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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.
When some of the finest math students from the country came together to go head-to-head in the annual American Regions Mathematic League (ARML) competition last spring, the state of Alabama was almost not represented. That’s because the former team coach, a math teacher from Birmingham, left a void when he recently relocated to Texas.
So Jonathan Hurowitz—a senior at The Altamont School in Birmingham and avid ARML competitor—became a one-kid search team, putting out feelers first around his own school and then around the state looking for a replacement. Everyone demurred, in no small part because of the logistics involved in fielding a team across several schools and counties, managing paperwork, scheduling practices, and organizing travel to the competitions.
So after a month of being turned down, Jonathan thought back to that old adage: If you want something done right—or in this case, want it done at all—you might just have to do it yourself. So he decided that at the age of 15, he was going to be head coach of the Alabama ARML team.
He knew some of the obstacles he faced. A lot of the team’s star players had graduated, leaving him to field a much younger team than in years past. But that was just a coaching challenge. Even more daunting was the organizing. On that front, Jonathan learned more management skills than many people learn in their first few years in the workplace. But he was tenacious, which is a testament to Jonathan’s character, says Altamont teacher and Scholars’ Bowl Coach Buck Crowe. “Jonathan is a kid who doesn’t do things because he thinks they are cool, but because he has the initiative to make things happen. And in doing so, he motivates other students.”
And in the end, his team fared pretty well. Competing at the University of Georgia in early June—against a team from Florida with not only a professional coach but an assistant from MIT, and a Georgia team whose assistants were math majors at Georgia Tech—they finished in the top half against much older students. “We gave a lot of effort and held our own,” Jonathan says. But as a die-hard competitor, Jonathan is aiming higher next year. “We want to win, of course.”
Jonathan’s mother, Hope Mehlman, is a Regions associate.
Regions is proud to support the Alabama ARML team.
Marilyn White, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Anyone that knows Dianne Cowan knows that she has an incredibly generous spirit. From volunteer work to taking in animals in need to providing exceptional support for her Little Rock community, Dianne has shown all those around her the fruits of servant leadership.
Several months ago, Dianne sent a message to her Facebook friends letting us know of the difficulties of a man she had befriended. The man was homeless, not by choice but by unfortunate circumstance. At this point in his life, he was living in his pickup truck with his dog. As Dianne got to know this man, she saw his incredible drive and knew that she could help him get back to a productive life.
The man's pickup truck was in disrepair, and Dianne reached out to her Facebook community for help. She asked if we could each give five dollars to help the man get his truck repaired so he could continue his part-time work. Moved by the kindness and generosity of Dianne, her friends responded in an overwhelming way. Not only was his truck repaired, but also Dianne and her community continued to bless the man as he went on job interviews and found part-time work.
However, the story doesn't stop there.
During some of the coldest nights in Little Rock, one of Dianne's friends made a contribution so the man and his dog could stay in a hotel. As a more permanent solution, Dianne called to her community to raise enough money and to find a home for the man (even being sure to find one with a fence for his dog). Donations that ranged from sofas and a bed, to a washer and dryer and appliances allowed her friend to establish a home for himself as he continued his search for full time work.
Through Dianne's example and selfless determination, her genuine friendship to her community, and a serendipitous encounter, the man soon found a full time job. She was even able to help the man find a more fuel-efficient vehicle for the long drive to his new job that he so needed and wanted.
A true servant leader, Dianne is inspiration to me. She is an outstanding reminder that a little extra effort can make a tremendous difference in another person's life.
Dianne Cowan is a Regions Insurance associate in Little Rock, Arkansas.
MARK MARTIN, BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA
Recently, what started as just a normal Wednesday, quickly turned into a harrowing day for my family. At approximately 1:00 pm, I received a call from St. Vincent's East, a medical facility on the eastern side of Birmingham, Alabama. I was told that I needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible because my father had been in a bad accident. The hospital would release no further information over the phone to me. Instantly, I knew this had to be very serious.
What I came to find out was that my father had just pulled away from the Regions branch (#0019) in Trussville, Alabama, when he suffered a cardiac arrhythmia and had an accident within sight of the branch. God smiled on my father that day, as one of the people involved in the accident was a Birmingham paramedic. The paramedic had witnessed my father's loss of consciousness and immediately began to attend to him. Finding no heartbeat, he began CPR. Not having the desired effect, he eventually administered shock treatment from a defibrillator he obtained from a physical rehab clinic next to Regions. My father's life was saved that day. He was to spend seven days in the hospital before he was released to return home.
During this time, a voicemail was left on the answering machine at my parent's home by the manager of the Trussville branch. Hearing that message gave me cause to truly appreciate the core values of Regions.
Deborah Thomas, the branch manager in Trussville, who I have never met, left the voicemail to inquire about my father and to let my family know she cared. Her message was warm and sincere and brought great comfort to my parents. They said it was wonderful to have someone go out of their way to show that kind of compassion. I would like to extend our thanks from my family and from me to Ms. Thomas for delivering on the 1st core value of Regions.
Of the five core values Regions strives to exemplify and expects us to live by as associates, I saw this one in action first hand:
Put People First: Have respect for every person. Listen. Care. Serve others before yourself. Build the best team. Be inclusive. Work as one team. Balance work in a full life. Lead humanely. Set the good example. And remember to say thank you.
Kristi Galloway, Mobile, Alabama
In a tiny hillside community outside of Montego Bay in Jamaica, the children of Mt. Zion All Age School started 2013 with tote bags full of new school and personal supplies thanks to the not-for-profit corporation The Links, Inc. and some help from Regions.
The Links is one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations of extraordinary women who are dedicated to enriching, sustaining, and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African-Americans and other people of African ancestry. The organization adopted the Mt. Zion All Age School over seven years ago after recognizing the great need in this impoverished area.
Diane Duggin, a volunteer with the Montgomery County, Pa., chapter of The Links, helped bring Regions into the effort when she brought her cousin, Alma Hickman, to visit the school while they were on vacation together in Montego Bay. Alma, an associate of Regions in Mobile, Ala., was moved by what she saw. “The children heard the van coming, and they came running out to see Diane, yelling ‘Mrs. D! Mrs. D!’” Alma remembers. “It just fills your heart up, because they are so appreciative of what Diane and The Links do for them.”
In turn, Alma was motivated to help by organizing the donation of Regions tote bags filled with basic school supplies, and the Links rounded out the package with additional goods for the children. “These simple items mean everything to these kids,” Diane says. “They need everything.”
Mt. Zion has benefited from The Links’ efforts in many substantial ways over the years, including the creation of educational, art and tutoring programs, improved infrastructure, a daily lunch program, and much-needed transportation. “The teachers tell us that when the children’s most basic needs are met,” Diane adds, “they can finally get to the education.”
Volunteers from The Links at the Mt. Zion School, Jamaica (pictured): Kimberly Arrendell, Diane Welburn and Veatrice Baugh
Cindy McGarrigle, Clearwater, Florida
Regions West Florida branches, in the Tampa Bay area, have been holding their "teddy bear round up" for over 5 years, and this year was no exception. Each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the bank partners with the Rough Riders, a service organization, and the local WFLA station (Channel 8) to collect new teddy bears for delivery to children in area hospitals during the holidays and also throughout the rest of the year. Approximately 20,000 teddy bears are collected each year of which 5,000 are contributions by Regions associates and customers.
We would like to thank our customers that are our main source of collecting the bears, many of whom organize teddy bear collections in their neighborhood, schools, etc.
When the Rough Riders arrive in their uniforms to visit with the children, their faces light up. Families, staff, doctors, and kids alike are always delighted to see the invasion of the Rough Riders with teddy bears in tow.
Clarice Carl, a customer from our Belleair Highland office organized a drive at her mobile home park. She collected over 100 bears and delivered them to the branch.
Connie Tucker-Long, Huntsville, Alabama
The team in Huntsville wanted to make an impact in the community, so we started collecting food items for the Food Bank at the Clearview Cancer Institute. The Institute is a leader in cancer treatment, offering excellence in patient care, research, and education. Cancer patients from all over the North Alabama area receive treatment for many types of cancer at CCI. Many of us have used the services offered at CCI, either for a family member or for ourselves, so we know the good quality of care that they provide.
Around the holidays many patients need a helping hand with food during treatment. Often patients are not able to travel to the store to purchase food, and some cannot even afford to buy food. We collected over 1,200 food items to donate to CCI's Food Bank. Volunteers and our family members helped unpack, sort, and repack the food items, and we had volunteers help deliver 45 boxes of food to CCI. When we delivered the boxes, the expressions on the faces of the staff were priceless. This effort will certainly make the holidays a little brighter for many patients in need.
Pictured: Delores "Chip" Ancell, Regions, Patty Stutts, CCI, and Connie Tucker-Long, Regions