Individuals Should Take Greater Precautions with This Year’s Flu

FluArticle

Because this year’s flu vaccine is not as effective against a current, mutated strain of the influenza virus, individuals should be taking extra precautions this year.

This year’s flu is unpredictable. Early in December, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent an advisory to doctors noting that more than half of the 85 influenza virus samples it had analyzed were different than the virus strains included in this year’s vaccine, signaling that there has been a mutation, or a drift, of the strain.

This season’s most commonly reported strain of the virus is influenza A (H3N2). In the past, influenza A has been associated with higher rates of hospitalization and death than other strains, especially for people at high risk for complications, such as the very young, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Make sure you are vaccinated. During the 2012-13 flu season, 12,337 people were hospitalized with flu-related illness and 149 children died, according to CDC surveillance data. Ninety percent of those children were unvaccinated. While the flu vaccine is not as protective against a mutated strain, it can still decrease the severity of illness caused by such a strain.
  • Become educated on how influenza is spread. If you’re sick, stay home. Be sure to learn about preventive measures, like healthy eating, plenty of sleep, regular washing of hands, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, and drinking lots of fluids.
  • Check with your employer to ensure you have work alternatives in place, like working from home, if that is a possibility for your position.
  • When you start feeling symptoms, be sure to take antiviral medications. Such medications can make the flu milder and shorter.
  • If you’re sick, stay home or work from home. Don’t give the flu a chance to spread.
  • Set an example. If you’re a manager, don’t come to work sick. This tells the people you work with they should come in no matter how they feel.

 The above information is summarized and modified from an article from SHRM (Society for HR Management), written by Dana Wilkie.

Robert Root Has Joined Merchants Bank as Vice President for Network, Datacenter and PC Services

RobertRootWelcome

Robert Root has joined the team at Merchants Bank as Vice President for Network, Datacenter and PC services, according to Rodney Nelsestuen, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer.

“Robert is an important addition to our team as we continue to provide our customers the technology support they need today and in the future from their bank,” Nelsestuen said.

Root has more than 20 years of Information Technology experience, including the past 15 years with Eastwood Bank. He has a well-rounded background in infrastructure management, business analysis, information security and project management.

“I look forward to putting my skills to work for Merchants Bank and learning first-hand why it has the reputation as an industry leader in our region,” Root said.

Meet Nikki Kemp, Fraud Specialist at Merchants Bank

Meet Nikki Kemp, Fraud Specialist at Merchants, pictured with her husband Ben at the top of Pike's Peak.

Meet Nikki Kemp, Fraud Specialist at Merchants, pictured with her husband Ben at the top of Pike’s Peak.

When did you start your banking career?

Nikki: I started at a much smaller bank in 2011 as a Customer Service Representative. When I first came to Merchants, I worked in the Electronic Banking department and since that time have become our Fraud Specialist.

What is your top fraud prevention tip?

Nikki: It’s difficult to pick one because there are so many tips to preventing fraud. I would say my first tip is to be conscious of where you are using your debit card – physical stores and online. Do you know and trust the company you are purchasing from? It’s important to stick with places you know. If a company or person calls asking you for your card information, be extremely cautious. Keep in mind that the Bank will never ask for your personal information unless you have previously initiated a conversation with us about your accounts or a loan application.

I would also recommend reviewing your bank statements or Online Banking records regularly. Set aside time to review purchases and if you notice something suspicious, call the Bank and talk to your Customer Service Representative or Electronic Banking immediately. If your account goes unchecked, fraud can go undetected for months or even years.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Nikki: They taught me to be cautious with credit cards. It’s easy to get in over your head if you’re not careful. My husband and I regularly review upcoming expenses and discuss when we should pay with our credit cards versus our debit card. Once our plan is set, we stick to it.

If you could ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange with anyone, who would it be and why?

Nikki: My husband. He has always wanted to go to New York City and I think he would like to enjoy the experience.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Nikki: My garden – It’s my hobby outside of work. My family always had a garden when I was growing up and now I have one that’s 14×14 feet in my backyard (I know, because I had to dig out the sod myself!). We grow most of your standard vegetables, like tomatoes, onions and peppers. I also have pots for plants that spread, like strawberries

For more information on our electronic banking options, visit our website.

New Tellers Here to Help You

eNews-NewStaff

At Merchants Bank, we are happy to welcome new employees and celebrate new positions filled by current staff. These frontline employees are all looking forward to serving you. Take a moment to congratulate them. 

Heidi Jo Buxengard has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Caledonia. She graduated from Spring Grove Public Schools last spring and will be attending Southeast Technical College in the spring, majoring in Radiography. Heidi previously worked at the Spring Grove Swim Center and Elsie’s Bar & Grill. She enjoys sports and hunting.

Sharon McInnis has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Cottage Grove. She previously worked at Menards as a Plumbing Associate/Cashier and at The Jewelry Exchange as a Sales Consultant. She is looking forward to working with the Cottage Grove team and enhancing customer relationships at Merchants Bank.

Austin Robertson has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Rochester at our Northwest branch location. He graduated from Byron High School last Spring and is currently attending Rochester Community and Technical College. He previously worked at Hy-Vee and Menards. Austin is a Packer fan. He likes coaching and playing soccer, long boarding in the summer and snowboarding in the winter. Austin also plays drums and guitar in his free time.

Karen Rushton has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Hastings. Karen comes to us from Wells Fargo where she worked for 20 years in several different roles. Karen is married and has two children, Jordan, 18 and Thomas,17. She enjoys traveling in her free time.

 

“10 Days of Giving” is at 114,792 Pounds of Food

10 Days of Giving

Through the middle of the day on Tuesday, Merchants Bank had collected 114,792 pounds of food for the “10 Days of Giving.”

The totals include $52,773 in cash and 9,246 pounds of food. The total to date is behind last year’s record pace of 160,300 pounds of food, which was fueled by several significant anonymous monetary gifts. The number is ahead of the pace of two years ago of 98,106 pounds of food. For purposes of the calculation, each dollar counts for two pounds of food.

“Time and time again, I continue to be overwhelmed by the generosity of the people in the Winona area. It’s unmatched,” said Jen Welch, who is co-chair of this year’s food drive. “We are especially gratified by the people who are first-time contributors. It is good to see how many people believe this food drive is important to this area.”

Last year, more than 280,000 pounds of food was collected and 195,438 pounds of food was collected in 2012. The 25-year total is 2,377,027 pounds of food.

There is still time to give. Merchants Bank employees and other volunteers will collect food barrels and cash cans at area schools, day-cares and businesses Thursday and Friday. The food and money collected from the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train stop Tuesday in Winona has not yet been included in the totals.

Checks may be made payable to “10 Days of Giving.” Checks not deposited at a Merchants Bank office may be mailed to Merchants Bank, P.O. Box 248, Winona MN 55987; or Winona Volunteer Services, 402 East Second Street in Winona.

Gifts of food may be dropped at any Merchants Bank location in Winona, Goodview or St. Charles. In addition to more than 30 area schools and child-care centers participating in this year’s Drive, there are more than 150 business collection sites throughout Winona County. View a listing of this year’s special events and participating businesses here.

“10 Days of Giving” Starts Strong: 60,220 Pounds of Food Collected

10 Days of Giving

Through Friday morning, Merchants Bank’s “10 Days of Giving” was at 60,220 pounds of food collected.

The number of pounds of food collected included $28,948 in cash and 3,324 pounds of food. Two pounds of food are counted for each dollar collected. Through the same time last year, 83,748 pounds of food had been collected. In 2012, a little more than 41,000 pounds of food had been collected through this point to benefit Winona Volunteer Services.

“Again, the response from the people in the Winona area has been generous,” said Mark Metzler of Merchants Bank, one of this year’s co-chairs. “We are gratified by the response.”

Last year, more than 280,000 pounds of food was collected, a record for the “10 Days of Giving.” The 25-year total is 2,377,027 pounds of food.

“We are looking forward to the response during the remainder of the event,” Metzler said. “We know that this is important to so many people.”

To contribute, checks may be made payable to “10 Days of Giving.” Checks not deposited at a Merchants Bank office may be mailed to Merchants Bank, P.O. Box 248, Winona MN 55987; or Winona Volunteer Services, 402 East Second Street in Winona.

Gifts of food may be dropped at any Merchants Bank location. In addition to more than 30 area schools and child-care centers participating in this year’s Drive, there are more than 150 business collection sites throughout Winona County. A listing of this year’s special events and participating businesses can be found on our blog.

Meet Lucas Stangl, Electronic Banking Representative at Merchants Bank

Lucas Stangl, Electronic Banking Representative at Merchants, with his two children in Disneyland.

Lucas Stangl, Electronic Banking Representative at Merchants, with his two children in Disneyland.

When did you start your banking career?

Lucas: I started at Wells Fargo in 2011 as a Teller and then became a Teller Manager. When I came to Merchants, I knew I wanted to work for a bank I believed in and one that is there for the community. Electronic Banking is a great fit for me because I like helping our customers solve problems. Plus, there’s a lot of variety with my job, which I really enjoy.

What is your top electronic banking tip?

Lucas: There are a couple of things that can make using Online Banking easier for our customers.

First, when you’re reviewing your accounts online, make sure check the available balance and not the current balance. The available balance is what you actually have available to spend. Sometimes the difference can be confusing, so make sure you’re looking at the right balance before you make a purchase.

When completing online transfers, review the details of the transfer and click the confirm button. If you don’t click confirm, the transfer won’t go through.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Lucas: Don’t impulse buy. Wait a few days and if you still want that particular item, then go buy it.

If you could ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange with anyone, who would it be and why?

Lucas: My kids. Hazen is nine and Ada is six. My wife and I try to teach the importance of experiences and I think that would be a very memorable experience for them.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Lucas: Any golf course. I started golfing when I was five years old and actually worked at a golf course in Pennsylvania for ten years – it was really fun.

For more information on our electronic banking options, visit our website.