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One early Saturday morning in October, breast cancer survivors climbed into race cars with professional drivers at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., and took a few laps around the track at a death-defying 160 mph. “The survivors were fearless,” remembers Julia Meyers, account representative for partner relationships for the American Cancer Society. “There was no hesitation.”
And why should there be? These women had already faced their worst fears and come out the other side. So while the idea was simply to give a group of cancer survivors a VIP experience at one of the world’s greatest racetracks, the metaphor was lost on no one, least of all Sheila Williams, who is a Regions associate.
Sheila’s battle with cancer began when she was diagnosed last summer. She says she’ll never forget that initial shock. “When I heard the word ‘cancer,’ I thought it was all over,” she says. “You never think it would happen to you.”
The idea for the event initially grew out of the American Cancer Society’s relationship with Chevrolet, one of its biggest sponsors, particularly for the Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer program. Chevy’s support made a NASCAR tie-in a natural, Julia explains. “They thought it would be wonderful to throw these VIP parties at all of the different NASCAR locations.”
At the Talladega event—replete with pink pace cars Chevy custom built for American Cancer Society events related to breast cancer—the morning started with an early catered breakfast with two special guests, drivers Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman, who were both racing at Talladega that weekend. “They were so gracious with their time,” Julia says. “They weren’t rushing anyone. They signed everything anyone asked. They would just do anything to make it special.”
Sheila says she and her husband, himself a prostate cancer survivor, had never considered themselves NASCAR fans, but they were honored to be chosen to participate and especially charmed by the warm reception. “They really rolled out the red carpet for us,” she says.
Then it was time to hit the track. Sheila, who is now cancer free after two surgeries as well as chemotherapy and radiation, says that after what she and the other survivors have been through, they weren’t about to be fazed by a few steep curves taken at crazy speeds. “A lot of things you used to worry about, after a doctor tells you that you have cancer, you don’t worry about them anymore,” she says. “I see things differently, because I know I could be here today and gone tomorrow. It changed my whole life.”
She also connected with other survivors and hopes to keep in touch. One even gave her tickets for the next day’s race, and she was able to bring along her son and his fiancé. Now, she and her family have become NASCAR converts and hope to return every year. “On a scale of one to 10,” she says, “I’d give that weekend a 15.”
Sheila Williams is an associate of Regions.
Teresa Holderfield, Gadsden-Etowah County, Alabama
There’s more than one way to build a house.
At least that’s the way Teresa Holderfield sees it. She serves as captain for the “Regions Banccaneers,” the rowing team that represents Regions in the annual Gadsden-Etowah County, Ala., Habitat for Humanity Dragon Boat Festival, which was held this year August 16th on the Coosa River. This was the third year in a row for the Banccaneers to field a team.
Each participant—20 oarsmen on each team, plus a drummer to keep the paddlers in rhythm—is responsible for raising $100. On top of that, the bank held a silent auction ahead of the event, auctioning items donated by associates and raising an additional $400, for a total of $2,100 for Habitat for Humanity.
The 250-meter race itself is competitive and “not for the faint of heart,” Teresa explains, adding that the heat this year was particularly brutal, and she and others have walked away with bruises from the occasional errant oar. Still, in the end they agree it’s well worth it.
“I’ve always wanted to build a Habitat house,” Teresa says. “Without raising a hammer, over the last three years we helped build three houses with proceeds from the Dragon Boat Race. It is very gratifying to know that three families have roofs over their heads, a nice warm, safe place to sleep at night and a fresh start on a better life for their family. How exciting is that?”
Teresa Holderfield is an associate of Regions.
To look and feel healthier, it’s always tempting to look to the newest diet-and-exercise plan that promises to magically turn one’s life around.
Yet while fad diets can help people lose weight in the short term, they are rarely sustainable—or even particularly healthy.
The good news? For people who really want to achieve healthier lifestyles, it turns out that a strong human connection, when coupled with good information and habits, can have a powerful effect.
As a dietitian and the Corporate Wellness Specialist for Regions, Anna Threadcraft sits one-on-one with associates to discuss their wellness goals and how they fit into their real lives. “No matter what your gender, financial status or ethnicity, you have to eat to survive,” Anna says. “My job gives me a platform to connect with almost anybody and encourage them to make food something they enjoy rather than agonize over.”
Anna herself has been encouraged by the changes made by associates she’s worked with. Anna’s sessions with associates are always confidential, but Ruth Corcoran wanted to help spread the message about the changes that can come when you make eating better a part of your life. Ruth went through cycles of “yo-yo” dieting before finally signing up for a few sessions with Anna.
“Anna doesn’t just look at what you eat and how often you exercise,” Ruth explains. “She asks about things like stress levels and how that can affect how your body reacts to the food. There’s a human aspect to it that I really like.”
Ruth remembers advice Anna gave her in early on that has stuck with her. “She told me any diet that tells you to remove an entire food group—even those occasional guilty pleasures—is not healthy,” she remembers. “Those diets can be great if you want short-term results, but for it to work long-term, you want to revamp the way you think about food.”
Along with nutrition counseling, other components of the wellness program include a “Couch to 5K” program for associates who want to run in the Regions Superhero 5K (part of the Mercedes Marathon held every February). “We’ve had several people who not only ran the Superhero 5K but also signed up for another 5K two or three months after,” Anna marvels. “The program gave them the confidence, time, and space to learn how to run a race and finish it.”
Other initiatives have included having weekly deliveries of farm-fresh produce available to Birmingham-area associates; improving the healthful offerings stocked in workplace vending machines—many selected by the associates themselves; and the introduction of Virgin Pulse, a voluntary program where associates can track their physical activity through the day and earn rewards for reaching their goals.
The enthusiasm seems to be contagious, underscoring the idea that community support is a cornerstone of the program’s success. “I think our heartbeat with the wellness group at Regions is to meet people where they are and help them be their healthiest in a realistic and sustainable way,” Anna says.
For Ruth, it’s also changed some dynamics within her family. Her husband is so enthusiastic about the money they save by eating out less that he’s researching family gym memberships. Better still, “We’ve started turning the TV off and sitting down at the table as a family with a better meal.”
Says Anna, “One of the greatest pleasures in this job is seeing how people are taking these ideas back to their families and into their workplaces,” she says. “When a light goes on for them where they can approach health as an opportunity to feel better overall by caring better for their body, that is so rewarding.”
Anna Threadcraft, registered dietitian and Regions Corporate Wellness Specialist, shares 5 of her favorite diet and exercise tips.
1. Remember the 20/80 rule: 80% of the time, choose the healthier options in the right amounts. 20% of the time, splurge a little and enjoy!
2. Get moving: All movement counts. We've recommended 150 minutes of physical activity a week, but even a 10-minute daily walk is better than nothing at all. Start small and build up. Take the steps instead of the elevator, take a walk with a friend, or just turn on some music when you get home and dance around—it will lift your mood while burning calories!
3. Keep it simple. Making small lifestyle changes can have a HUGE impact long term. Consider one thing you need to work on and then set a realistic, sustainable goal to address it. Do you snack on too much junk food at work? Keep healthy snacks around during the day and save the candy-bar run for Friday afternoons. Do you drink too many carbonated sweetened beverages? Reduce your intake by a cup/can or two each day and replace it by drinking more water.
4. Rest. When well rested, we often make better food decisions, are less likely to eat out of fatigue and are more apt to get moving and incorporate physical activity into our day.
5. Don't reinvent the wheel. Take advantage of easy tools that are already available such as myplate.com or myfitnesspal.com.
Retta Babin, Thibodaux, Louisiana
Thibodaux, Louisiana, is the kind of town where people smile as they pass each other on the street. It is a close-knit, community-oriented, and warmly welcoming place. When Katrina left thousands in Louisiana devastated, Thibodaux proved to be a temporary-home-turned-permanent-home for many across the state. It is just that kind of place—quaint, friendly, and full of meaningful relationships. Keena Bourgeois, FSS at Regions in Thibodaux, has come to know first-hand the beauty of its small town feel and the generosity of the people who live there.
For 26 years, Keena has greeted Regions customers with a smile as they walk through the door. Her days at work went beyond simple, routine transactions, as she built relationships over time with her customers. While she’s never taken these relationships for granted, she could not have been more surprised when one of her customers of many years, Billie Jo Harlan, presented the branch with a true work of art and a labor of love: a handmade quilt in appreciation of the associates at the Thibodaux branch.
“It was my very first quilt,” says Ms. Harlan, who now makes quilts to donate to hospitals and non-profits in the area. “I love the people at Regions,” says Ms. Harlan, and she and the associates at Regions have become friends over the years. When Ms. Harlan finally presented the hand-sewn artwork to the associates at the branch, she proudly announced, “This is my green Regions quilt!”
“It almost moved us to tears,” says Keena. “A quilt is such a labor of love. It takes such a long time to make. Every time she came in, she talked about how the quilt was going.” And after six months of work, the customer presented the work of her hands and her heart—the beautiful quilt. Embroidered with “Regions” and the year, the quilt was hand-pieced with the Regions colors. Each stitch was an act of appreciation.
“My grandmother used to make quilts,” says branch manager, Retta Babin. “I saw how much time, thought, and talent that went into making one of these works of art.”
“These customers are part of your community, and they truly become a part of your family,” says Keena. And in this charming Thibodaux community, this act of kindness and appreciation couldn’t have made the folks at the branch more grateful to be a part of that community family.
Alexis Picardi, team leader at the Edgewater, Fla. branch of Regions, would have been concerned to see any customer enter the bank looking agitated and disoriented. But in the case of a regular customer, she was especially concerned because she had just seen this elderly woman the day before, and she seemed fine. Now, she didn’t remember Alexis at all.
“She comes in quite often, and that day it was obvious that something was going on,” Alexis recalls.
As the saying goes, it takes a village, and sometimes that means simply that individuals take time to look after one another as fellow human beings.
Alexis, particularly concerned her customer would put herself and others inharm’s way by getting back in the car, called her supervisor, Chris Broadwell, for advice.
Chris knew it was a delicate situation. “The customer was very agitated but also lethargic and very confused,” Chris explains. “So the question was, what should we do? Alexis wanted to try to help this person without stepping over any lines of what you can and can’t do in a situation like this. Because she’s such a compassionate individual, she felt strongly this customer was in real trouble.”
Chris advised Alexis to try and locate a family member, friend, or neighbor who might be able to help, but the customer couldn’t name anyone to call. Ultimately, they decided to call the local police to do a wellness check, and Alexis tried to keep her calm by asking how she felt and what she’d been doing that day.
“Once the police arrived and began talking with the customer, they felt she was clearly in distress, called for an ambulance, and took her to the hospital.”
She was released from the hospital a few hours after becoming stable, and Alexis eventually learned from the woman’s niece she had been suffering from low blood sugar. The woman’s niece thanked her profusely—as did the customer when she returned to the branch later to thank Alexis herself. The customer, meanwhile, has stopped driving due to her doctors’ concerns.
As Chris puts it, taking action was a way of helping a customer above and beyond a bank’s normal role. “It’s not defined in our job, but on the other hand, it is part of our job,” she says. “One of our core values is, ‘Put people first.’ It’s about having respect for other people, caring, and serving others. Not only do we have a fiduciary responsibility to help protect our customers, but to me, in this case, it was also about caring and having compassion for a person in a difficult state, under some out-of-the-ordinary circumstances. “Alexis was clearly distressed about the health and well being of this customer, and we needed to ‘Put People First,’ whatever that looked like.”
Alexis Picardi and Chris Broadwell are associates of Regions.
One would be hard pressed to find a person who, at some point in their life, has not or will not be affected by heart disease. With that unfortunate reality in mind, Anna Threadcraft and Jonna Wallace teamed up with other Regions associates and the American Heart Association (AHA) to orchestrate a powerful event during the month of February.
February is American Heart Month, and to raise awareness for heart disease and provide connectivity between those who have dealt with the impact of heart disease, the AHA implemented their Red Couch Campaign at Regions in Birmingham, Ala. The Red Couch is a story-telling platform, and Regions associates and customers came together around the couch to support each other— and the cause—as they gave testimony to the devastating reality of heart disease. There was also positive enthusiasm around the Red Couch, as associates encouraged each other to actively work to prevent heart disease in their own lives—an initiative the bank proactively promotes for both associates and customers.
Through video stories and a “selfie station” on the Red Couch, a strong showing of faces and voices created a collage of moving experiences. In addition to lifting awareness, Regions associates raised $7,700 for the AHA through donations during a “Denim Day,” with the help of the efforts of Anna Buntin, Denise Canfield, and Michelle Spencer.
To hear the stories from the Red Couch, be sure to watch the American Heart Association “Red Couch” video from the week-long event, and also search #followthatcouch.
Anna Threadcraft, Anna Buntin, Denise Canfield, Jonna Wallace, and Michelle Spencer are associates of Regions.
Kayla Vaughn, Financial Specialist in Central Alabama, discovered first-hand the honor of "thanking" a veteran. Following a conversation among friends, Kayla's heart led her to make a commitment to give back to others, and the 150-year-old home of a Korean War veteran inspired her to begin her impactful work. The house in Montgomery, Alabama, had not been surveyed since the 1880s, and the structure was in terrible disrepair.
"This man had lived here his whole life and served his country," says Kayla, and so she decided it was time for someone to serve him. With a team of volunteers, Kayla helped to clean up the yard, remove clutter, reinforce the walls, and repair the roof of this home, which like its owner, had seen both good and hard times over the course of its life. Her act of generosity and service helped provide stability—both literally and figuratively—for a man who gave so much of himself for the freedom of others.
Kayla Vaughn is an associate of Regions.
Every year during the holidays, the Regions branch in Nashville where Mike Arrington works pitches in to purchase gifts for children in need. This past year, Mike, who is a volunteer coach for a traveling youth baseball team, realized he had the perfect candidates for these holiday gifts right under his nose—two of his players aged 11 and 12 who are oldest of 10 children in a family he knew was facing financial hardship.
Mike called the children’s mom to find out what they might want for Christmas. “When she started talking about socks and underwear, I knew right away how great their family’s need really was,” he says. Talking further to the boys during their drives to practice, he realized the project would be more than he’d initially envisioned. Though the family had recently moved from subsidized housing into a new neighborhood, they had very little furniture—one bed, an air mattress and a sofa. Clothes were stacked on the floor because there were no dressers in which to put them.
Mike put out the word to his colleagues, and donations of furniture and other items began to pour in. Bank customers heard about the effort and made donations of their own. One woman—just a friend of a customer who heard what they were doing—took Mike to an estate sale and told him to take his pick of whatever he thought the family needed.
As the furniture donations came in, Mike asked the boys to clear everything off the floor to make room. “When I came back, every single item was picked up and out of the way,” he remembers. “Then the next time I came back, not only had the furniture I’d already dropped off been assembled, but also the family had painted all the walls in the house.”
For Mike, the project was a rewarding extension of ways he tries to provide support to his players year round. A onetime star pitcher in college, he started this team as a way of giving talented kids—many of whom come from struggling backgrounds—the coaching, experience, and mentorship they need for a good shot at earning college scholarships.
As for these two boys, Mike senses the community’s and bank’s holiday gifts of eight new beds as well as dressers, bed linens, clothing, toys, and gift cards gave the family an additional boost towards making their new house feel even more like home.
“I pick up the boys every Sunday afternoon for practice,” Mike says, “and when I go in the house, the beds are made and neat, and things seem to be more relaxed in the home because the kids have their own space.
“They have really taken pride in the house, and I believe these gifts from people who cared are really going to help them get a fresh start in their new home.”
Mike Arrington is an associate of Regions in Nashville.
The Villages, Florida
As the holidays approached last year, Greg Parady went shopping for the company’s annual Toys for Tots party. The year prior he’d purchased a trailer full of toys, bikes, and other gifts to give away, and he intended to do the same this time.
Waiting at the store for his wife and a partner to arrive, he heard something that set off a light bulb. “I was just sort of kicking around Wal-Mart and overheard someone say they were going to cancel their layaway because they couldn’t pay the balance before Christmas,” Greg remembers. “And it just sort of clicked.” He approached a manager to find out the total amount owed for all of the store’s layaway purchases. He told the managers how much he could afford to spend, and together they devised a plan they thought would have the greatest impact: “We said, how about if we take all the balances over $200, pay half of each, and see how far down the list we get?”
As Greg stood swiping his credit card again and again, customers continued to approach the layaway counter to make payments. Still more came to cancel purchases. For all of these, he simply paid off their bills on the spot.
Greg recalls one of the customers who still stands out in his memory of that day. “A young single mom came in to make a payment, and an employee explained, ‘That gentlemen just paid off your layaway.’ She just started crying. And then I started crying, and then of course the ladies behind the desk were crying. That went on for a while.”
Greg says he felt especially gratified to be able to help struggling parents, because he respects how hard people work to buy gifts for their children and other loved ones during the holiday season. “Layaway is a ‘maybe’ for a lot of people,” he explains. “It’s something they start, hoping they can eventually pay for it. So it was really rewarding to be able to take some of those maybes and make them realities.”
It didn’t take long for word of the “Layaway Santa” to spread, and Greg and his company eventually made it onto all of the major networks as well as Time magazine and USA Today. He got fan mail from as far away as England, Romania, and Belize.
He acknowledges all the unexpected publicity will make for a tough act to follow next year, but he’s already brainstorming…and daring to hope that the story’s spread might inspire those who’ve heard about it to try something similar in whatever way they can.
“For me, it certainly turned an ordinary day into something that felt really special for everyone.”
Greg Parady is a customer of Regions.
When Audrey Murrell won a Regions bike at a trade show in August, no one at Regions knew the special significance the prize held for her—or more specifically, for one of her employees at the Augusta Training Shop. Audrey is executive director for the non-profit workshop in Augusta, Ga., that employs people with a variety of disabilities, teaching them skills such as furniture refinishing, chair re-caning, and metal polishing. For many of the shop’s employees, transportation is a critical tool for being able to live more independently. Audrey immediately decided to donate the bike to an employee named Nicholas, whose own bike had been stolen, causing him to walk some three miles to work each day.
Russell Morgan, Augusta City President at Regions, was among those who went to present the bike to Nicholas. “Nicholas had been busy leading us around and introducing us to people the whole time,” he remembers, “but when we told him we were giving the bike to him, he went from very talkative to speechless really quickly.”
Meanwhile, winning a new bike for an employee who needed transportation was also only one happy coincidence in a series of positive developments the shop has experienced lately. Last winter, an employee who is nonverbal had learned to weave beautiful, decorative wooden Carolina snowflakes out of seat caning and rushing material, and he quickly grew so good at crafting them in a variety of unique designs that the snowflakes caught the attention of Garden & Gun Magazine, which plans to show them in its “Made in the South Marketplace” in December.
Beverly Major, program supervisor for the Training Shop, says the support they have received from the snowflakes and other products could eventually help them expand their services. “We have had a waiting list for employees a long time, and now we’re hoping to be able to take on a few more people because of this.”
For Russell, delivering the bike and seeing what it meant to Nicholas was rewarding, but so was experiencing first-hand the operation itself. “Prior to going there, I’d heard of it but wasn’t totally familiar with the work they do,” Russell explains. “From the moment we got out of our vehicle, employees were coming out to welcome us and to see if we needed help with anything—just the kindest, nicest people you would ever want to meet. They are also very proud of the work they do. A lot of them have some type of a challenge, but they learn skills and teach them to each other, and the resulting work they do is literally amazing.”
Adds Beverly, “We’ve really had a wonderful year at the Training Shop, and we’re excited to see what we can do next.”
Pictured above: Russell, Nicholas, and Ben.
Russell Morgan and Ben Tankersley are Regions Associates in Augusta, Georgia.