You’re a grand old flag
You’re a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You’re the emblem of
The land I love,
The home of the free and the brave.
In eight cities across central and north central Arkansas you can see a grand old flag flying high, and nestled below those star-spangled billows you will find a branch of First Service Bank. The oversized banner has become a hallmark of the bank, and a symbol of the organization’s commitment to community.
Chartered in 1962 in Dermott, the bank began flying the flag as a show of support for the troops during Operation Desert Storm in the early 90s. When the bank moved its charter to Greenbrier in 1999, they went a step farther – having seen an oversized American flag years before in Monticello at the Coca-Cola bottling plant, CEO Tom Grumbles brought the idea home to the bank. Since that time, the jumbo flags have been flown at nearly every First Service Bank location.
“It started out as – and it still is – a patriotic gesture to our country and our veterans,” Grumbles said. But the 30’ x 60’ flags flying on a 100’ pole are iconic for the communities in First Service Bank’s footprint. “We get people that’ll be going through town and see our flag and they’ll either send us an email or call and say we really appreciate you flying the flag.”
“We constantly have positive feedback from customers in regards to the flag,” agreed Searcy and Van Buren County Market President Darla McJunkins, who works in the bank’s Clinton branch. “Many times customers will send us letters thanking us for flying the flag and will usually include a reference to a family member that has served in their letter.”
“People take pride in the flag,” added Marketing Officer Jon Patrom, “Across all lines, the flag just unites everybody; everyone joins together and wants to see the flag raised.”
Grumbles describes patriotism as one of the bank’s core values. “We are proud of our flag and the freedom it stands for. We display the American flag as an icon at each of our locations to symbolize our patriotism and to show respect for our active military and veterans who fight to protect our lives, our families, our home, and our freedom. Freedom isn’t free. They are willing to pay the ultimate price.”
“It means a tremendous amount to me that our bank stands behind our service men and women,” said McJunkins. “My dad and my uncles served in the military and I have a lot of customers that have served or are serving now. We owe these individuals a great deal of respect for their service. Our flag is just one way we can show gratitude to them and show our support for past veterans and current military members.”
Soon after their installation, patrons began using the flags as an identifier for the bank. So when it came time for the organization to refresh its logo, the stars and stripes came into play. The theme carries throughout the organization: you will always see the bank employees wearing red, white, blue or grey, and the bank compiles a patriotic calendar each year for customers, featuring photos submitted by employees.
And in the few branches where the big flag cannot be flown – the initial location in Dermott and the location in Shirley have logistical constraints, and the Little Rock branch is located inside an office building – the bank found different ways to incorporate the flag.
“We wanted to make sure the flag was implemented in some part, so we commissioned an artist out of Little Rock to do a painting in the lobby,” Patrom noted. “So we have some aspect of the flag.”
In the bank’s corporate office boardroom, you can see a wall of black and white photos, each featuring a colored flag waving above each of the bank’s branches. Across the room is a tightly folded flag that once flew over the U.S. Capital – a gift to Grumbles from his employees in honor of his dedication to the First Service Bank family.
In addition to flying the flag, First Service Bank provides flag handling education to its employees and the community. You can find flag procedures and etiquette on the bank’s website, and they utilize social media to alert customers when and why flags may be flying at half-staff.
Patrom and McJunkins note that there is a continuous maintenance program for the flags – there are at least two back-ups on hand at each location – sun fading, strong winds, and just normal wear and tear can lead to the demise of a flag.
“We are extremely careful about taking the flags down and putting them up. We try to make sure that we get them down before bad weather hits or if there is any kind of tear in them, we remove them to be repaired,” McJunkins said. “We take this pride in our communities we are in, too. We know they need our support to grow and prosper so we offer it wherever we can.”
Among the slew of community organizations and causes the bank supports, McJunkins noted a number of military-related initiatives: bike rides, a bass tournament, providing a flag for the local VFW, and the Remembering Everyone Deployed program.
“We have also been hosting the Quilts of Honor receptions for the Veterans. They honor a group of Veterans with a handmade quilt for their service. It is a very emotional reception for both the Veterans and those that are a part of it,” she said. “This is probably the event that has touched me the most. They take the quilts and acknowledge their service and then wrap them around the veteran. All of them stand up and are honored during the reception.”
“We want to stand behind the flag and all those who have served for us, and try to follow in their footsteps of giving back to the communities,” Patrom said.
“The best part of being a hometown banker is being able to help people achieve their dreams. It is an awesome feeling when you are able to help someone purchase their first home or car,” McJunkins said. ”I’ve been with the bank for 20 years now so I get to help my customers’ kids on their dreams too. I love being available to people and them feeling comfortable coming to me at a ballgame with questions or at the fair. I like that I know them well and they know me, too. It’s kind of like helping your extended family!”
According to Patrom, the hometown service is part of what makes First Service who they are. “We’re proud that we’re able to say that we’re hometown people – we’re homegrown,” he said. “We live in these communities that we serve, we’re dealing with people right in our back yards every day, dealing with family and friends and taking care of communities.”
Taking pride in the flag, and pride in the community, is just a part of the culture at First Service Bank. If you asked Tom Grumbles, he would probably smile and say it’s just about doing what’s right.
“We want to be a part of the community, we want to give back, we want to be a good corporate citizen in every location we have,” Grumbles said. “We just try to treat our customers like we’d want to be treated if we were on the other side of the desk or counter.”