Pitching in to help tornado-hit Kentucky

December 28, 2021

Employees’ agility, compassion and volunteerism make a huge impact. 

When tornadoes ripped through Western Kentucky earlier this month, the U.S. Bank Mobile Banking Unit was ready to roll from its location in St. Paul, Minn., to serve the community’s banking needs.

The only thing missing was a driver.

The nationwide commercial truck driver shortage meant no contract drivers could be found to make the 760-mile trek to Mayfield, Kentucky. That’s how Jay Good, U.S. Bank vice president and Risk Compliance and Audit (RCA) manager, and Charley Cummings, U.S. Bank emergency preparedness manager, found themselves behind the wheel of the mobile unit for a 16-hour drive. Cummings ensures that the bank’s mobile units are ready to go, and doesn’t typically drive to the emergency site itself.  For Good, driving a commercial vehicle took him back to when he served as a Transportation Officer in the U.S. Army during the Iraq War.

“Charley and I were glad we were in a position where we could help  -- our job allows us to improvise so we can find solutions quickly to help our customers and our employees,” Good said.

Driving to Mayfield on short notice was just one of the ways that bank employees turned out to help communities impacted by the recent tornadoes. Employees also gifted power generators, spent hours calling customers to see how they were doing and worked around the clock to help set up the mobile banking unit and fortify the Mayfield branch against further damage, said Ashley Johnson, U.S. Bank district manager for Western Kentucky. This outpouring of support came as many employees, or their close family members, are dealing with damage to their own homes or serving as first responders.

“With the holidays and people out on vacation, I wasn’t sure if we’d get enough people to volunteer to staff the mobile branch through the end of the year. Within an hour of sending out that email request, all of the shifts were full,” she said. “It’s been amazing to see how everyone has stepped up to help the community out.”

The mobile banking unit is currently set up in the parking lot of the Walmart in Mayfield, surrounded by other emergency services like trailers providing showers and free laundry services. U.S. Bank has two mobile banking units, and each one includes all of the features of a brick-and-mortar branch at a smaller scale including two teller windows, and ATM and an office. The units have previously served customers who were impacted by disasters including flood damage in the Midwest, wildfires in California and the catastrophic 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri. The other mobile unit is currently assisting customers in California.

Community East Regional Executive Bill Jones has visited the area several times and has been incredibly impressed with his team’s agility under difficult circumstances and their compassionate care for others. “At U.S. Bank, we always say we’re family and our Kentucky employees have proven this is true. They’ve been there for each other every step of the way while focusing on the larger needs of customers and the community.”

Tracey Rodgers, a U.S. Bank operations analyst, is witness to the unity throughout Mayfield. “Just standing in that tiny little lobby in the mobile unit, there’s a sense of oneness. There’s so much compassion and everyone is asking each other, ‘how’s your family?’ So many people here know the branch manager and her entire team – all of the customers are just as concerned about how their families are doing.”

The mobile unit is currently staffed primarily by Mayfield Branch Manager Gracie Cavin, Senior Customer Relationship Consultant Ashley Cardenas-Williams and Mortgage Loan Officer Roberto Garcia, who are all fluent in Spanish and wanted to ensure that the large Spanish-speaking population of Mayfield had bankers who could help them, Johnson said.

“Having employees there who can speak Spanish allows us to connect with these customers on a much different level,” she said.

Nationwide, U.S. Bank activated its ATM network to accept donations to the American Red Cross, and all funds will go directly to Red Cross Disaster Relief. The company also donated $25,000 to the United Way of Southern Kentucky and $25,000 to the Mayfield Community Foundation, and is matching employee donations for tornado relief on a 2:1 basis.

The U.S. Bank branch in Mayfield managed to withstand the tornado with damage primarily to the roof. Currently, the ATM is open at the location and the branch is expected to reopen soon. In the meantime, the mobile banking unit is extremely busy, Johnson said, helping many customers deposit insurance damage checks along with other banking needs.

“The customers are so grateful to have the mobile unit there,” she said. “The fact that our customers can see that we were prepared for this kind of situation says a lot about us as an organization.”

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