Tompkins VIST team members are always looking for ways to help in their communities. So, when the Wyomissing branch learned of the need to refurbish a room at Mary’s Shelter in Berks County, they jumped at the chance. “The sponsorship cost was $2,000, but I knew our staff could make the most of our donated funds by getting in there and doing a lot of the work ourselves,” said Susan Belfer, branch manager.
The refurbishing was part of a major renovation Mary’s Shelter planned this year to house the growing number of homeless youth ages 16 to 21. “The financial strain of the pandemic has caused a lot of family conflict, which prompts kids to run away or be kicked out of their homes,” said Christine Folk, executive director.
Tompkins VIST has a banking relationship with Mary’s Shelter, which helps prevent homelessness and supports maternity services through housing, education and social programs. But for Susan and her team, the commitment goes deeper. “We have a very special place in our hearts for this kind of organization, which serves such a crucial need,” she said.
The renovation project totaled about 17,000 square feet and included 20 bedrooms as well as a kitchen, living room and other rooms and offices. Christine wanted to make this a community-based project, so she invited all of Berks County High Schools to submit design ideas for the rooms. They were given a budget, a floor plan and a list of furniture. “We also asked them to be creative,” Christine said.
The funds for the project came from a variety of sponsors, each of which were assigned a room. Tompkins VIST Bank was asked to refurbish a bedroom designed by Boyertown High School.
The design was very detailed. “We could tell the students spent a lot of time on it,” Susan said. For example, in addition to listing the furniture and décor, the students suggested where the items could be purchased.
The room project began in the summer, when professional contractors installed a drop ceiling and flooring and the Wyomissing branch’s Assistant Manager Edwin Alvarado and Senior Teller Zach Dautrich painted the room in neutral and warm earth colors. Next the branch purchased a bed frame and several other pieces of furniture, which was assembled by Tompkins VIST’s facilities employees Alex Reifsnyder and Earl DeLong. The final phase was the décor, which included adding pillows, a bedspread, curtains, wall hangings and many personalized items so that the room would feel extra special.
Susan coordinated the work so that all of her staff, including Universal Banker Lauren Boone and Tellers Jen Ballou and Anna Gual, had an opportunity to help. They all worked in shifts to make sure that the branch continued to fully serve customers. The room is now completed and waiting for its first occupant.
Christine commended the generosity of all the sponsors and made special mention of the Tompkins VIST team’s hard work. “They took the original design and brought it to life,” she said. “Each room is unique, just like the kids we house. We want them to feel that the community cares about them and wants them to succeed.” Susan and her staff agreed. “It means a lot to know that we made a room pleasant and welcoming for a young person in need and could really help the community this way.”
Check out more photos below!