220,555 Pounds Collected in Winona

10DaysofGivingEventsFinal tallies put the 2014 “10 Days of Giving” at 220,555 pounds of food, the third highest total in the food drive’s 26-year history.

The total breaks down to $94,069 in cash and 32,417 pounds of food. The two years where more food was collected were 2013, when just over 280,000 pounds of food was collected, and 2009, when just over 250,000 pounds of food was collected. For the purposes of the total, two pounds of food are counted for each dollar. The 26-year total for pounds of food collected now stands at 2,597,782.

“We are thankful for the success of this year’s drive in supplying food for Winona Volunteer Services and helping to meet our goal that no one in Winona County goes hungry this winter,” said Jennifer Welch, who is co-chair of the food drive. “It means a lot to our employees to take part and help meet the needs of the food shelf and the people it serves.”

More than 30 area schools and child-care centers and more than 150 businesses participated in this year’s drive. See photos of the schools and a listing of this year’s participating businesses.

Community Spirit Brings Us Together

Winona area schools and daycare centers took part in the 26th Annual 10 Days of Giving” Food Drive, December 1-10, by collecting food at their locations to help stock food shelves in Winona County. Representatives of the schools and daycare centers are pictured below. Thanks to you, no one in Winona County will go hungry this winter.

Holiday Gift Guide


With the holidays right around the corner, everyone seems to be filled with joy and cheer. But if you haven’t done your holiday shopping yet, the mantra, “It’s better to give than to receive” is probably repeating over and over in your head. And if you’ve exhausted earrings for mom or ties for dad, holiday shopping can turn stressful.

Don’t fret: Below are several unique present ideas that are sure to satisfy every mom, dad, or kid this holiday season.

Gifts for Mom

Book pillow – How often does your mom curl up on the couch with a good book — and then has to re-angle herself repeatedly to find a comfortable position? A book pillow is specifically shaped to help you prop up a book when reading — no matter if you’re at a table or on your bed. The pillow does it all — even holds the book — so hands remain free to have a snack or even take notes as you read.

Jewelry armoire – Does your mother always seem to be untangling her necklaces or wondering where the matching earring is her favorite pair? A jewelry armoire mounts directly to a bedroom wall to open up more space on the dresser. It features tons of hooks and drawers for jewelry storage, and sometimes a mirror is included, so Mom can easily see which piece you’d like to wear that day without going too far.

Spa gift card – Every mom deserves to get pampered from time to time. Give her the gift of stress relief with a prepaid massage, manicure/pedicure or skin treatment. Take it a step further and get yourself a spa card as well so that you and Mom can relax together.

Gifts for Dad

Remote control cooler – What father wouldn’t want the beverage of his choice delivered right to the couch he’s sitting on? Up to 60 feet away, Dad can use a remote control to operate a cooler, which glides directly to you on its four wheels. The cooler holds up to six bottles as well as ice to keep them cold, and it can be used both indoors and out.

A good razor – Chances are, Dad hasn’t invested in what most men should — a good razor where blades stay sharp, nicks are scarce and one that will help make a close shave a breeze. Introducing King of Shave’s razor with Hyperglide. The razor’s hydrophilic self-lubricating cartridge creates a HydroGel on your face when it makes contact with water, so there’s no need for any shaving creams or gels — and the shave is as close as it gets. Other options for good razors include Gilette or Schick.

Front-pocket wallet – Does Dad ever complain of back pain? A unique culprit could be from wedging a wallet in his back pocket and sitting on it. A front-pocket wallet is uniquely designed to be kept in the front pocket of any type of pants, making grabbing a license, money or credit cards even more convenient than before. This thin, compact wallet will also help eliminate the risk of Dad being pit-pocketed.

Gifts for Kids

TV buds – If your kids are into watching TV, it may get pretty loud in the house sometimes. With TV buds, a personal TV listening system, they’ll be able to hear the TV clearly, but you won’t. It’s not just a gift for you, though, as these buds make the TV watching experience even better for the youngsters. TV buds offer sound enhancement, added range, and quality, plus they’re super comfortable and lightweight to boot.

Kid-approved coupons - You don’t need to spend hundreds on a popular toy — especially when you can make your child a gift they’ll really appreciate. Create an envelope of coupons that they can use whenever they please  —things like “stay up a half hour after bedtime” or “get out of a chore free card.” You could even make the coupons about hosting a movie and popcorn night or doing an activity the child is interested in. They’ll love getting to use their gift over and over again.

Hooded towel – For children ages 2 and up, bath time may not be their favorite time of day. Make it fun with a hooded bath towel that comes in different characters. The kids will love taking a bath knowing that they get to put on an adorable, comfy towel afterwards.

With these holiday gifts, you are sure to see some smiling faces. Head to the stores now to beat the holiday rush!

Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Get Fit for the New Year: Attend Our Free Health & Wellness Expo

Events and Adventures Wellness Expo

Have you made a healthy goal for the new year? Attend our FREE Wellness Expo on Saturday, January 3 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m at our Merchants Bank Winona-Downtown location. There will be vendor booths and free breakout sessions:

Happiness is Serious Business – Presented by John Rislove, Director of Behavioral Health at Winona Health
11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

Food Labels: Discovering the Unknown – Presented by Jennifer Hackbarth, Nutritionist at Hy-Vee
11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

Health claims on food packages can be confusing, and hard to reconcile the information of the front of the package with what’s on the nutrition facts panel. Learn what to look for when shopping for healthy foods at your local grocery store.

Financial Fitness: Time to Take Charge of Your Financial Future – Presented by Connie Fort, Consumer Lender at Merchants Bank
11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

Q & A Session with Local Fitness Experts – Facilitated by Deb McClellan, Community Operations Manager at Live Well Winona
11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

For more information, please contact Jen Welch at (507) 457-1108 or by email at jewelch@merchantsbank.com. We look forward to seeing you there! Healthy snacks will be served.

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


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.