On August 12th, 2019, Katherine Reese, Chairman & CEO of First State Bank of the Southeast, was driving into her hometown of Pineville, Kentucky with a decision to make.
Pineville Community Health Center was in dire financial straits and facing bankruptcy. The city of Pineville, with a population of just under 2,000, not only stood to lose its local hospital, but its largest employer.
She had one question she needed to answer: should her bank step in and save the hospital and the jobs it pro-vided the community?
She asked for a sign
“August the 12th will forever be ingrained into my memory,” Reese said. “That is the day that our bank decided to purchase the hospital out of bankruptcy.
“My children and I were out, it was a gloomy day, and it had just stopped raining. I was driving back towards the hospital, as I looked up to turn, this rainbow (see above) comes across the sky. I knew that was God’s affirmation to me that I was doing the right thing.”
“The choice was critical to keeping the community alive,” said Ken Jones, President and COO of First State Bank of the Southeast. “To have lost the hospital would have essentially meant losing the community.”
For Reese, whose Grandfather started the bank in downtown Pineville in 1899, the decision to save the hospital in which she was born went beyond a simple business decision.
“Sometimes the most important decisions are the ones that come from your heart,” Reese said. “And the hospital decision that my bank and I made was truly from the heart.”
Before First State Bank of the Southeast stepped in, many of the employees hadn’t received a paycheck in nearly a month. To their credit, the staff kept working.
“Honestly we would not have made payrolls if the bank hadn’t stepped up and secured more funding,” said Terry Nichols, CEO of Pineville Community Health Cen-ter. “We would have been shut.”
Reese credits the assistance of the Kentucky High-lands Investment Corporation, the USDA and the City of Pineville in sharing the success of the project. The project also received strong support from the Kentucky State Legislature, Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mc-Connell, and the CARES Act.
“This has truly been a community coming together when it really needed to,” Reese added. “For our bank, in this little bitty town, to be able to make a big impact, I think speaks to what community banks should do across America. This is our opportunity to shine when things like this happen, and I’m just thankful our bank could do that.”
“I knew Katherine’s father George. I spent many a night in George’s house watching Katherine grow up,” said Ballard Cassady, KBA President and CEO. “I know he would be so proud of what she and First State Bank have done, and continue to do, for the city of Pineville.”
“It is one of the best examples of the impact a com-munity bank can have on its community that I’ve ever come across in my years in banking; not only in Kentucky, but across the country. It exemplifies how important community banks are to their communities.”
Article Written by Josh Fischer
Kentucky Bankers Association Managing Editor
Article Originally Published in the Winter 2020 Kentucky Banker Magazine