Financial First Responders
Heroes are among us. They’ve appeared in both predictable and surprising places over the past two years. From the medical professionals who nursed patients back to health to the public officials who walked the fine line of hard truths, from the classroom teachers forced to muster their own courage to help the state’s children keep going to the front-line workers who kept us all fed and clothed and flush with life’s necessities.
And then there were the bankers. Little attention has been paid to the financial first responders and not nearly enough praise given to these dedicated men and women who collectively kept the country’s small business community afloat. They worked grueling hours, they explained complicated rules, they pivoted, they fought, and they cried right along with their clients—men and women just like you. They deserve a collective thank you far beyond this small sampling of stories straight from the battlefield.
Not All Fun and Games
West Virginians have Gambill Amusements to thank for the carnival fun awaiting them at county fairs and festivals throughout the Mountain State. The Elkins-based business has been family-owned for 80 years, but it might not have made it past Year 79 without the help of Frank Hinzman and the rest of the crew at Citizens Bank of West Virginia.
Fourth-generation owners Shane and Nicole Turner explain that they were just about to start the 2020 carnival season—it runs from April to October each year—when the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down. It was a two-week postponement—at least, that’s what they initially expected. Maybe they could hang on tight until the shutdown ended, they thought. Then two weeks turned into a month, and more festivals were cancelled. “Everyone in our family works in this business.” Nicole Tuner says. “And not only do we employ the people that work for us, but we house them, too. We had people relying on us, and the unknown of it all was just devastating.”
Things started looking up around July 2020. The Gambill Amusements family thought they may get to work part of the season after all. West Virginia opened up—only to be shut down 10 days later. The rest of the festivals planned for that year were cancelled, and the writing was on the wall for the small business. The Tuners were unsure how they would survive it.
At the time, Gambill Amusements did its business with a large national bank that provided the account access they needed on the road. They reached out to that bank hoping for help but got nowhere. The Turners also had a fairly new relationship with Hinzman. “We had just gotten involved with Citizens Bank in January or February of that year. We called Frank directly, and he told us not to worry, he could help.”
The rules were changing as the Tuners were still applying for the Paycheck Protection Program that would become a lifeline for millions of small businesses across the country. They say Hinzmen held their hand throughout the process, digging in and fighting for them each step of the way.
Hinzman had a PPP check in the Turners’ hands the first week that money was available. They were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. “We didn’t have a long-term relationship, and he still went above and beyond for us,” Shane Turner says. “We definitely have a long-term relationship now. We wouldn’t be here today without him.”
READ MORE ARTICLES FROM WV LIVING’S WINTER 2021 ISSUE
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