Salina supporter

Ask nearly anyone in a small town the best thing about living in a tiny community and one of the first answers you’ll hear is along the lines of “we all help each other out.”

In those regards, Salina certainly fits the bill and Lakeside Bank of Salina is definitely one of those entities helping out.

Salina Public Schools recently lost a government grant that helped fund its after-school program for kids in kindergarten through junior high. With Salina being a small town of fewer than 1,500 residents, raising donations to continue the program looked nearly impossible for the school district. Closing the program down would have placed hardships on students and families throughout the city.

Lakeside Bank, however, ended up contributing a large chunk of the funds necessary to continue the program.

“Salina is a small town and there is no daycare in the community,” said Mike Brown, president and CEO of Lakeside Bank of Salina. “The school had gotten some funding for the past few years on a grant but it ran out and they didn’t have funding for the after-school program – which does far more than a day care.

“It’s a necessary thing because Salina is a low-to-moderate income area and there isn’t a lot of disposable income to pay for child care for two or three hours in the evening. We thought we’d step up and help with that.”

Needless to say, the helpful hand was well appreciated by the local school.

“Mike’s our biggest resource to ask for anything,” Salina Public Schools Superintendent Tony Thomas said. “We went to Mike and he’s always there to step up and do what he can. It’s so nice to have someone who has passion for and knows the importance of education. He knows what teachers go through and their struggles for resources. He knows the importance of all of it, he’s been in this community for a long time and has already give a lot to our ag program and he just wanted to be able to help more kids.

“I’m just glad we have a partner we can deal with like this. Being a small town, there’s not a lot of partners we can go to for things like this.”

Brown and his bank are a willing partner with Thomas’ school district, but a person wouldn’t easily know it. Despite being a major reason the after-school program has continued to exist, Lakeside Bank has shied away from any public notice, declining to bring attention to itself.

“It’s being received well by the parents and they, most of them anyway, don’t know we actually do it,” Brown said. “There was no publicity at all from us for it. I guess it’s a sorry dog that won’t wag his own tail, but that’s not why we did it: We didn’t do it so we could be known as the one that took care of it, we just wanted to make sure it was taken care of.”

Brown agreed with Thomas’ statement of there being limited resources in a small town for the school district to lean upon for donations. While there are plenty of “mom-and-pop” stores and private individuals who are more than willing to donate money, most don’t have a strong enough financial foundation to give in the amounts necessary to keep things such as the after-school program afloat.

Lakeside Bank does, however, and it’s not shy about helping out to keep important programs, particularly education-related ones, in the community going.

“Teachers don’t make anything … except people: They make bankers, they make lawyers, they make doctors and if you don’t have the school system there for the kids, the kids aren’t going to learn,” Brown said. “The reason we did it is because it was the RIGHT thing to do. It wasn’t the cheap thing to do – it was the right thing to do for the community. The school system doesn’t have a lot of money. So, that’s the reason we stepped in: because it’s the right thing to do.

“I’ve got to like myself. I’m the guy who has to look at himself in a mirror and know if I didn’t do the right thing, whether it’s making someone a loan they really need or doing something like this for the community, I’ve got to look at myself every morning.”

Brown should be able to look at himself every morning in the mirror and like what he sees considering how he spearheads his bank’s contributions to the community. Brown is continually making appearances at local events and helping out one function or another.

In a small town like Salina, however – and any other small town in the country – it’s just another way everyone who lives there tries to help out.

“Community banks like ours, we’re the ones people come to first,” Brown said. “Tonight, for example, after work I’m going to an FFA fundraiser. It won’t be over with until 10 p.m. There’s a private school just outside of town having a fundraiser tomorrow night and I’m going there. It’s just part of what we do as community banks.

“We’re a big part of the community and we WANT to be.”