The True Value of a Community Bank
The word “Menno” means “strong” in Dutch.
So the picturesque farms, charming main-street storefronts, and enterprising mom-and-pop businesses of Menno Township in Mifflin County wear their name well.
The 1,900-plus citizens of Menno Township nestled in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country have become an object lesson in strength. Consisting of a population that is two-thirds Amish or Mennonite, they have demonstrated themselves to be strong in work ethic, in family values, in credit-worthiness, and in their never-say-quit convictions as the stars of an unfolding bank saga with a storybook ending.
Proof positive: the villagers, organized by an informal committee lead by Steve Dunkle, Marvin Reifsteck and Roy Brooks, launched a grassroots effort to attract a local bank to their quaint town after a large, long-time bank closed its doors. In the end, the Menno-strong people won, and so did Mifflin County Savings Bank (MCS), which had already been serving with strength in Pennsylvania since 1923.
The “bring-a-bank” campaign was launched less than three years ago, after a banking institution ran the numbers and decided to roll up their carpets and leave town in the middle of 2011. Faced with the prospect of having to commute the inconvenient distances by “buggy”–to Reedsville or Huntingdon–to bank, local business leaders and elected officials united and vowed to attract another bank.
“It is a proud community,” said Menno Township Supervisor Steve Dunkle. They are fiercely independent and commendably self-sufficient, he noted.
They also honor their obligations: Exhibit A: Menno Township had not one property tax delinquency last year.
In a true display of small-town crusading for a big cause, their venture to bring home a bank included hundreds of surveys, volunteers knocking on doors with petitions, and many public meetings that attracted more attendees than meetings over a massive tax hike or controversial policy change. Had the first meeting not coincided with an Amish viewing, the public participation numbers would have really been sky-high.
“This is an inspiring, true story about a small community coming together to work for a common good, and a local community bank embracing them back,” said Nick DiFrancesco, PACB President. “The people of Menno and Brady Townships really do personify the motto that anything is possible when a determined group of people set their hearts and minds on something and work together.”
Their solution was indeed out of the box. To save on infrastructure costs, MCS located a bank branch in the True Value Hardware store in Allensville. The store, known locally as the Allensville Planing Mill, is a staple for the agricultural and building industries.
Dunkle joked that you can pick up a hammer and make a deposit all in one trip.
The new bank branch is only in its infancy, but it is thriving because it not only understands its community well; it is a vital part of it.
According to the 2012 Census, Menno Township ranks toward the bottom of the Commonwealth’s 2,600 municipalities in terms of income per capita, landing at 19 from the bottom. Many township residents are senior citizens on fixed incomes. In addition to farmers, many cottage industries are operating, including orchards, greenhouses, pole barn builders, booksellers, vitamin stores, craftsmen, and secondhand furniture sellers, with two to 15 employees.
Having a centrally located, trusted bank in this community was extremely vital.
Read the full article in February’s issue of Transactions. Not a subscriber? Visit the Transactions page on this website or call PACB at 717-231-7447 to start receiving the magazine.