In August, a devastating storm rocked Tennessee’s Humphreys County. In the city of Waverly, Apex Bank employees not only rescued their neighbors but helped affected families rebuild their lives and grieve for their loved ones.
By William Atkinson
Community banks go above and beyond the call of service to their communities in various ways. Some, though, like $934 million-asset Apex Bank in Camden, Tenn., answer that call in ways that can only be described as remarkable.
On Aug. 21, 2021, Humphreys County, located about 90 minutes from Nashville, saw catastrophic flooding from a large storm system that moved through the state. A record-breaking 17 inches of rain fell in just 24 hours. About 20 people were killed and at least 40 more are still unaccounted for. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed, and thousands of local residents were left without power or access to food, clean water or clothing.
A number of agencies from across the state converged to help with rescue efforts and disaster relief. Apex Bank was among those leading the recovery efforts in its community.
“It’s hard to imagine losing everything you own in a matter of minutes, but that is what happened to over 500 families here on Aug. 21.”
—Marcus Vine, Apex Bank
Being there for the community
“I first arrived in the downtown area as the water was receding on that Saturday morning,” says Marcus Vine, Apex Bank’s community bank president. “Since our bank sits on slightly higher ground, neither our bank nor our community center were damaged by floodwaters.”
Vine began talking with a young couple he happened to see sitting on the front steps of the community center. They explained they had just lost everything in the flood. “They were still soaking wet and covered in mud, and that’s when the magnitude of the damage began to hit me,” he says.
Vine immediately opened the community center, allowing it to serve as a shelter for those in need. He arranged for food and supplies to be brought in from a neighboring county. “Apex team members began to show up, and we began meeting needs and feeding people just hours after the flood,” Vine says.
One of those employees was Stacy Shatswell, the Waverly, Tenn., office branch manager. “Stacy was hands-on in running the center and coordinating delivery and distribution of supplies all throughout the community,” Vine says.
The community center became a central hub for those in need of nonperishable food, clothing, hygiene items and other supplies. Bank employees and others cooked and served as many as 1,500 hot meals daily from its kitchen. All told, the center ran 24/7 for seven straight weeks.
“It’s hard to imagine losing everything you own in a matter of minutes,” Vine says, “but that is what happened to over 500 families here on Aug. 21.”
Responding to the disaster
Apex Bank established a special account for collecting and distributing disaster relief donations. As of mid-October, the community bank had collected and disbursed more than $194,000, which has benefited 188 families.
These funds have been used to aid in cleanup efforts, provide temporary housing and even make down payments on vehicles; about 1,500 vehicles were damaged in the storm.
Donations continue to roll in, and the bank disburses them on a daily basis. Vine points to the example of Adam Mullinax, a loan officer at the Waverly office who spent the morning of the flood using his boat to rescue people up and down the city’s Main Street. Since then, Mullinax has spent countless hours meeting with victims and securing funds.
Building back stronger
The Apex Bank team realized that there was even more they could do.
“A couple of days after the flood, as it became apparent that the loss of life would likely be great, and that many people were still on the missing persons list, we knew that our community would be preparing for multiple funeral services,” Vine says. In response, Matt Daniels, Apex Bank president and CEO, reached out to Vine and asked him to help with every funeral expense in Waverly.
The community bank made the decision to donate $2,500 to help defray funeral expenses to each family that lost a family member. “We were able to serve 18 families across the community and pay over $47,000 toward the funeral expenses of their loved ones,” Vine says.
Vine simply sees Apex Bank’s efforts as part of being a good neighbor. Still, the Waverly community has been appreciative of the bank and its staff. “Together, over time,” he says, “we will build this community back stronger than before.”
William Atkinson is a writer in Illinois.