greg Smitley.
Photo by Jessica Williams.

MarkleBank will be doing something a little out of routine for its customers this holiday season.

In the past, the bank usually invites its customers to meals in which they would receive a small token of the bank's appreciation.

But this year, President and CEO of MarkleBank Greg Smitley says that the money that would have been used for the meals and gifts will be given back to the community through organizations that assist needy families.

"This year we thought we might be able to reach out to the community in a little different way and still thank our customers but, again, in a little different way by allowing them, in a sense, to donate to these various charities because the money we essentially would have spent on them, we're giving them to (needy families)."

He says about $6,500 is usually spent on the meals, gifts, invitations and postage for the holiday dinners, but that money is going to be split this year among seven local charities: Master's Pantry in Markle; Wells County Food Bank and the Panos Free Clinic, both in Bluffton; the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission; Love INC in Huntington; the Warren Food Pantry and the Harvest House in Van Buren. Each charity is to receive $1,000 except for the two located in Bluffton, which will receive $750 each.

Phyllis Harness, who is in charge of the Warren Food Pantry, wasn't expecting the large donation.

"I was really surprised that anyone would help us that (well)," Harness reflects. She says that her pantry is in good shape because of appreciated donations from Warren groups and that she'll use the money to buy more food when the pantry runs low on meats, breads and eggs.

The invitations to MarkleBank's gatherings are usually sent out about this time since the dinners take place during the first half of December, Smitley says. But this year, customers will find something a little different in their mailboxes. Letters that explain the donations to charities that were sent to customers will replace the invitation to one of the community lunches.

"... we know there are many people in our communities who are facing some very difficult economic circumstances and the need is especially pronounced during this otherwise festive time of year ... " the letter reads.

"It's been a tough year for a lot of people," Smitley says. He adds that bank leaders are sensitive to what's going on in the communities they serve, which has produced an "overwhelming and overriding sense that we needed to help people in some way this year."

The idea had been in the works since the warmer summer months. Staff at the seven branch locations gave input about which organizations should receive donations, with primary focus on food pantries and food banks that aim to provide people with basic necessities (food, clothing and shelter), Smitley says.

"There's a lot of worthy organizations," he says. "That was part of the risk that we were concerned about - that we might upset people (by choosing one organization over another)."

That's when the plan to help local charities that provide basic needs came into play, he explains.

As for continuing this donation in the future, Smitley says the bank hasnt looked that far ahead.

"I'm not sure what we'll do next year," he says.

Even though MarkleBank is providing a large donation, Smitley says it's like a "special offering" because his banks do things for the community year-around. Also during the holiday season, they provide a location for the Angel Tree project and donations for canned food items.

"We do things on a regular basis that are hopefully community minded," he says. "I guess this is just another example of how we try to be good corporate citizens and care about the people in our community. So if (these donations are) an example, then that's OK because that's who we are... it's the right thing to do."