We Have a Winner!

First Farmers' LeAnn McDannald presents a second-place CBAI essay contest certificate to winner Hannah Birkey, on the left.

First Farmers State Bank is very pleased to announce that Olympia High School senior Hannah Birkey has been named the second-place winner for Group 7 of Community Bankers Association of Illinois; First Farmers sponsored Birkey for the contest. She has been awarded a one-time $500 monetary prize to be used for higher education beginning next fall.

Birkey is the daughter of Scott and Carol Birkey of Hopedale.

At OHS, Birkey is active in theater, concert band, choir, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, marching band, pep band, Key Club, National Honor Society, yearbook staff and madrigals. Outside of school, she is involved in ministry at Northfield Christian Fellowship.

A National Merit Commended Scholar and Illinois State Scholar, Hannah plans to major in Neuroscience at the University of Iowa.

In addition to Birkey, Molly Schempp (also an OHS senior) was named as a semi-finalist.

First Farmers congratulates both semi-finalist Schempp and second-place winner Birkey for their outstanding work, and we wish them the very best in their future endeavors!

First Farmers’ LeAnn McDannald presents a certificate to Hannah Birkey (left), a second-place winner in CBAI’s annual essay scholarship contest.

Essay by Hannah Birkey

Community banking has been a part of my life for longer than I can remember. I live on a hog farm and get to do all sorts of odd jobs in my spare time. Beginning around five years of age, my parents paid me for the work I did around the farm. I filled out a time sheet, anticipating the day it was full. When that day came, I calculated my hours and passed them off to my mom. After receiving a check, I waited until it was finally time to go to the bank. I loved going to the bank, so much so that I never wanted to go through the drive-through. Each of the bank tellers had a smile for me and sometimes popcorn or a Dum-Dum lollipop. When I was eleven, they helped me set up a savings account so I could tuck away some of my hard-earned money. Slowly I got to watch that number grow with each friendly trip to the bank. As I begin adulthood, I know that a community bank will continue to be a part of my life. I know that I can go to the people I trust to help me to make wise financial decisions for the future.

Financial uncertainty is a farmer’s certainty. No one knows whether the year will bring snowstorm, drought, flood, or all three. The weather varies from year to year, altering production. Politics pushes produce prices up and down. Community banks are there in the good times. They keep hard-earned money safe while using it to invest in the local community. They are there to grant loans to expand operation and increase profits. Also in the good times, they are there to guide investment for the future. During the years where profits are down, community banks are still there. Loans are again useful, not for growth but continued operation. If a farmer breaks his combine during harvest, he needs money quick to fix it. For a farmer in that situation, accessibility is key. Getting a loan from a community bank is faster because the bank already knows the farmer and can have direct communication. Community banks are there for farmers through the best and through the worst.

Community banks impact the economy by lending money. Businesses and individuals often don’t possess the money needed to invest in a growth opportunity. They must save for years to take the next step, translating to slower growth. A community bank loans out money to those businesses and individuals, creating bigger businesses and more local jobs. This, in turn, continues to stimulate the local economy. Money stays local ensuring economic stability so a local community is not swayed by national issues. Big banks or online banks can loan out money, what’s the difference? The difference is that a community bank can more effectively determine who should receive a loan. At a community bank, relationships are built over years. When a person comes in for a loan, their banker can listen to their situation. They may have been doing reliable business with this person for many years and understand that they are temporarily going through hardship. This allows lending to be personalized and effective, not just based off a set formula. Lending out loans to the right people stimulate the economy by allowing growth.