An unusual sight greeted visitors to the St. Paul branch of Coulee Bank on a rainy September day: a pile of puppies.
The animals came courtesy of Pooches United with People, a small local nonprofit that fosters and helps place dogs. This particular set of pups had turned eight weeks old the very day of the event, and would be ready to adopt soon after. The puppy adoption was the bank’s way to give back as part of Community Impact Week, an initiative launched in 2016 by the Minnesota Bankers Association to focus attention on the myriad ways the state’s banks actively engage in bettering the communities they serve.
Efforts at other banks, although lacking in canine perks, were widespread. Minneapolis’ Northeast Bank sent employees to help clean a neighborhood daycare and hold a pizza party there. Employees from Citizens Bank & Trust Co., in Hutchinson helped build a stage for a local nonprofit. First National Bank, Grand Rapids, hosted a shoe drive while First National Bank, Le Center, hosted a flu shot clinic. More than 250 branches at 82 banks in the state participated; a complete list is available on the MBA website.
Mark Miedtke, MBA board chair and president of Citizens State Bank in Hayfield, notes that Minnesota banks have a long history of working closely with community organizations. “The MBA launched this campaign to shine a brighter light on the positive community-building work happening in our communities,” said Miedtke. “We don’t succeed if local businesses and families don’t succeed. That’s why Minnesota banks take our role as community partners so seriously.”
The focus is not on the association, said MBA Communications Director Eric Hauth, but on the organization’s member banks and what they do in their communities. It’s a branded, statewide initiative complete with bright-red T-shirts and a hashtag: #buildingcommunitiesMN. Although the event officially ran from Sep.17-21, many banks extend their efforts throughout the month of September.
Besides the frolicking penful of puppies at Coulee Bank, branch staff held a dog-food drive for the organization and made a donation to fund their efforts. They also brought in a food truck to keep visitors fed, and a portion of the proceeds from food sales also went to PUP.
Most employees at the branch are dog people, said Amy Bauer, vice president and human resources manager at the bank, which is based in La Crosse, Wis. An employee of the bank had worked through PUP to adopt her dog and wanted to support the organization, she said. It wasn’t hard to convince the rest of the office, some of whom joked about adopting a second or third dog from the litter.