Story of the Month

Talk about it? Nah, we live it. You could say it's in our blood - a little different, a little weird, a lot of fun, and always #PeopleFirst. We have some great stories to tell along the way. Here are a few of our favorites this month.

Thank You for voting from the bottom of our heart.


Here for the Harvest

Posted January 2 2019 in #PeopleFirst

Header photo: Ashly Halley showing her empty cash box after a busy day of cashing checks.

For Choice Bank, who has many locations in farming communities, harvest season isn’t just a busy time for farmers. It also means there will be a series of days with no farmworkers visiting the bank, followed by a very busy paycheck day; the one window of time where local farmworkers come to cash their checks for the long hours spent in the field. Sometimes cars and trucks with four or five workers inside will come through the drive-thru, each with large checks to cash.

For the bank employees, it can almost be overwhelming — but they understand.

“I grew up in a farming community,” said Ashly Halley, a Frontline Specialist at Choice Bank in Grafton, ND. “So I know how crazy harvest season can be.”

During the days of peak craziness, Ashly’s “light at the end of the tunnel” is clocking out and heading home to a cozy night in. That’s exactly what she had on her mind during one of the busiest days, when she had a never-ending flow of customer after customer coming through the drive-thru.

“I didn’t have a chance to catch up on anything,” she said. In fact, she was counting and transferring so much money in paychecks that she had to call in Sara Gullickson, Personal Banker, to get money from the vault to restock.

Even for harvest season, this day was particularly busy. An unexpected rain had come through, forcing the beet and potato farmers off the field for the afternoon. In their short amount of free time, many farmworkers chose to head to Choice Bank to cash their checks. Ashly was there, with a smile and a warm welcome, to help get them with what they needed so they could get back to work.

But by the time 5 o’clock rolled around, she was exhausted. And that’s when the phone call came in. Sara answered.

“What time do you close?” it was a group of farmworkers, on their way home from the field.

“We close at 5,” Sara said.

“Is there any possibility you could stay open a few more minutes?” the man asked, sounding frazzled. “We’re just leaving the farm. We’re the last crew.”

“Is there any possibility you could stay open a few more minutes?” the man asked, sounding frazzled. “We’re just leaving the farm. We’re the last crew.”

Sara glanced over at Ashly. Ashly nodded.

“Definitely,” Sara said.

“Thank you!” the relief was audible in his voice.

Turns out it wasn’t the only crew caught working late; another car of three workers drove up soon after the phone call, and then the two men who talked to Sara arrived around 5:15 PM.

“Thank you very much,” they said, explaining that their next payday was a while away.

Sara was impressed. She’d seen how hard Ashly worked all day, and yet still agreed to stay late — all with a smile on her face.

“I saw how crazy it was,” Sara said. “At closing time, you’re ready to call it a day. The fact that Ashly had no problem staying later and wasn’t grumbling under her breath, shows that she understands the PeopleFirst philosophy that Choice stands for.”

To Ashly, it’s about being empathetic with the customer.

“We know how it is in the farming community. Those checks are often their money for a couple weeks. I felt for them, knowing how they must feel,” she said. “That’s what PeopleFirst is all about. It’s looking at it from their point of view and seeing what they need.”

“That’s what PeopleFirst is all about. It’s looking at it from their point of view and seeing what they need.”

To top it all off, after a day of handling large amounts of checks and money — everything was balanced perfectly.

“One of our Choice core values is Complete your work timely and accurately,” Sara said. “Ashly did that like a rock star that day. You’re flipping through cash all day, and at the end of the day, the money is all balanced. That’s amazing.”

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New Beginnings in Belfield

Posted in #PeopleFirst

Header photo: (Left to Right) Kristi Tessier, Father Shane Campbell, and Patty Hutzenbiler.

Most people can relate to the feeling of being new; whether you’re the new kid in school, the new employee at work, or the new family in the neighborhood. While the newness can be exciting, it often goes hand in hand with fear, anxiety, and even loneliness.

Recently, St. Bernard’s parish in Belfield, ND was assigned a new priest. These priests don’t choose where they are assigned, they simply move to the new home they are given as part of their ministry. This priest, Father Shane Campbell, came from a large parish in Mandan, ND, population 22,228 — to the much smaller parish in Belfield, population 976.

“It’s a totally new community for him,” said Kristi Tessier, a Frontline Specialist at Choice Bank in Belfield, who is also a member of the St. Bernard’s parish. “He’s just starting to get to know the names and the people here.”

“It’s a totally new community for him,” said Kristi Tessier. “He’s just starting to get to know the names and the people here.”

Part of that, she explained, is learning the many Ukrainian last names of Belfield. At a recent parish bazaar, he had to apologize for the mispronunciations. “Bear with me,” he said. “I’ll learn these names!”

Speaking of last names, Patty Hutzenbiler is another member of the parish and a Frontline Specialist at Choice Bank (that’s HUTS-en-bi-ler ). Patty was eager to make Father Shane feel as welcome as possible. She’s an avid sports fan, and regularly attends the local games; high school football, basketball, softball, etc. When she ran into Father Shane at the Friday night football game, it was a pleasant surprise.

“He told me he really enjoys sports of all kinds,” she said.  That got her thinking…

Later, as Patty thought of ways to welcome Father Shane, the perfect idea came to her. She called up the high school to see if it was possible to buy him a season pass so he could attend any game free of charge. After a quick conversation, the school agreed it was a great idea. Patty and her husband paid for the pass with their personal funds and picked it up that same day.

“We wanted to get him involved with the community, and the people and families who live here,” she said. “What better way than to get him a pass to all the home games!”

“We wanted to get him involved with the community, and the people and families who live here,” she said.

Kristi was working when Patty made the phone call to the school and overheard her conversation. She was delighted but not surprised to see Patty, yet again, going out of her way to make a positive difference in someone’s life.

“Patty is always doing great things in the community,” she said. “This was such an awesome thing to do.”

When Patty called up Father Shane and told him the news, he was ecstatic. He came by the bank that day to pick up the pass and thanked Patty for the thoughtful gift. Since then they’ve planned to meet at some of the upcoming games and cheer for the Heart River Cougars together!

“Smile, be helpful and be passionate,” Patty said, referencing one of the Choice Bank’s core values that motivates her. “We wanted him to feel welcome, to know that he has a home here.”

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Speaking Starbucks

Posted January 3 2019 in #PeopleFirst

Header photo: Tim Sattler (left) enjoying a hot cup of coffee with Amanda Amiot (right).

For those who know Amanda Amiot, a Frontline Specialist at Choice’s Grand Forks North location, you know she always has a coffee in hand. And it’s always from Starbucks.

“It’s usually a Triple Vanilla Latte,” she said. “But sometimes I like to get a Grande Blonde Pumpkin Spice Triple Soy No Whip.”

As a part-time barista at Starbucks, Amanda speaks the Starbucks tongue-twister lingo like a pro. You want a Grande Iced Sugar Free Vanilla Latte with Soy Milk? Got it. How about a Triple Venti Half-Sweet Non-Fat Caramel Macchiato? On it. Not only that, but Amanda memorizes each regular by name and knows their orders.

Her banker and barista jobs help her pay for classes at the University of North Dakota, where she is a full-time student. And while she enjoys her work at both places, it sometimes means she is, understandably, a little tired. Despite that, Amanda is known for her positive and bubbly energy at work and always brings a smile to her coworkers and customers.

“Amanda brings a lot of energy. And our customers can sense that,” said Tim Sattler, Leasing Manager in Grand Forks.

One particular morning, however, that energy was hard to muster up. Amanda had a 5:30 AM Starbucks shift before heading to her frontline shift at Choice. It was a Friday morning — a busy time for the team with lots of customers to help. Worst of all, she forgot to grab her morning coffee.

“Gosh I’m just dragging today,” she lamented to her coworker, Chris Danielson. “I could really use a Starbucks right now.”

Tim, who had just returned from his lunch break and was checking his mail, overheard. He could tell Amanda needed a little pick-me-up.

“What do you want?” he chimed in, already getting his coat back on. Amanda was surprised.

“I’ll head over right now,” Tim smiled. Amanda and Chris looked at each other. Tim was well-known for bringing positivity to the office; whether it was cracking jokes to get people laughing, or small thoughtful gestures to get you to smile. This was just one more reason they loved their team.

Amanda knew right away what she wanted. She wrote it down on a Post-It note so Tim wouldn’t have trouble remembering: Grande Double Blonde Iced Chai with Soy.

Unlike Amanda, Tim is not well-versed in Starbucks language. In fact, he doesn’t like to drink coffee at all. He describes the various haikus and wording gymnastics of a Starbucks order as the equivalent of “attending church in Latin.” Needless to say, as he pulled up to the drive-thru with the Post-It note in hand, he was anxious to get it right.

“I was sweating bullets,” he said with a laugh.

As he pulled up to the window and the girl asked for his order, he paused.

“Can I just hand you this?” he said, handing over the note.

The girl looked at it and grinned.

“Is this for Amanda?” she said.

“It is!”

The girl disappeared and came back quickly with the order. And when it got back to Amanda, that first sip was like a new beginning.

“It turned the whole day around,” she said.

Not only that, but the coffee remained a reminder of Tim’s generosity and what it means to be #PeopleFirst throughout the day. Whenever a customer was upset, Amanda said, she would glance at the coffee cup sitting next to her and smile.

“He put his employees before himself. It was a reminder that we’re all a part of something so much bigger than ourselves,” she said.

It all contributes to creating a place where people enjoy working and being around each other, she said.

“So many people talk about how they dread going to work, or not looking forward to it. I can honestly say that I am excited to come to work.”

Chris Danielson, who witnessed Tim go out of his way to help out Amanda, said it’s these things that build camaraderie throughout the team.“It all goes hand in hand, working hard and having a little fun,” he said, integrating the Choice core value: Work hard, do the right thing, and have a little fun. “Here at Grand Forks, that’s very evident; there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t laugh as a team.”

For Tim, it’s about showing genuine appreciation for the team — in big ways and in little ways, like offering to grab their favorite half-a-page drink order at Starbucks.

“I think sometimes we get so caught up in our own tasks, that we unintentionally take our teammates for granted,” he said. “I want to show them that they are genuinely appreciated for what they do. It’s a way to say, ‘thank you.’”

Better the places you live…and work!

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