Noah Wilcox: Helping communities in good and bad times

Noah Wilcox

“Our job is to help people in good times and not-so-good times. What we do for the benefit of the community is part of who we are.”

As we approach the conclusion of the third quarter, I can’t help but reflect on what a whirlwind the past six months have been. Community banks have grappled with a series of seismic events, including a pandemic, mandatory shutdown orders and processing a mindboggling number of Small Business Administration loans in one sitting. But on that last point at least, we have prevailed.

Our sheer grit and tenacity ensured that resources made their way into our communities. In fact, we singlehandedly put more than $330 billion back into the economy in the form of Paycheck Protection Program loans, in addition to countless other measures to help. In short, we have stepped up in support of our communities.

My Top Three

In light of all the good community bankers do, here are my top three most unusual fundraising activities this year:

  1. Offering a socially distanced, floating concert for boaters
  2. Underwriting drive-in movie nights
  3. Collaborating with community banks to create a matching COVID-19 relief fund with the local United Way

Yet, despite the unique circumstances of the pandemic, I’ve been reminded of one thing: This is nothing new; it’s what we do. It’s in our DNA to serve our communities in whatever capacity we can, and in today’s environment, that means increasing our efforts. For example, in Grand Rapids, Minn., we have underwritten music, outdoor movies and other entertainment that can bring the community together in a responsible way. I’m proud to say that in any given month, we have 100% of our staff volunteering in the community, but I know we’re not alone in that. As community bankers, our job is to help people in good times and not-so-good times. What we do for the benefit of the community is part of who we are.

It’s so ingrained in our cultures that we simply don’t think about our influence. Six months ago, I would say that we, as bankers, probably took for granted how much of an impact we have, but the pandemic has crystallized our contributions. The strain that COVID-19 has placed on the human condition has reminded community bankers just how hard we work and need to continue to work every day to do right by our communities and take care of our people.

You’ll see evidence of this dedication throughout this month’s issue. In fact, the National Community Bank Service Awards capture the spirit of community banking and the many forms “giving back” has taken in the COVID-19 environment. Reading these stories makes me all the more proud to be a community banker.

Because, as we go about our business in the new normal, it’s not about the grand gestures; it’s about the day to day. We don’t look for the quick-hit, one-time gift. Rather, community banks are in it for the long haul. We pledge consistent support to the activities that feed the longevity of our communities, which is why we’ll rise from this pandemic stronger than ever.

Noah W. Wilcox, Chairman, ICBA
Noah Wilcox is president, CEO and chairman of Grand Rapids State Bank and its holding company, Wilcox Bancshares Inc., Grand Rapids, Minn.
Connect with Noah @NWWilcox