Opening a New Branch: Child’s Play at Utica Children’s Museum
July 1st, 2016
We’ll be opening a new “branch” soon: a play credit union for kids who visit the Utica Children’s Museum in Utica. Stan Kocyba, our Facilities Manager, will be creating a new financially-focused learning and play space for inquisitive young minds. Stan is in charge of our properties decisions, normally making the important calls on land and buildings, maintenance, and upgrades. This time, he’ll be thinking a bit smaller.
“We are taking two existing spaces, each 8 feet by 8 feet, and combining them into one larger space for our needs,” Stan said, as demolition started at the museum. “An old dentist office area and bank area will become the new credit union area. There was no existing technology installed, and we wanted kids to experience that, so we’ll be adding some interactive technology.”
The new space will be larger, and more interactive inside and out. The proposed design would give children a space with a play ATM, teller window with 2-way drawer, pneumatic tube system, live camera with monitor, loan area, vault, and a large erasable check.
While a good bit of general building design and construction skills are needed, creating a space like this for young people involves additional challenges. We always consider safety first, and the structure will be built to child scale. Our staff may be called in to help with maintenance of the site as well, so ease of access will be considered. Stan laughs, adding, “Kids can be a bit destructive, so our ‘functioning’ mini credit union branch will have to be built to withstand that.”
“Dramatic play is the foundation of our Exploration Station, and we are so excited to welcome First Source as a community partner,” said Elizabeth Brando, the Utica Children’s Museum Executive Director.
In addition to Stan Kocyba and Elizabeth Brando, our team includes a graphic designer (for branding, wall design, and decals), and a community relations specialist. Other First Source volunteers will help with the painting. The entire project is projected to be finished in a few weeks.
“It’s fun to build for kids,” Stan says. “To know they’ll use and enjoy it. I like that they’ll be learning and playing. It makes you feel good. I have a son, and I like to build and create for him. I truly enjoy projects like this.”
Stan’s last kids’ project was a handicapped-accessible tree house outside of Rochester, for children of all abilities to enjoy playing in the trees. This one is not nearly as big a project, but he looks forward to the joy it will bring to museum visitors.
LMV Graduation: Final Lessons
June 21st, 2016
My official Leadership Mohawk Valley (LMV) experience has come to an end, but the skills learned, and connections made, are just beginning. I am grateful to have had this opportunity, and would highly recommend it to others.
On our LMV Graduation Day, we presented our projects. For me, this was what LMV was really about: creating a tangible idea—with a solid plan—that truly helped a community organization. I felt like my team and I did something good and productive, helping to fulfill a community need.
I was very pleased with our outcome. Our presentation was vibrant, colorful, a good mix of different people speaking, photos, and video. It was informative, engaging, and best of all, we were able to hand off what we’d done directly to the Children’s Museum. They can now use our presentation to ask for funding to put the plan in motion. That is an amazing feeling.
Preparing for our presentation was nerve-racking, but still a good overall experience. Even with all of our up-front preparation and our dry run-through to establish flow and smooth out transitions, we still had some technical kinks we were working out right down to the wire. I have given presentations before, but I didn’t have to coordinate with a larger team, and it was on material that I was very familiar with. I’ve only used Word and PowerPoint for presentations, but for this project, we included video and custom artwork. In general, it was a much bigger undertaking than any I have participated in before.
As I reflect on graduation, I recall that I had a clear objective when I started LMV. I wanted to find a cause or purpose in the community that I could identify with and become invested in. I wanted to be able to follow through with that cause or purpose, staying connected with it after LMV was complete. I am proud that these were not empty words, and that I have followed this commitment through.
The Utica Children’s Museum is pleased with the presentation and plans, and is currently using our proposal to apply for grants. I have already volunteered once to set up their new Nano exhibit, and intend to continue. My family is planning to help as well. The Utica Children’s Museum would like our team to present to their Board of Directors and Community Donors. So my team will still see each other, and my connection to the Children’s museum continues. Success all around!
Choosing to participate in LMV is like choosing to write a senior thesis in college. It’s a choice to knowingly take on an extra commitment and extra work, but it yields deeper knowledge, and a feeling of accomplishment and pride upon completion. I have benefited both personally and professionally from the experience, and it has helped better prepare me for the various challenges ahead!
My Relay for Life: Not Just a Fundraiser
June 9th, 2016
I am a busy mother of four. My husband and I both work full-time jobs, as well as volunteer and participate in the community. We include our children as well, so they can see the importance of contributing to our community.
I have had many family members and friends affected by many different forms of cancer from a very young age. I have lost my grandfather, my father-in-law, my daughter’s grandmother, a friend in middle school, a high school friend, and another high school friend’s husband to various forms of cancer. I also have had my other grandfather, an uncle, an aunt, and a high school friend’s infant daughter affected by cancer (they are survivors!), as well as many other friends’ and co-workers’ family members affected. I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you have in some way been touched by cancer through a family member, friend, or acquaintance.
I have been participating in Utica’s Relay for Life since it was held at JFK Middle School—around their track/football field—many years ago. I would participate with my family, in honor of our family members and friends. I still do this today with my own children, for many more family members and friends that we have lost, or are fighting the battle.
So, what does Relay for Life mean to me and my family, and to so many others? Relay for Life means hope. It means people coming together to fight for a cure, to someday make the world cancer-free, for our children and their children.
I participate with our Relay for Life team at First Source, and help with fundraising throughout our branches beforehand, as well as on the day of the event. My children participate and volunteer, walking and fundraising at the event. We also participate in the Luminaria Ceremony every year, which is a very moving ceremony where candles are lit and placed in paper bag lanterns on which a name, wish, or message can be written. They commemorate those who have passed from cancer, give hope and support to those currently suffering from cancer, and celebrate survivors. I highly recommend attending it if you haven’t yet, as it is definitely something to experience (First Source sells Luminary Bags at every branch).
Why help? I think it’s unfortunate that everyone seems to know someone affected by a form of cancer, and it’s important for us to stick together to help fight, and find a cure. Every little bit helps us move closer to finding cures, as well as helping those in need right now, from providing information to answer their questions, to making sure they have a ride to treatments, and so much more. You are making a difference.
– Heather Padula, Branch Operations Supervisor
4 Financial Tips for Traveling Internationally
June 9th, 2016
Travelling this summer? Stay safe, have fun, and prevent financial surprises with these financial tips.
1. If you’re planning to travel abroad to a destination where you’ll need to exchange currency, make sure to do that before you go. It’s almost always more expensive to exchange at the airport or visitors’ center. Check your local financial institution. At First Source you can exchange right online using the most current exchange rates. It’s simple, secure, and one less thing you need to worry about. First Source partners with Travelex, the world’s largest retail foreign exchange specialist, offering a wide range of currency, and a number of convenient delivery methods. Plus, if you order before 4:00 p.m. EST, you can get next day delivery! Choose from cash or a prepaid cash passport Mastercard®, which you can reload at any time.
2. Let your credit and debit card holders know when you’re planning to travel, so they don’t block your card (thinking it may have been stolen). A quick call to let them know your destination(s) and dates will help make sure your funds are available when and where you need them.
3. Some credit cards charge an additional foreign transaction fee when using them abroad. If you plan to use a credit card in another country, make sure to bring one that doesn’t charge this added fee.
4. Planning to dine out? Make sure you know the region’s tipping policy. In some countries, tipping is not customary. If you’re tipping within the U.S. but outside our local area, remember to do the math rather than just double the tax. Other cities and counties may have lower tax rates, so simply doubling the tax could short your server.
Plan ahead, and have a great trip!
My Ride for Missing Children
May 24th, 2016
First Source is privileged to have the ability to support many worthy organizations and causes in our area. One that we support and participate in year after year is The Ride For Missing Children, and I am honored to be personally involved.
It is a cause that is near and dear to so many, due to its beginnings right here in our community. A tragedy, turned into a positive and empowering movement. The Ride touches on many issues that are important to First Source, including education, prevention, positive action, and support. It also touches many diverse groups, including children, educators, parents, and law enforcement.
Once it was decided that First Source was going to be involved in 2008, I knew I wanted to play a bigger role personally. Starting as a Rider, I was thrilled to join a truly amazing group of dedicated and caring people. I was proud to get to know them and call them family. As the years progressed and I became more engaged year after year, I felt a stronger connection, and the ride took on a deeper and more personal meaning. I got to know family members of missing children, the teachers and kids at the schools, our local law enforcement, NCMEC Staff members and volunteers…countless people giving of themselves, dedicated to a common cause.
An opportunity came for me to volunteer and share my expertise and skills on the Ride’s Steering Committee. It felt good to provide additional assistance in a different capacity. I still Ride and volunteer, and I am really looking forward to this year’s milestone 20th Anniversary Ride on Friday, June 3rd. This will be my 7th year. As they say, may the wind be at our backs and the sun on our face, as we all do our part to make our children safer…one child at a time.
– Tom Neumann, Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer
LMV Day 9: Overcoming Obstacles
April 29th, 2016
This is a bittersweet entry for me…reflecting on our last LMV program day. All that’s left is our project presentation and graduation. What a journey this has been! It was undeniably one of my favorite days, very interactive and engaging.
Our day started at the ARC, Oneida-Lewis Chapter, a fitting location for the theme of our day: Human Services. Inspired Life Coach Rebeccah Silence led our class on a personal, introspective journey focused on leadership. In a smaller group setting with our project team members, we each opened up about our thoughts, fears, and inner feelings about leadership. Being with our project team members, with whom we have had more opportunity to become close and comfortable, enabled us to feel more comfortable opening up. I was nervous that people would not be comfortable sharing personal feelings and being vulnerable in this setting, but Rebeccah asked appropriately probing questions, and kept it within the scope of leadership and business. It worked well.
I’m inherently a very introspective and honest person, so this was a great exercise for me. I was happy to see it work well for others, too. It’s interesting, because I’m not usually the one to speak up first. I typically listen to others, and process what’s been said. Then only if there is really something new to add, do I interject. For this exercise, I was one of the first to engage in our group.
One great takeaway for me was a new way to think about obstacles. When you meet an obstacle along the way to your goal, don’t interpret it as a sign that it wasn’t meant to be. The obstacle is a test of our commitment. If we are not truly committed, we will give up on the goal. Maybe it was the wrong goal for us. When we are fully committed to the goal set and our whole heart is in it, we will push past any obstacles that present themselves. If you back away from the obstacle, then perhaps that goal was not the right goal for you. That is okay. Start looking for the right one.
The day also brought a fun surprise as we headed to Art & Vine for a painting exercise. We all received the very same instructions to paint the very same painting, yet each of us produced a version that was “uniquely our own.” It was a great visual for seeing that everyone tackles projects differently, yielding different results as we each approach it with our own skills and perspectives. It was also a great lesson in collaboration, seeing how people learn from one another and share ideas, and seeing how a possible mistake could be redirected and adjusted to be made beautiful. Then it got interesting…
Once we were done, we were asked to move and work on a new painting—one that was not our own. You’ve put all this work into your painting, making choices and doing it your way. And now you have to turn this over to someone else. Will they enhance your painting or will they wreck it? You have to trust that they will do the best they can and add value. And now, you too have to touch someone else’s work. Do you see the direction they were going in and take the same path? Or do you add your own flare? Really a great metaphor for multi-layer projects with a team of participants in the real world.
Finally, we visited the Root Farm. What an impressive facility this is. I was amazed at the progress, and so proud that something like this exists right in my home town of Sauquoit. It was really cool to see how much they’ve done to allow for both the able-bodied, and those with disabilities, to enjoy their experience at the farm. The animal therapy and connectedness to nature made me feel right at home there. I gained some inspiration to take back to our Children’s Museum project.
Often on a program day, a group gathers after the day is done. I don’t always attend, but as it was our last program day, I really felt the desire to keep the day going. I found myself not wanting it to end. There was a different energy, as we felt this chapter coming to a close. I realized that while this was an extension of work for me and included additional responsibilities and projects, it was also nice to be a student again, to learn and to be inspired. I will miss it, and I will want to make sure I continue to find my own avenues to be inspired. I hope our connections continue, and I look forward to seeing our project through to completion. After funding is secured, I’d like to volunteer to make our vision of the space come to life.
Regarding our project: it’s just about complete. We have our final plan in place, with final schematics to present. Now we just have to ensure we appropriately communicate our ideas on Graduation Day. That is the morning we deliver our presentation. We’re ready, and just adding the final touches.
The LMV program has proven to be a wonderful self-discovery opportunity for me, pulling resting concepts from the back of my mind to the forefront, where they can now be active. LMV has made me realize that now is the time to make positive changes, to make real lifestyle adjustments I’ll be able to carry through moving forward.
LMV was the perfect companion for me as I ended up on an unplanned tandem journey—through LMV and through my work at First Source. At the beginning of LMV, my work role was focused on day-to-day work and procedural needs. At LMV I was learning what it takes to be innovative and develop a vision of the future. Simultaneously, my role at First Source was changing to a more innovative role. It’s rewarding, and what I learned at LMV has helped me with that transition. It’s still daunting, but it’s a welcome challenge.
I’ve always been analytic, focusing on how I can do things differently, and better. So this is not necessarily new. However, I now have new tools, tangible examples to draw from. My world view is bigger. Through our project, I have a true sense of ownership. If it weren’t for LMV, I wouldn’t have known I could help the Children’s Museum’s outdoor space, or discovered the treasure that is the Root Farm. These are places where I can see my family getting involved and volunteering together. I look forward to sharing this with them.
Thank you for taking this journey with me.
– Brenda Rogowski, Loan and Deposit Operations Manager, LMV Participant
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