A flood of caring

By Kim McLees, Operations Supervisor, Lending Department
First International Bank & Trust, Member FDIC

Most companies claim they care about their employees. Many say they treat their employees like family.

My employer built me a home. How’s that for a caring family?

In June 2011, the Souris River flooded Minot, North Dakota, devastating most of the city. Nine employees at First International Bank & Trust in Minot lost their homes in the flood.

Running out of the bank
The memory is as vivid as yesterday. The day after Father’s Day 2011, a co-worker’s wife called and told us to turn on the TV news. Predictions for the amount of water Minot would be receiving – more than twice the previous day’s reported prediction – were unfathomable. We literally ran out of the bank that day. We had 48 hours to evacuate our homes, and none of us wasted any time.

Waiting, wondering
We had to be out of our homes on Wednesday, and can you guess what we did on Thursday? We went to work! Evacuated from our homes and living elsewhere, all we could do was wait and listen for news. I received an email from my daughter in Colorado on Friday around noon; who was watching the Robinwood Estates Facebook page for updatesHer email said: Crying. This just posted: Robinwood/Country Club/The Evergreens all under. That had been our home. For the next three weeks, the most my husband and I could witness of the damage was through binoculars.


“We want to do something”
The week after the flood, First International’s Minot president, John Drady, came into my office, looked me in the eye and said, “The bank has decided they want to do something.” Nine people had lost their homes, and at this time in Minot, housing was already difficult to come by. There was a new set of townhomes being built on the east side of town, and John said the bank would purchase the homes as temporary housing for the employees who had lost theirs.

I was dumbfounded. As empty-nesters, my husband and I didn’t need much room – but at the same time, we couldn’t live with friends and family forever. It took me about a second to take him up on the offer. After 167 days of living with faithful friends, my husband and I moved into a brand new, two-bedroom, two-bath townhome.

Flooded with help
New home aside, the way the bank rallied around those who lost their homes is truly inspirational. As the river rose, bank employees came from Fargo, Watford City, and other branches to help sand bag. And as the water subsided, the bank encouraged employees to take Fridays off to help colleagues clean out their homes and repair their lives. First International even opened a deposit account for employees to make anonymous donations for their colleagues who lost their homes.

My colleague Stacey’s beautiful, renovated Victorian home had water up to the ceiling, but he still managed to save it. FIB&T’s CEO, Steve Stenehjem and his wife, Gretchen, showed up one of those Fridays and Steve operated a pay loader all day to help dig up the rotting hedge around Stacey’s yard. (And boy, did he enjoy operating the big equipment!)

Today’s “normal”
More than a year has passed since the flood, and life is finally getting back to the new normal. In June, First International broke ground on its new Arrowhead branch building, which was destroyed in the flood. We’re all back to work and the other employees who lost their homes are again living comfortably with their families.

Doing right
One thing that has changed is our perspective. It is a cliché, but they say adversity brings out a person’s true character. In the case the Minot flood, it proved the spirit of First International Bank & Trust is one of community, caring, and doing right by your friends and family, no matter the cost.

Do you have a story to share from the Minot or Fargo floods? Share it here or on our Facebook page.

Kim has worked in the loan department of the Minot Broadway branch for 10 years. She loves anything to do with cooking, so you can either find her in the kitchen or relaxing with a cup of coffee watching Food Network! Her husband, Bill, is a district judge of the Northwest District. Together they have 5 children; Emily, Lindsay, Alex, and twins, Megan and Mallori and 3 grandchildren; Madison, Braden and Sydney.     


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