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Food for Thought

Every month, like clockwork, Robert Beauchamp comes into Choice Financial in Walhalla and picks up his social security check. He’s an older man, upper 70’s, with graying hair and a crinkled smile. He doesn’t have much; an old shack in the woods, the clothes on his back, a car that barely runs. He is happy.…

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A Walk in Medina

It was an unusually warm day in February, when Rhonda Schlecht, a Personal Banker in Medina, got a phone call. Long-time customer, Sherry Meadows, was at the end of her rope. She was trying to set up her online banking account, and was having more than a little trouble. “Sherry has been a customer for…

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

For those who have never worked on a cattle ranch, managing cattle is no easy task. Feeding them involves hauling hay bales to each pen by tractor, and ensuring every cow and calf gets fed. During the calving process, the pregnant cows are bedded in the barn while welcoming new calves into the world —…

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The Gift of a Million Words

If a photo is worth a thousand words, a scrapbook is worth millions. These collections of photos, gathered and decorated, serve as a time capsule; a visual memory lane to look back on and treasure. The value of these memories is not lost on the Choice family at Ellendale. In fact, for the past several…

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Saved by the Check

In a time of distress, a comforting word of reassurance can be the perfect antidote. For Becky Anderson*, this came in the form of an urgent call to Choice Financial in Fargo. Becky, a long time customer, was in the midst of starting up a new business venture in commercial real estate. It required her…

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The Grand Reopening

Burly’s Roughrider Bar and Steakhouse in Belfield, North Dakota is a staple for the community. It’s just down the street from Choice Financial, and Internal Audit Specialist, Joyce Reisenauer, and Personal Banker, Diane Tift, stop by occasionally for lunch. Recently, the steakhouse was closed for a short period as the owners transitioned. A young man named Nate…

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Spreading the Love

Who doesn’t like spreading a little love? Every day is a chance to lend a hand, go the extra mile for a friend, and put people first. Today we want to share how this came together on a day devoted to love. This year for Valentine’s Day, we decided to surprise residents of local nursing homes…

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Get to know Paul Bakkum, Chief Risk Officer

What is your role at Choice and what do you do? Chief Risk Officer, which is a newer position to Choice.  The position oversees Loan Review, Audit, Compliance and BSA.  I participate in the Executive Team, Senior Credit Committee and Asset Liability Committee. Who is your personal hero and why? Harry Eisenbeis.  He was the…

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Erv Inniger Encourages Area Students to be Leaders

Over the past three months, Erv Inniger has been doing what he loves best—traveling to area communities and encouraging young adults to be leaders. Inniger, Community Relations Director for Choice Financial, has spent time with students and their families in the Langdon, Grafton, and Steele communities, amongst others, where he has impacted more than 400…

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Sending Soldiers a Piece of Home

As a military kid and the mother of a soldier, Patty Hutzenbiler, Front Line Specialist in Belfield, has a special compassion for those in the military. Her 35-year-old son, Matthew, has been in the military for 16 years. So when coworker Colette Obrigewitch told her that her son Seth was being deployed overseas with the…

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You’ve Got a Friend in Me

There are many qualities that make a good friend; sharing common interests, quality time over dinner and drinks, or working at the same bank, to name a few. But more than someone to share in good times, a friend is someone who will come to your aid in the hard times as well. Of these…

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Carson Wentz’s Biggest Fan

When a customer in New Jersey called Choice Financial about his check order, he got Amy Ebensteiner in Fargo. He recognized the accent right away. “You must be in the Midwest!” he said, with excitement. “Yes, I’m in Fargo,” Amy answered. “Well, I’ve gotta tell ya, I’m a huge Carson Wentz fan,” the man explained.…

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An Investment in Our Kids and Our Community

Better the places we live. Create opportunities for growth. Put people first. Since the foundation of Choice Financial, these have been fundamental core values that inspire our work, both inside and outside the bank. We are excited to share how these values align in an incredible partnership with Light of Christ Catholic Schools in Bismarck.…

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A Parting Gift

The story starts small. Morgan Smestad, Receptionist and Loan Assistant at Choice Financial in Grafton, was looking to change her plan with AFLAC. She was searching for ways to save money as she and her husband had just found out they were expecting their second baby and it was a plan she hadn’t used in…

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Operation Deal of the Day

It was Veteran’s Day, and Choice Financial in Walhalla was closed. Lacey Mathison, a Loan Assistant, was playing with her three and a half month old daughter, Riley. Kelsey Smith, Commercial Loan Operations Specialist, was in the grocery store with her four and two-year-olds. At about 1 PM, both of them received a frantic text…

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Art’s Thanksgiving Feast

If you live in Ellendale, North Dakota, you might recognize the feisty 95-year-old named Art. He is known to stroll around town stopping at local businesses, frequenting Fireside, the local restaurant, and charming anyone he meets with his no-nonsense quips. One of his regular stops is Choice Financial, where Front Line Specialist Julie Carter and…

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Get to Know Greg Goodman, CCO

What is your role at Choice and what do you do? Chief Credit Officer.  Work with a team to manage the credit risk to the bank. What did you want to be when you were growing up? If it is different than what you are doing now, what path led you here? I wanted to…

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Get to Know Jeff Kram, CFO

What is your role at Choice and what do you do? Chief Financial Officer. I oversee all the financials, prepare the budget, regulatory reporting, asset/liability (ALCO) management, alternative funding as well as many other finance and accounting related duties. What did you want to be when you were growing up? If it is different than what…

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Signed, Stamped and Delivered

When Todd Olson, Credit Analyst in Grand Forks, got a frantic call from his mother-in-law with an urgent request for help, he immediately thought of Lysette Lopez, Loan Assistant. “The first thing I thought is that Lysette is always willing to help,” Todd said. Todd’s mother-in-law, Laurie, is a Choice customer and the owner of…

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Lost and Found

The older gentleman was a stranger. He wore a tan jacket, a green shirt, glasses. He looked lost. All these things Lindsay Buchhop, a Front Line Specialist, took note of when he wandered into Choice Financial in Fargo. Turns out, he was lost. He needed directions to his insurance agent’s office. Lindsay, who says she’s…

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Do the Right Thing

Eddie Sheeley, Assistant Vice President at Choice Financial in Fargo, doesn’t normally negotiate real estate deals for clients. But when he heard Kelly’s situation, he knew he had to help. The problem was this. Kelly, a local small business owner, wanted to buy the commercial building she was currently leasing. The seller, however, had asked…

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Birthday Wishes—Mounds of Almond Joy

Frontline Specialist Jamie Zihlke, has always loved birthdays. She sees it as that one day of the year where you get to feel extra special. “It’s your day,” she says. That’s why every month, she takes a look at the upcoming birthdays for her customers at Choice Financial in Comfrey. Recently, two birthdays caught Jamie’s…

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The Secret Door

When Bruce Baer knocked on Father Miles’ door, he recognized the sound immediately. The knock echoed a bit too loudly; not the solid thump one would expect. “When you knock on a hollow core door, you know it,” said Bruce, the Senior Vice President at the Belfield location. The door had no insulation, and no…

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Thanks a Minion

Minions, the lovable yellow creatures that first appeared in the movie Despicable Me, have captured the hearts of many all over the world. But their biggest fan might be Choice customer, Karen Fisk in Belfield, North Dakota. Step into Karen’s house and her fandom is immediately apparent; she has everything from a Minion shower curtain…

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Heart and Soul

Like many pantries, the Kidder County Food Pantry is run by a handful of board members and volunteers. The pantry currently has two board members (and searching for a third), as well as 5 volunteers that help when needed. The board members dedicate an average of nine hours per month and the volunteers average around three…

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A Father’s Sacrifice

Northlands Rescue Mission in Grand Forks, ND  is able to operate thanks to around 50 volunteers in the community. Everyone who stays at the Mission also volunteers at least two hours each week. Roger and Lauralee are the backbone of the Mission. They dedicate a lot of time, putting in more than 40 hours a week.…

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The Gift of Giving

Deacon Mike Grzadzielewski has been with the Walsh County Emergency Food Pantry for 6 months.  Mike donates six hours a week at the food pantry. The pantry is open three hours a day, four days a week.  Those three hours a day Mike and volunteers do everything from working with the clients, packing bags, stocking…

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Inspired to Give Back

Michelle Murray has been President of the Pembina County Food Pantry for the last 12 years. Each week Michelle volunteers 2 hours of her time to the pantry because she enjoys helping families in need, especially the children and the elderly. She knows the service provided by the food pantry is greatly appreciated by the…

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Everyone Deserves to Eat

Bruce Stresemann has served on the board of directors for the Springfield Area Food Shelf for the last 4 years. Bruce typically spends an average of 6-8 hours a month working at the Food Shelf. His inspiration for serving is his belief that every human being deserves to eat. He recalls one time where he…

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Sometimes it’s the Small Things

Kathy Downs is Chairperson for the Cavalier County Emergency Food Pantry committee. There are nine board members, all of whom are local volunteers. There was a food pantry in Cavalier County that was run by an entity out of Devils Lake previous to this time. The community was encouraged to take over about four years…

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A Thanksgiving to Cherish

Kelly Gunsch is the Executive Director for Welcome House, a faith based non-profit located in Mandan, ND created to serve the needs of homeless families and to provide assistance to prevent people in our community from becoming homeless. Kelly describes their mission, “We surround families with case management and support services for up to three…

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I Get a Backpack!

Although North Dakota is the closest state in the nation to being hunger free, there are still so many people who rely on food banks for their next meal.  With approximately 1 million pounds of food donated each month, Great Plains Food Bank works to help reduce hunger in many communities in North Dakota and…

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Helping for Hugs

On the 3rd Saturday of each month, the LaMoure County Food Pantry is open from 10am to Noon. According to Janet Spiese, the food pantry is able to distribute to 18 – 20 families a month, reaching approximately 14 children. The food pantry has 16 volunteers, including local church Pastors and 2 members of each…

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Walkin’ in Someone Else’s Shoes

The Belfield/Medora Food Pantry was established in 1986 and today, 30 years later, the pantry still plays an important role in our community.  A core group of 12 volunteers are assisted by others from the community, including Choice Financial team members, filling various needs.  The group spends an average of 40 hours per month for gathering,…

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A Personal Mission

Michele Thorpe has been in charge of the Ellendale Food Pantry for 7 years. When Michele was the Parish Nurse for Ellendale, she realized how much need there was for a food pantry. The food pantry that was available at the time was in a dark room, in the back of a rundown building with…

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Three Little Boys get a Birthday Surprise

“I always thought Dickinson is an important place to live and it’s important to give back when there is a need,” said Susie Kapelovitz when asked about volunteering at the AMEN Food Pantry for the past 3 years, averaging 12 hours a week.   One moment from her time volunteering that has stuck with Susie…

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Stop and talk to the preschoolers

For Lisa Zimmerman, what she did on a recent summer afternoon was nondescript. But her coworker Renae Kennedy took special notice. Personal Banker, Robin Rewald was working with a client, a young mom named Doni. Her daughter Billie Jean was with her; she often comes with her into the bank, but usually remains safely behind her…

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Look for the little things: Tips from a professional tattletale

Kris Stroh keeps a note on her desk that says, “Look for the little things.” It reminds her, she says, that while people often dwell on the negativity around them, there are so many good things that deserve recognition. That’s where she is a true expert. Kris is known around the office as someone who…

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Cherry Pie & Grass Clippings

LaRae Horgan was on her way back from mowing lawns at the ambulance shelter when she noticed Ann’s car wasn’t in her driveway. She pulled over and surveyed the tall green grass, poking out from Ann’s lawn. Quickly, she pulled out her mower and made swift tracks across the lawn, spewing grass clippings and leaving…

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Do the Right Thing for Your Community

“… it was a dark and stormy night…” Or so goes the often-mocked and parodied phrase. But Rhonda Schlecht, Personal Banker, and Karen Schlecht, Senior Frontline Specialist, both from Medina can tell you firsthand about a real storm that hit Medina in July that was not to be mocked.   The morning after the storm, both…

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Whoa Nellie!

Nellie Keller, VP of Personal Banking at the Bismarck South location is a go-getter. If you’ve met her, there is no denying the fact that she regularly puts people first. According to Missy Lamp, Education Area Specialist at Bismarck South, Nellie not only helps people from different departments at this location, she also has been…

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Lunch Can Wait

It was 11:30, and Front Line Specialist Heather Anderson was scheduled to take her lunch break, leaving fellow Frontline Specialist Brooke Bjerke to take care of customers in her absence. It was a slow day, so it shouldn’t have been a problem. A homemade Mexican style meal of rice, veggies and salsa danced in Heather’s…

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Secret (Customer) Service

When Kelly called Choice Financial back in June, he didn’t want to talk to his wife, Mortgage Processor, Karla Janke, he wanted to talk to Insurance Manager, Jeanie Smestead and he wanted it to be a secret.   Karla’s birthday was coming up and Kelly told Jeanie that he wanted to surprise his wife with…

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Birthday Surprise

Belfield customer Leona hadn’t made any plans to celebrate on her birthday. She’d recently lost her husband, and frankly hadn’t put much thought into birthday plans. That’s why she was a little surprised when her neighbor, and Front Line Specialist, Janet Lindbo called to wish her a happy birthday. The two chatted for a while,…

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A Silver Lining

It was a rainy Wednesday afternoon when a Grand Forks man stopped in to his optometrist for new glasses. When it came time to pay, he pulled out his Choice Financial HSA debit card. It had been a long time since he’d used it, but he knew the balance was sufficient to pay his bill.…

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Lifesavers for Life Savers

Retail Team Leader, Sharon Soeby scanned through the paper as she always does, looking for opportunities where she and her teammates could help in their community of Walhalla. When her eyes fell on a notification that it was National EMS week, she was immediately inspired, so she shared her idea with Loan Assistant, Lacey Mathison.  …

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Guardian Angels

A young father named Joseph came in to open a new account in Ellendale. As Holly Schlenker, Frontline Specialist, was taking care of his transaction, their conversation turned to Joseph’s infant son. He mentioned that his family would soon be making a trip to Minneapolis to see a specialist for a condition with the young…

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Choice Delivers – Literally!

Long-time customer Keith thinks of CSR/Loan Assistant Val Leier and Personal Banker Rhonda Schlecht at the Medina location as family, coming in every day for coffee, cookies and conversation. He was so regular about his visits, that more than once, his “girls” went so far as to call his neighbors to check on him if he didn’t…

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A Hug Ambush in Grafton

“Work hard, do the right thing, and have a little fun.” That’s not only one of Choice Financial’s core values, it is Grafton Receptionist and Loan Assistant, Morgan Smestad’s personal motto. She works hard at putting a little fun into every customer’s visit to Choice Financial, priding herself on getting to know a little bit…

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Tying One On The Right Way

In the Grand Forks location, Senior Front Line Specialist Mike Herman is known for his motto, “Instead of doing the thing right, do the right thing.” He is also known for his extra stylish, and non-traditional tie knots. Words like the Eldridge and Merovingian frequently find their way into his conversations with team mates and customers…

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Koozies and cupcakes and teamwork, oh my!

Personal service when done right can make the difference between a customer forgetting about you the moment their transaction is over, and that same person becoming a loyal customer for life. Lauren Lutton, and Brittany Nichols, both Frontline Specialists in Grand Forks recently exemplified personal service by making two customers feel like they were doing…

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Dressing The Part

When was the last time you took a moment to thank or appreciate a farmer? In Steele, to celebrate National Ag Week, Commercial Loan Operations Specialist Kris Stroh and Senior Frontline Specialist Renae Kennedy decided to do just that. They coordinated with ag bankers and insurance team members to visit local elementary schools to teach…

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Taking Steps Towards Putting #PeopleFirst

When Rita Beneda at the Grafton location got her Wellness Dollars for 2015, she knew exactly what she was going to get. She wanted a Garmin step tracker. Having been a busy Choice Team member for 20 years, she wanted motivation to keep getting her 10,000 steps a day, even after her planned retirement early…

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Making Customers Smile Long Distance

Jacob was confident that he’d be able to keep his welding business running smoothly while he attended a wedding in sunny Cancun. He’d planned carefully by putting a travel status on his Choice debit card so he would be able to pay a bill he was expecting. Late on Friday afternoon, the payment due notification…

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Little Bits of Paper Creating Big Smiles

Who doesn’t love a good confetti shower? That’s exactly what one couple got after paying off their home loan at Choice Financial. After years of making payments, Mike and Chris were ecstatic that they had finally achieved their goal of full home ownership and reveling in the security that it provides. “Isn’t there supposed to…

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It takes a village to raise a child, and create a #PeopleFirst community.

#PeopleFirst is more than happy, fun stories, it’s about building a community where we can all live and work together. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but in this case, it just took the help of a caring co-worker.   Lisa, a Loan Assistant at Choice Financial, knew that she had…

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Sports Illustrated Has Nothing on Jen’s Craft Skills

Choice Financial customer Randy stops in a couple times a week to shoot the breeze and always has a few jokes to share complemented by bouts of friendly banter. One afternoon, he stopped in looking for a calendar. ‘Randy had asked when the ‘swimsuit edition’ calendars were coming in’’, explained Jen Lano, ‘’so that gave…

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A Small Town Responds in an Unexpected Way.

  The ball floated, spinning slightly, the only thing moving in an otherwise motionless gymnasium. As the crowd held their breath, a gentle swoosh was made as the rubber ball fell through the nylon net.  Medina Public School Athletic Director, Damon Bosche, nailed his final free throw and the crowd exhaled with a roar of…

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Without farmers, you would not be reading this.

Food.  It’s all you think about.  Where are you going to find your next meal and how long will it take to get it?  With your small nomadic tribe, you bundle up your belongings for the next quest to find a food source. Settling in one place for too long will lead to starvation.  Since all…

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