Get Your Windshield Washed in Caledonia

WindowWashingCALThe employees at Merchants Bank will be hosting a free car windshield washing event in support of Caledonia High School arts, academics and athletics on Friday, September 5 from 2:00-5:00 p.m. For each windshield washed, Merchants will donate $5 to Caledonia High School.

“Many of our employees have a student, know someone who attends or attended Caledonia High School themselves,” said Matt Schuldt, President for Merchants Bank in Caledonia and Spring Grove. “Being able to give back to one of our community partners is a great feeling and we’re looking forward to this fun event.”

All community members are encouraged to visit the Caledonia Merchants Bank drive-thru on Friday, September 5. No customer relationship is required to participate. Free will donations for Caledonia High School will also be accepted.

Merchants Bank Employees Like Sweets and Good Causes, Raise $4,816.63, Including $3,015 in Pie Auction for Rivertown Shuffle/Relay for Life

The employees at Merchants Bank have a collective sweet tooth, and they are willing to support it, especially when it comes to a great cause like the Rivertown Shuffle/Relay for Life. During 2014 Relay for Life events at Merchants Bank, Merchants’ employees raised $4,816.63, including $3,015 in a Pie Auction where Merchants employees baked and donated 26 pies that other employees bid on.

“All of our employees have been touched by cancer in some way –  themselves, a relative, a friend – to know we are able to do something to help is a great feeling,” said Kerri Bronk, who coordinates the Merchants Bank participation.

Other activities included a basket raffle, where employees put together gift baskets of special interest. Contributions for the raffle were $1,250. Other events included a bake sale, a book sale and a lunch. More events are planned before the event, including the sale of luminaries to Merchants’ employees in honor of and in memory of loved ones who have had cancer.

Bronk said the pie auction has been ongoing since 2010, and the Bank has supported the Rivertown Shuffle/Relay for Life since before she started at Merchants 17 years ago. Bronk said she is just part of a large committee at Merchants that plans and executes the employee events.

“There have been many faces on the committee over the years, but the one constant is Merchants’ commitment to the community,” Bronk said. “The Rivertown Shuffle/Relay for Life has had a huge impact on the Winona Community, and our employees step up for this cause and many others throughout the year.”

An opportunity to come home

Greg Evans

Winona native Greg Evans became Merchants Bank’s president late last year. After seven years working for Merchants in the Cannon Falls region, Evans is still transitioning back to life in his hometown. Photo credit: Andrew Link, Winona Daily News

Like father, like son.

That might be a good way to describe new Merchants Bank president Greg Evans, but it’s not the only way. Winona native is another. So is Steamboat Days harbormaster, 10 Days of Giving founder and community leader.

For his father, Gary Evans, another native and Winona business and community leader, when he talks about his son, it’s about how he has stepped into his own and the mark he has left on the community.

“When he came back from college he was Gary Evans’ son,” he admitted. “Now that he’s come back from Cannon Falls, I am Greg Evans’ father. I really like that. He’s a chip off the old block.”

Community is important to Greg, who cites Gary and Merchants Financial Group CEO Rod Nelson as mentors and people who have instilled the importance of community in him. Merchants’ philosophy is that a strong community translates into a strong community bank, and Greg is a follower of that philosophy.

“Community engagement isn’t optional,” Greg said. “It’s an expectation. We believe that when the community thrives and prospers, Merchants can only benefit as a result.”

After studying journalism in college and a short tenure as a reporter in Iowa, Greg came back to Winona and joined Merchants Bank in the late 1980s in marketing. One of his first projects at the bank was starting the annual 10 Days of Giving food drive, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last winter and has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars and millions of tons of food for the Winona food shelf.

Nelson said the 10 Days of Giving was a prime example of how Greg leads by example, and called the growth over the years of the program a testament to his passion for the community.

“It’s gone beyond a Merchants’ thing,” Nelson said. “It’s now a Winona thing.”

Greg was involved with a number of community events and organizations during his time in Winona, capped off — literally — with being named Steamboat Days Harbormaster in 2007.

Later that year, he was promoted to be Merchants regional president for the bank’s newly acquired Cannon Falls division, and Greg began to build ties in his new home.

That, of course, meant community involvement. Greg’s wife, Terri, is a leader with the Cannon Falls Education Foundation. Greg got involved with the Cannon Falls Rotary Club and the Goodhue Habitat for Humanity board, among others.

Greg said he never really had a strategy to come back to Winona, but the chips fell in place last year when he was chosen to replace Rod Nelson as bank president. It wasn’t an easy decision after seven years of building a home and community connections, and Greg said he initially thought Cannon Falls might be the last stop in his career path.

“But we saw an opportunity to come home and be close to family,” Greg said. “It’s just an extraordinary opportunity.”

The transition to Winona is smoothing out, as Greg bounced between the two cities as he looked for his replacement for Cannon Falls. His family is still working on selling the old house and getting one in Winona, but in the meantime has moved from a hotel room to apartments near East Lake Winona, which he appreciates for the beautiful view and quick access to the running path.

Evans said the transition won’t really sink in until after he’s unpacked and settled in, but he said one thing didn’t require a transition — falling back in love with his hometown. The Winona community and its beauty is a tremendous draw, and he’s glad to be back, he said.

“A lot of people leave Winona and chose to come back,” he said. “It says so much of the caring nature of this community.”

While Greg and Gary were never strangers during his time in Cannon Falls, the elder Evans is glad to have his son back in town. He’s proud of all his son has accomplished, and said he knows Greg has a deep love for Winona and that commitment to the community and its people shows in his endeavors.

“He sees the good in others and firmly believes you can’t accomplish things in a vacuum,” Gary said. “It’s a wonderful thing when parents can be proud of their children.”

 

 Story by . Reprinted with permission from Winona Daily News.

Memorial Bike Ride Concludes Saturday

The ninth annual Christian Elder Memorial Bike Ride will conclude in the Merchants Bank parking lot, 7300 147th Street W., at 10 a.m. Saturday. More than $37,000 has been raised so far and more is expected. The money raised will set a record.

Merchants Bank in Apple Valley has been the title sponsor and a major contributor since the ride’s inception. Merchants Bank employees and members of the public are expected to meet John Elder and members of his team as they complete their 900 mile ride winding through the scenic landscape of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The 16-day ride is made in the memory of John’s son, Christian, and benefits Kids n’ Kinship, an organization that connects children from 5-16 years old with volunteer mentors.

“This is a wonderful story, and we are proud to be involved from the beginning. John and his team inspire us all and show us how important it is to be role models for young people,” said Lawrence Stovern, Regional President of Merchants Bank in the Twin Cities. “We are humbled and honored to be involved.”

Beacon House Gets New Phone System

ECPhoneDonation2 copyWhen Merchants Bank acquired the former Alliance Bank location in Eau Claire on February 14, it meant a new phone system for the bank that matched what Merchants had in place at all of its locations. That was good fortune for Beacon House, part of the Eau Claire Interfaith Hospitality Network. Merchants Bank – Eau Claire President Mark Willer worked with Kelly Christianson, Executive Director of Eau Claire Interfaith Hospitality Network, and Pam Kozuch, owner of Telephone Systems Incorporated (TSI), to make sure the phones and components were installed at Beacon House. Merchants supplied the previously used components and TSI provided the installation. Beacon House serves families and pregnant women who are temporarily homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Merchants Bank and the Great River Shakespeare Festival Celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday with Cake

Merchants Bank will join the Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) in celebrating Shakespeare’s 450th birthday by offering birthday cake at Merchants’ downtown Winona location from noon to 2:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 23. The public is invited.

“We are excited to commemorate William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday and kick-off our ‘450 Celebrate the 450th’ campaign,” said Emily Kurash, GRSF Director of Marketing and Sales. “There will be many wonderful ways for supporters and fans of GRSF to mark this milestone during the 2014 season, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to start the celebration with Merchants Bank and the entire community.”

GRSF members will be on hand to serve the cake and talk about the upcoming season. Merchants, celebrating its 139th year, has been a significant supporter of GRSF since its inception. This is GRSF’s
11th season, which will run June 26 – August 3 and will feature “Hamlet,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.” Other events include free weekend concerts and educational events for all ages throughout the season.

“We value the cultural and economic contributions GRSF makes to improve the quality of life all of us enjoy across this region,” said Merchants Bank President & Chief Banking Officer Greg Evans. “We invite our neighbors in to show their support for GRSF by having a piece of cake and learning more about the coming season.”

Terry Hawkings Named Volunteer of the Month

Terry Hawkings serves on the Great River Shakespeare Festival and volunteers for multiple organizations. The Merchants Bank employee co-chaired the bank's 25th annual 10 Days of Giving campaign last year.

Terry Hawkings serves on the Great River Shakespeare Festival and volunteers for multiple organizations. The Merchants Bank employee co-chaired the bank’s 25th annual 10 Days of Giving campaign last year. Photo credit: Andrew Link, Winona Daily News

Terry Hawkings is looking out for Winona.

A Winona resident for nearly 20 years, Hawkings, 52, has spent the better part of her time volunteering for Winona events, including the Great River Shakespeare Festival and Merchants Bank’s annual 10 Days of Giving food drive during the holiday season.

The Merchants employee volunteers in the community because she wants to help make Winona an appealing travel destination, she said. Like her fellow Volunteer of the Month nominees, she simply found things in the community she was passionate about and stepped up to donate her time.

“If it’s good for Winona, then it’s good for my employer and it’s good for me,” Hawkings said.

Hawkings, who journeyed to Winona from California 20 years ago, calls Merchants her catalyst to volunteerism. It’s the bank’s core values that prompted Hawkings to get involved in the community ever since she got here, she said.

Hawkings generally lends her time as a coordinator or board member, but also looks for ways to step into one-time events and help with whatever’s needed, like at Trinona or Live at the Levee. It doesn’t matter where in an organization you serve, she said — only that you do.

“You don’t have to take on a leadership role to be useful,” Hawkings said. “Just participate.”

For Shakespeare, Hawkings works as a volunteer coordinator. She also served as the co-chair for the 10 Days of Giving event last year when it celebrated its 25th anniversary. She’s the president-elect of Winona’s Exchange Club and is the treasurer of the Live at the Levee committee — among other initiatives.

So, why does she take on all the extra commitments?

“Just to feel like I belong,” Hawkings said. “Walking down the street and knowing people. But I’m passionate about the economic value, specifically for GRSF.”

Hawkings believes Winona can be a template for a small-town tourist destination, and is headed in the right direction. Her focus now is helping to revitalize downtown.

“If we can improve our downtown, we can improve as a destination,” Hawkings said.

She wants to help groom the area to be the hub for the art enthusiast, the outdoorsy-type and those just passing through. Hawkings isn’t the first one to notice Winona’s need for changes downtown. With programs such as the Winona Main Street Program, the community is taking steps to revitalize the area.

That, and Live at the Levee, which has held multiple community music and arts events downtown over the last year.

“I meet so many different people,” Hawkings said. “We reach a different population of people in Winona.”

Even with a bustling schedule, Hawkings doesn’t plan to slow down. She’ll often work with her husband, but she admitted he’s one of the doers while she’s a planner.

“We have this little joke that I’m the volunteer and he’s the volun-told,” Hawkings said with a laugh.

 

 Story by Andrew Sroka. Reprinted with permission from Winona Daily News.