by: Elizabeth Ussher Groff Woodstock KeyBank employees closed their bank for the company’s annual half-day of community service. Hauling and spreading gravel at the Martha & Mary Home in Woodstock are, from left, Jeff Engle, Laura Carter, Amber Koens, Jeff Barger (the Woodstock Branch Manager), Toni Mendez, and Israel Perez-Vazquez.

On Tuesday May 24, the new Sellwood and Woodstock KeyBank branches closed at noon. In fact, statewide, sixty-eight other KeyBank branches also shuttered their doors at the same time, to take part in KeyBank's annual 'Neighbors Make the Difference' day.

Bank officials explain that a cornerstone of their business philosophy is community commitment - and one day a year, their bank branches turn loose over fifty percent of their workforce to perform community service.

Senior management, managers, and staff form groups and volunteer for several hours, so bank employees can give back to the communities where they live, work, and conduct business.

This practice began twenty-one years ago in Alaska, when employees visited hospital patients, wrapped Holiday presents for the Salvation Army to give to children later in the year, and painted homes and cleaned up the yards of people unable to do it themselves.

This year, Woodstock's KeyBank manager Jeff Barger and his employees reached out to five churches, asking for referrals of people in the community who might need a few hours of volunteer assistance. They selected two homes that needed help with yard work.

The first was the home of Alita Whitney, a certified nursing assistant who has two elderly adults living with her. Yard work is difficult to nearly impossible for her, due to time constraints and Whitney's own physical limitations. The bank employees worked for two hours on her yard.

Whitney says was surprised and impressed that, 'None of it was about the bank. It was solely about reaching out to the community and being compassionate.' She praised the employees' friendliness and commitment to helping her.

The second destination for this particular branch's community service was the Martha and Mary Home, the new end-of-life care hospice in Woodstock. The six bank employees shoveled gravel and bark dust into wheelbarrows, and spread it into garden areas.

Bank employees were sweating under the unexpectedly sunny skies, but were in high spirits. 'It has been fulfilling and rewarding, just to be out and see how our work can help people, even just for an afternoon,' commented Amber Koens, KeyBank Client Service Manager.

KeyBank officials report that this year's 'Neighbors Make the Difference' day addressed fifty-five local projects, with more than 450 bank employees volunteering from Vancouver, Washington, to Grants Pass. More than 25% of the projects were 'green' - such as building gardens, removing invasive species, and planting and landscaping.

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