Connecting the Community Beyond the Bank

By Brad McEwen

“If you build it, he will come.”

While the Kevin Costner vehicle about faith, baseball and the often complicated relationship between fathers and sons might have faded from our collective conscious in the years since its 1989 release, the ubiquitous phrase it ushered into the cultural lexicon is as well-known today as it was the first time Costner’s Ray Kinsella first heard it whispered on the wind as he surveyed his family’s farm.

For whatever reason, that simple phrase and its most popular misquoted variation, has remained synonymous with righteous ambition and has served as the battle cry of visionaries who can see the importance of something long before the rest of the world is able to understand just what they’re driving at.

For those dreamers, there really is no better way to sum up how something like carving a baseball diamond out of a money-making Iowa cornfield is just the right thing to do, despite the fact that others might see it as lunacy, or a wild flight of fancy at best:

If you build it, they will come.

Those exact words were never uttered, but they more than adequately describe the driving sentiment floating in the ether when Luke Flatt, Perry Revell and I sat down to discuss how my arrival on the AB&T team could help the bank forge a better relationship with the community that has nourished it since its inception.

At that point, with the community still reeling from aftereffects of two brutal storms that had devastated the Albany area just a few weeks prior, and anti-Albany sentiment once again beginning to bully its way past the spirit of togetherness that had first followed those ravaging winds, it just seemed like there had to be something the bank could do to help remind people of how great this place can truly be and help nurture and sustain some of the positivity still lingering in many circles of the community.

It was with that in mind that we set our sights on building what would eventually become known as Beyond the Bank as a means of connecting and strengthening the area we love.

Of course, unlike farmer Ray in Field of Dreams, we didn’t have the benefit of an otherworldly, hallucinatory vision of turning rows of corn into a ball field, so we simply started with the idea of using what is often cited as this community’s greatest resource, and set about the task of using my journalism and writing skills to highlight the incredible people whose drive, dedication and passion help fuel us to a better future.

And thus the Beyond the Bank journey was begun.

Almost immediately, the response to our experiment was staggering. Following in-depth profiles that explored the internal drive that motivates devoted residents like Chehaw’s Jackie Entz, Albany State baseball coach Scot Hemmings, and area principals Melissa Brubaker and Vinson Davis to work hard to make a difference in their community, there was a palpable buzz growing around Beyond the Bank.

In just a few short weeks, we were overwhelmed with the atta-boys and kudos from all corners of the community. It seemed everywhere I went, someone would stop me just to let me know that not only were they were enjoying the stories, but that they simply appreciated that we were trying to do something to bring our community together in a positive way.

Fueled by that initial response, I pressed on, truly excited about having the opportunity to meet and showcase more of the amazing people living and working in the Albany area and building on that groundswell of support.

In the intervening 18 months, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of writing roughly 60 features about some of our truly awe-inspiring friends and neighbors and the incredible things they’ve been doing to enrich our community. And I’m still blown away every time I have the opportunity to introduce those folks to our audience.

I’m also humbled by the fact that as those features—along with my personal musings on subjects like family, relationships, responsibility, gratitude, loyalty and love—have continued to circulate through our community, the response has not only remained positive but that people are able to understand the true spirit behind Beyond the Bank.

They’re able to see that no matter what or who is featured each week, at its core, Beyond the Bank is about connecting this community to the good stuff, to things that deep down we all cherish and want to hold on to.

Sure, it’s great to learn a little bit about a fellow citizen and find out what motivates them to do what they do, but really I think the real root of Beyond the Bank is about being able to connect to our community through the kinds of traits and characteristics that inspire us all to be better citizens and stewards of the world around us.

We believe that the audience has responded so strongly and “come” to what we’ve built, not just because they admire the subjects of the profiles that have made up the bulk of the initiative, but because deep down they see the bigger picture, the underlying mission.

As recently as the week before last, I heard once again the sentiment that has come to define the ethos of Beyond the Bank, when area resident Pam Reynolds stopped me during the Albany Museum of Art’s Chalkfest (itself the kind of event that we hope to celebrate in the future of Beyond the Bank).

Amongst all the celebration and good vibes floating around the 200 block of Pine Avenue, Pam took the time to seek me out and tell me that she thought what AB&T was doing was wonderful, and that she truly appreciated the fact that through Beyond the Bank we were doing something to uplift the spirit of this community.

Pam said nothing about any of the specific profiles or the columns that I’ve written. She simply wanted to covey to me that Beyond the Bank made her feel good about her community.

It’s sentiments like Pam’s which continue to spur us on and drive us to find new and exciting ways to celebrate our community, and to tell the real story of Albany and its people.

We wholeheartedly believe that Beyond the Bank is a powerful resource.

It’s a dynamic force that will reach not just beyond banking, but beyond all the obstacles that harden our hearts, darken our spirits and drive us apart, so that we can find those wondrous and universal things that lift our souls, bring us comfort and bind us together.

Beyond the Bank is the headwind that will tear down our cornfield and allow us to build something truly magical—the Albany of tomorrow, the Albany of our dreams.

So hop on board. It’s gonna be one heck of ride.

Connect with Brad – 229.405.7212 - brad.mcewen@abtgold.com - @BradGMcEwen 

Click here to catch up on previous Beyond the Bank Features