The four area branches came together for a day of community service, capped by a $1,000 donation to the Avilla Police Department to help purchase a second dog for their K-9 program.
Farmers & Merchants President Jeff Gump and Executive Vice-President Steve Coil made the check presentation to Avilla Town Marshal Glen Wills and Department K-9 handler Mike Duncan on Monday morning at the LaOtto branch.
Wills and Duncan put on a K-9 demonstration with Duncan’s dog Kazan and also spoke with employees about being more aware of suspicious and potentially dangerous customers.
Following, employees went out into the four area communities to aid in a variety of community service projects.
“They are our first responders and we have to make sure they have the best equipment, whether it be an animal or weapons, that they can have,” Gump said. “You have to give back in the communities and this helps out everybody.”
“If they had a bank robbery here at Farmers & Merchants, we would be responding here with our K-9 unit,” Officer Wills added. “It’s a huge donation.”
The Avilla PD, which has had a K-9 program since 1996, is trying to raise $7,250 for the dog and the training, which Wills said is 15-18 weeks long.
Wills also said that the life expectancy of a police dog is 7-11 years and Duncan’s dog Kazan is seven years old. The department had a second dog retire in 2009.
“We don’t want to be without one,” Wills said. “In Noble County, (having a police dog) is an invaluable resource. We use them for narcotics, handler protection, area searches and man trailing. It is a pretty big deal for us to get a donation for Farmers & Merchants Bank.”
“Working with a police dog is a lot of work, but it is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done,” said Duncan. “The dog training was some of the most intense and difficult training of my life.”
Both Wills and Duncan spoke to the bank employees about a growing threat in the area, methamphetamine, and the warning signs of potential users.
They also provided safety tips for inside the office, as well as out.
“Our employees have to be aware. It is not just about the bank robbery. It’s about the drugs and things in the community. We need to be on the lookout and be able to identify possible threats,” Gump said.
“Our employees may not realize it, but we encounter people on drugs on a weekly basis, and they could snap on them at the drop of a hat,” Coil added. “You can smell it on people sometimes, and we have to be able to deal with them.”
In Huntertown, workers helped an area family clean up their home after it was recently vandalized.
The LaOtto branch spent their Monday cleaning up the LaOtto Community Center and the Churubusco Branch was installing park benches.
The Kendallville Branch was volunteering for the Town’s Fall Festival and Spooky Trail by painting props and designing costumes. The Fall Festival and Spooky Trail is scheduled for October 29.
“A lot of it is a team building exercise,” Gump said of the community service projects. “We have four branches that don’t get together enough. I think a big part of it is that we are fortunate to have jobs and there are different organizations and community activities that we can go out and help. We can spend a day not only getting to know each other at the different branches, but also helping other people. You’ve got to give back.”