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Making a Difference in the communities it serves

Dairy State Bank strives to be a good neighbor by giving back

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June 24, 2024

WEST CENTRAL WISCONSIN – Since its inception more than 70 years ago, Dairy State Bank has strived to be good neighbors and make a difference in the communities it serves.

Today, Sarha Baumgard, marketing manager for Dairy State Bank, said the mission continues to be a team effort.

Employees from each of the bank’s 12 branches are encouraged to volunteer in their communities on an individual basis, or even as a small group – helping with different projects throughout the year. 

The Dairy State Bank team, Baumgard said, is also involved in Power of Community Week launched by the Wisconsin Bankers Association – an annual initiative designed to highlight the collective impact of Wisconsin’s banking industry. 

Rose Oswald Poels, president/CEO of the Wisconsin Bankers Association, said bank employees tailor their efforts to the individual needs of their areas.

“(This includes) giving financial literacy presentations in local schools to running food drives to volunteering in nursing homes ‒ it shows how passionate they are,” she said. 

By engaging in one or more service activities during this week, Baumgard said it demonstrates how much Wisconsin’s banking industry supports the communities in the state. 

“The goal of Power of Community Week is to have all the community banks in Wisconsin take this one week and get their employees volunteering to do service projects (in their respective communities),” she said. “It helps to show the force of community banks and how they impact the communities they serve. We stand behind that, and all of our locations do different projects.” 

Power of Community Week, Dairy State Bank style

Baumgard said this year’s Power of Community Week was held in mid-April, a time during which all 100 of Dairy State Bank’s employees were involved in one service project or another. 

Many times, she said, people will choose to pick up litter along the roadside and parks, rake up the natural debris after winter or do other things that provide an opportunity to be outside.

This year, however, Baumgard said, there were a handful of meaningful things employees chose to do. 

A Dairy State Bank employee helps prepare a meal at Wednesday’s Table in Menomonie for those in need. Submitted Photo

Erica Hobeck, a teller at the Bloomer branch, volunteered to clean up the Bloomer Veterans Memorial and nearby benches – which honor the service and sacrifice of veterans from the Bloomer community.  

As a veteran herself – formerly serving in the U.S. Air Force – Hobek said the work was important to her.

Some of the other things Dairy State Bank employees did in their communities during this year’s Power of the Community Week include:

  • Cleaned up several parks, cemeteries and roadsides – picking up natural debris from winter and garbage in Rice Lake, Haugen and Menomonie
  • Prepared and served a meal at Benjamin’s House homeless shelter in Rice Lake
  • Visited elementary school classrooms in Rice Lake, Prairie Farm, Cumberland, Turtle Lake and Birchwood to read a story or excerpt of a story to teach children about saving and money management
  • Worked at Birchwood Food Pantry
  • Played games with kids at an after-school program

Many of Dairy State Bank employees, Clark Yolitz, chief executive officer of Dairy State Bank said, belong to civic clubs, serve on nonprofit boards or volunteer for nonprofits throughout the year.

However, this year, they were encouraged to go a step further.

“For Power of Community Week, we challenged every employee at all 12 locations to participate in an extra volunteer activity during that week,” Yolitz said. “Nearly 100% of our staff did that this year.”

Baumgard said bank employees also incorporated financial literacy into Power of Community Week.

“Another thing we do as part of Power of Community Week that’s cool is we get our employees together and go to local elementary schools and read a book – or part of a book – to students and teach them a financial lesson at their level,” she said. “Then we give them a copy of the book we read to them. That’s one thing, but I think it’s special because we’re trying to help impact financial literacy.”

The books, Baumgard said, differ depending on the children’s ages, but they have included “Double Fudge” by Judy Blume and “Curious George Saves His Pennies” by H. A. Rey and Margret Rey.

She said volunteers also take a $20 bill and, using a projector, show the kids the different security features on the bill.

One of the fourth-grade teachers, Baumgard said, has now started following up the book read and that presentation, with a video he found about printing money.

“What’s one of the hardest things for fraudsters to overcome is the paper because it’s a special formula – that’s what the video is about,” she said. “It’s cool he counts on us coming and doing that lesson and then follows up with that video.”

Baumgard said teaching kids about financial literacy and responsibility is important.

Always an opportunity

As with Hobeck and her work on the memorial, Baumgard said everyone can find something to do for organizations they feel passionate about.

“The Dunn County Humane Society has an annual thrift or rummage sale as a big part of its fundraising (efforts),” she said. “We have employees who volunteer to work at the sale or help set things up.” 

Aside from the Power of Community Week, Baumgard said most Dairy State Bank officers are involved in service clubs, like Lions Club, Rotary or Kiwanis.

“They volunteer in that aspect on behalf of the bank,” she said. “Then we have other employees who volunteer at community events or different causes in the community.”

Baumgard said some employees organize supply drives for different organizations – like the Foster Closet in Menomonie, which is for people who have foster kids – throughout the year.

“A lot of times those kids are taken to a foster home on a moment’s notice, and they don’t have clothes or anything else they need,” she said. “So, the Foster Closet is there to help them fill that need.”

As with many other financial institutions or businesses, Baumgard said Dairy State Bank is approached by local organizations and nonprofits to support their respective causes through donations or fundraising event sponsorships.

Sarha Baumgard said bank employees also incorporated financial literacy into Power of Community Week activities – specifically with elementary school students. Submitted Photo

“We donate senior scholarships in all (the communities where we have banks),” she said. “We donate to food pantries and different things. (We also) sponsor fundraising events for organizations in our communities.”

One such sponsorship the bank sponsors every year, Baumgard said, is the Rice Lake Celebrity Charity Classic Golf Outing.

The money raised from this event – either from sponsorship, donations or entry fees – Baumgard said is split between several different child-related nonprofits in the area. 

“When our employees log volunteer hours in support of local nonprofits and civic clubs, or when Dairy State Bank contributes to community projects and events, we are working toward our goal of ensuring economic prosperity for the communities we call home,” Yolitz said. 

June Dairy Month

Dairy State Bank, which has branches located largely amongst Wisconsin farmland, Baumgard said, has always celebrated June Dairy Month – previously handing out ice cream, root beer floats, cheese sticks and pudding to its customers.

When the COVID-19 pandemic halted those efforts, Baumgard said the bank pivoted its efforts.

“This was also the time during the pandemic that supply chain problems were at their worst, and area farmers had to dump their milk,” she said.

Baumgard said Dairy State’s then-CEO, Mike Bock, came up with the idea of handing out one-pound blocks of cheese (or a bag of cheese curds) that were purchased directly from local cheese factories to customers in the drive-thru lanes of the bank.  

“Customers and the local dairy processors were so appreciative, (that) we have continued this Cheese Day tradition,” she said. “Now we can also give out cheese in our lobbies. This year, we gave away almost 2,000 pounds of cheese on Cheese Day.”

Protecting customers against fraud

Though not necessarily in the category of giving back, Baumgard said Dairy State Bank is devoted to helping protect its customers against fraud and scams, whenever possible. 

“There are so many scenarios that it’s hard to keep up with, but we see it so often…,” she said. “We always include something new about scams in our customer newsletter and on our social media pages. Probably weekly, we have some kind of tip or alert about some scam happening.”

Baumgard said Dairy State Bank makes a conscious effort to educate its customers – which includes encouraging them to look at their bank statements regularly.

“Community banks are all about going that extra mile to help customers make the best decisions when it comes to their money,” Yolitz said. “Our staff are vigilant in spotting signs of a scam. We also do our best to distribute fraud prevention resources from the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”

Dairy State Bank has 12 branches throughout West Central Wisconsin – including Rice Lake, Menomonie-East, Menomonie-downtown, Birchwood, Bloomer, Colfax, Cumberland, Downsville, Haugen, Prairie Farm, Turtle Lake and Wheeler.

For more information on the bank and its volunteering efforts, visit

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