In a Nutshell: Silver Lake Bank goes the extra mile to help schools, causes, and community members in its Northeast Kansas service areas. The bank shows its support through free lunches, donations, educational programs, and even in-school branches that provide students with hands-on financial experience. Silver Lake Bank also encourages employee volunteerism with community organizations and manages money for local churches. For that dedication to area residents and customers alike, Silver Lake Bank earns our Editor’s Choice Award™ for Community Commitment.
Whoever coined the phrase, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” probably didn’t live in Northeast Kansas near a Silver Lake Bank branch. Residents of Lawrence, Topeka, or other cities in the region can walk into select branches of the bank on a Lunch to Go day and pick up a free meal in a bag.
And there’s no catch; whether you’re a Silver Lake Bank customer or not, you can enjoy a tasty lunch at no cost.
Silver Lake Bank is a small community institution that serves the geographic area between Kansas University and Kansas State University. It opened in 1909 and now boasts five branches, 60 employees, and $300 million in total assets. The Gideon family acquired the bank in 1968, and it celebrated 50 years under their ownership with a memorable event in 2018.
“We had a giant community event where we celebrated that 50th anniversary last summer,” said Lindsey E. Martin, Business Development Specialist at Silver Lake Bank. “We had 15 food trucks, and we gave out prizes. It was a free event, and we had around a thousand people in attendance. It was really fun.”
And that event is no anomaly; it’s emblematic of Silver Lake Bank’s investment in the community. The bank provides financial products that help its customers make the most of their money, but it goes well beyond financial services.
The bank and its employees provide education and support for communities, local school districts, and other organizations in its service areas.
For its dedication to improving the financial and social well-being of residents Northeast Kansas, Silver Lake Bank has earned our Editor’s Choice Award™ for Community Commitment.
Donations and Student Banks Foster Financial Success
Silver Lake Bank gives customers a choice when they open a new account: a standard debit card or a school debit card. Customers who choose the latter can pick from schools in the three districts Silver Lake serves, and their new debit card will feature that school’s mascot and colors. But the benefits go beyond simply showing school spirit.
When customers make purchases with a debit card, they are prompted to enter their PIN. Those transactions entail a five-cent merchant fee, but other transactions — such as signature or online purchases — do not incur this fee.
For customers who opt to make those types of purchases, Silver Lake Bank sets aside the five cents they would have spent on merchant fees. And once per quarter, the bank disperses the total amount earned to local schools, which can use the money as they see fit.
The bank also supports education in other ways, too. It sponsors three student branches at local public schools, where bank employees help set up internal software and train students and school staff to operate the system. School clubs and organizations can run all of their transactions through these school banks.
Banking classes provide student branch workers with the information necessary to operate the bank, giving them hands-on experience with deposits, withdrawals, writing checks, and balancing accounts.
“That frees up the faculty and advisors, who typically keep the books for all of those clubs and organizations,” Martin said.
Silver Lake Bank also hires some of these students to work part-time at its public branches. That provides them with more insight into the banking system, personal finance, and opens up a potential career path in the banking industry.
“I think it’s important for them to understand how a bank makes money and how they can make money at a bank,” Martin said. “Financial literacy is essential to a thriving community, and we are a community bank. We want students to ask questions and know what they’re getting into.”
Employee Volunteerism Enriches Communities and Helps Them Thrive
Beyond financial contributions and education, Silver Lake Bank also encourages volunteerism among its employees.
On Service for Lunch days, which occur once per quarter, groups of bank employees spend their lunch hours volunteering in the community. Volunteer activities range from decorating a local children’s theater for Christmas to preparing meals at the Ronald McDonald House.
The bank’s employees also find ways to give back to the community on their own time. Martin said that some teach with Junior Achievement, a non-profit organization that prepares students for work-readiness and entrepreneurship. And Martin sits on the board of the local Habitat for Humanity.
Silver Lake Bank also partners with local churches to help them manage their often complicated finances. Churches can bring in money collected through donations, and Silver Lake will track all of the funds and deposits, organize the information, and provide them with a copy. That contribution can help to free up time within each organization that can then be directed to other, more productive ends in the community.
“We are in the Bible Belt here, so we have a lot of local churches,” Martin said. “They’ll bring us the whole offering plate. We track all of the pledges, all of the deposits, and we send everything to them in a spreadsheet. That’s just our way of giving back to them.”
Knowledgeable Staff Helps Customers Make the Most of Their Money
Silver Lake Bank’s commitment to the community starts with helping its customers thrive. The bank offers financial products designed to help its members grow their savings, meet expenses, and maintain a sound financial standing.
The bank offers Kasasa Rewards checking accounts that feature 2.5% interest for funds up to $25,000. Account holders enjoy refunds for fees on ATM withdrawals and online purchases, and it also offers cash back on debit card purchases. These perks help Silver Lake customers grow their savings and maintain positive financial situations.
Silver Lake Bank also offers CDs with a variety of terms. They include quarterly withdrawals without penalties and allow users to leverage their deposit as collateral on a personal loan. These options allow customers to maintain liquidity while enjoying a higher interest rate and realizing a greater return on their investment.
And customers have access to the bank’s knowledgeable staff — another valuable resource. That insight and financial know-how can help customers make informed decisions on products and services.
“We can coach them through what the best way is for their money to work for them. I’m in the business of making my customer happy,” Martin said. “A lot of our services are standard, and we tailor those to each customer. Every single person is different, so you have to look at the big picture for them.”
Silver Lake Bank: Expanding Services to Support More Kansas Communities
In 2019, Silver Lake Bank combined its Lunch to Go program with free document shredding for customers and community members at large. Not only do participants get a free lunch, but they also get a little peace of mind regarding their sensitive financial documents. And that isn’t the only program Silver Lake Bank is expanding to benefit its customers and communities.
The bank is set to debut its new zoo debit cards, which will function the same way as the school debit card, but with the funds benefiting the Topeka Zoo.
“I think the hardest part of this process has been choosing which baby animal to put on the card because they’re so adorable,” Martin said.
Silver Lake Bank plans a big promotional campaign to ensure that everyone in its service areas knows about this new program — and all of its other programs.
In 2019, the bank presented the Seaman school district with a check for $3,800 that was accrued through the school debit card program.
“That is the product of tons of debit cards and lots of transactions. But with more people buying online, those are always non-PIN transactions, so they always get that five cents. Any time we can use those community benefits to help the surrounding area, it’s worth it,” Martin said.