Bank employees find joy in giving

Published 6:07 pm Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nine years ago, the employees at First National Bank in Brundidge decided that Christmas should mean a little more than exchanging gifts with each other.

Most of them would have a good Christmas anyway. But there were those in their community whose Christmas would be sparse, at best.

So, the bank employees decided to take the bank party on the road, but only as far as the Pike Activity Center, which is a day-care facility for mentally challenged individuals.

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Danny Zapata, center director, provides the bank with a wish list from each of the clients at the Pike Activity Center and the bank employees play Santa Claus.

“The list is actually numbers with a ‘wish” beside each number,” said John Ramage, bank vice president. “Each employee takes a number and we try to get exactly what’s on the wish list. Each client gets one gift.”

The clients’ wishes are not extravagant – radios, colognes, bath and body products, watches, socks and blankets.

Ramage said looking at the lists is a rather humbling experience.

“I look at their lists and think about our lists and it makes me think that our priorities might be out of order,” he said.

Zapata said the gifts that the clients receive at the First National Bank Christmas party are often the only gifts they will receive.

“Many of their families can’t afford a big Christmas and some, no Christmas at all,” Zapata said. “So the bank’s Christmas party is the only holiday celebration many of them will have.”

Zapata said the clients start as early as June reminding him to “get with the bank people.”

“They don’t want the ‘bank people’ to forget,” he said, laughing. “This Christmas party is something they look forward to for months. In return for the gifts and party, the clients plan skits for the bank employees to enjoy. They started working on two skits about three weeks ago. They enjoy putting on the skits because they feel like a part of the community. When they are performing, they are just like anybody else. They are equal and that’s a great feeling for them.”

Zapata expressed appreciation to Jimmy Ramage, bank CEO, and all bank employees for making Christmas special for the clients at the Pike Activity Center.