DeCeuster, left, manages First Bank Financial Centre’s
Kris Barger, right, the Mequon branch.
Photo by Sheryl Popp
OZAUKEE COUNTY — Ozaukee Economic Development’s large
business of the year makes a large impact in its
communities — Grafton, Mequon and beyond.
First Bank Financial Centre dates all the way back to
1859, when Summit Bank was founded in Oconomowoc, 15
years before Oconomowoc became a city. Since then, 13
branches have been added. Both Ozaukee County locations
opened in 2012.
“In five years, our two branches have donated $113,000
and 3,000 volunteer hours to our communities,” said
Jenny DeCeuster, branch manager of the Grafton branch.
Kris Barger is branch manager in Mequon. Both said
they’re excited to be a part of the programs their bank
First Bank Financial Centre chooses locations that are
not too far off southeastern Wisconsin’s main traffic
corridors, so customers have easyon/ easy-off drives.
And each branch is within 15 minutes of a second branch.
“We wanted to have a natural progression of locations
for our customers,” Barger said. FBFC was selected for
the award for multiple reasons. Its work with Mel’s
Charities is extensive. They are financial sponsors for
multiple events, such as Mel’s Night at Kapco Park. In a
period of three years, FBFC has given more than $33,000
to Mel’s various charity events, plus many volunteer
hours. They are a primary sponsor and organizer for the
Pumpkin Derby in Grafton and the entertainment sponsor
for Family Fun Before the 4th in Thiensville. Each
branch’s list of additional assisted organizations
numbers over 15 groups. These range from chamber of
commerce events to Scouting and other youth
organizations, holiday events, service organizations,
parks and more.
“The real push for us is truly local customer service,”
There are also in-house events that really create
one-on-one opportunities to help people and generate
more involvement with customers. Little things can make
a big difference, and one such service is gift wrapping.
“Really, a lot of people don’t have time to wrap gifts
during the holidays,” said Barger. “Or they’re hiding
the wrapping from their children. Or they just don’t
like doing it. It’s also a very easy way for people to
feel they’re contributing to a good cause. They bring in
their gifts and they will give us a dollar or more per
gift. The money that’s collected goes to a cause chosen
by each bank.”
Mequon has chosen the Emma-Rose fund, which is patients
helping patients. Emma-Rose Grenon-Lamaitre and her
family founded the program when she was diagnosed with
leukemia at age 16. The fund helps families with very
sick children, and the huge medical costs that the
disease group generates.
Grafton has chosen Ozaukee Family Services as its
recipient this year.
“We are hoping to provide funds to get people to doctor
appointments,” DeCeuster said. “We have no Uber here, we
think it would help.”
FBFC has created a lending program called the Loan Pool.
The bank loans money to individuals and businesses at
the low interest rate of 1 percent.
“For a lot of our clients, this is supplemental funding,
DeCeuster said. “They don’t have the money, or can’t
justify or qualify for a traditional loan, so they might
not do their expansion or project without this funding.
We don’t make the decisions. People still have to go
through the village or the city.”
FBFC has assisted 14 businesses locally through the loan
pool since opening in Ozaukee County, amounting to more
“It’s not about raking in dollars,” Barger said.
Finally, both women rank the Random Acts of Kindness and
the Holi-Days of Giving programs as some of the best
aspects of their positions. April is Community Banking
month, and each branch is able to distribute $500 in any
way they can imagine, in whatever amounts they wish.
Deserving individuals or families are nominated for the
HoliDays of Giving program and if chosen, awarded a $500
Favorite memories of helping others
First Bank Financial Centre offers its employees several
opportunities a year where it can reach out to help
individuals in their community. Here is a favorite
memory from each local branch manager:
■ Kris Barger, Mequon: Each year, during the month of
April, the bank celebrates Community Banking Month. Last
year while treating visitors at the North Shore Marcus
Cinema to $5 gift cards I received a gift in return. In
the theater lobby sat an older gentleman who had served
our country in the military. When I presented him with a
gift card to see a movie or get a snack he asked what he
could give me in return. Of course, I said nothing is
necessary, this is my gift to him; an opportunity to
brighten his day. He asked if he could sing me a song.
There he stood, in the middle of the theater lobby
singing out a beautiful song about a soldier and a
letter he was waiting for from a girl he had left back
home. I won’t ever forget that lovely afternoon and the
unexpected gift I received in return.
■ Jenny DeCeuster, Grafton: As part of our HoliDays of
Giving program, a noncustomer nominated a local teacher
who was continuing to teach at the local middle school
during cancer treatments. She found it challenging to
prepare meals for her family and we donated $500 in gift
certificates for local restaurants to help ease the
burden of meal preparation. I was able to present this
gift during one of her classes (the nominator’s daughter
was in this class). It was such a memorable, heartfelt
moment because it showed her that her students and her
community cared deeply for her well-being.
— Sheryl Popp
Bank Financial Centre
11715 N. Port Washington Road Mequon
2300 Washington St. Grafton
Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 9
a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon
Businesses of the Year
Ozaukee Economic Development recognizes three businesses
every year as its Businesses of the Year. Over three
weeks, the News Graphic is profiling all three. They
Cedarburg Overhead Door
Sommer’s Automotive Group
First Bank Financial Centre