Throughout the day Thursday employees at First State Bank & Trust Co. took a break from helping local residents with their finances, and put hammers to nails as they built picnic tables for soon-to-be homeowners.

The parking lot at First State Bank was filled with the sounds of drills, hammers, and saws as employees joined volunteers from Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity for its seventh annual on-site build project.

“This year we chose to take on a new project. To engage as many of our staff as possible, we have worked to find quality projects that can be completed on-site at the bank,” Cindy Slykhuis, Vice President of Marketing at First State Bank, said.

This year’s project was to build five picnic tables that will be provided to new Habitat homeowners who houses were built over the summer.

“Given the importance of family mealtime, we thought building a table for these deserving families could be a really unique and special gift,” Slykhuis said. “Besides sharing a meal, giving families the space to share time and conversation feeds the spirit.”

In the morning, around a dozen First State Bank employees completed two tables and put in some of the legwork for the afternoon crew by cutting wood pieces to size so they could be more easily screwed together.

The picnic tables are different from those you would find in most parks or recreation areas, as they also convert into benches.

“They are kind of like transformers,” Slykhuis said. “So not only can they be used as a table, they also fold up into a bench so they have multiple uses.”

In previous years, First State Bank teamed up with Habitat to build garages and sheds, as Habitat homes did not previously come with those amenities.

It is now standard practice for Habitat homes to include a garage, but homes prior to a few years ago did not have garages or sheds, so the First State Bank projects aimed to fill that gap.

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“We started doing this seven years ago and when we first started we built sheds out here,” Slykhuis said. “So we would do a shed build out here and help build garages for the homeowners, because if you have a new home but you don’t have a garage or a shed where do you put your lawnmower and all your other outdoor stuff.”

Whether it is building sheds, or picnic tables, First State Bank’s annual project in partnership with Habitat is a way to give back to the community.

“We are a locally owned bank and a community bank and we very much believe in giving back to organizations in the community,” Slykhuis said. “We want to help people get into homes and safe, affordable housing is just so important and there are so many more families that need things like this than actually get them.”

“The bank isn’t successful if Fremont isn’t successful so we want to build up our neighbors and work with them.”

Along with pitching in to help Habitat and local homeowners, the event also allows First State Bank employees the chance to work together in a different environment.

“It’s team building and there is that camaraderie. You work together a little bit differently when you get to work side by side, versus calling each other from different offices,” Slykhuis said. “It’s just a nice change of pace and even though not all of our employees get to come out, it is still a team effort. In order for some of us to come out there are others that are holding down the fort inside.”

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