While many businesses and nonprofits across Michigan are feeling the hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic, ChoiceOne Financial Services, Inc. (Nasdaq: COFS) ("ChoiceOne”), the parent company of ChoiceOne Bank and Lakestone Bank & Trust, quickly began processing loans under the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). To date, the Banks have processed over 700 Payroll Protection Program (PPP) applications with a value of over $100 million.
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides a variety of additional emergency relief programs for consumers and businesses, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) guaranteed through the Small Business Administration (SBA). ChoiceOne Bank and Lakestone Bank & Trust are authorized lenders by the SBA to administer the Paycheck Protection Program.
“Together our teams processed over 700 Payroll Protection Program (PPP) applications for our small business and nonprofit customers,” said ChoiceOne Bank CEO and President, Kelly Potes. “Impacting thousands of jobs, these loans have a value of over $100 million, which is significant considering this money goes back into our communities to help these businesses remain open and staffed.”
Pine Ridge Bible Camp Sees Silver Lining with PPP Loan
Pine Ridge Bible Camp, a small, nonprofit business located in West Michigan, was able to take advantage of a PPP loan to maintain the 100-acre Camp, offer some virtual programming and prepare for future camping activities. “The Paycheck Protection Program gave us a lifeline to survive to keep our full-time staff and maintain our Camp,” said Pine Ridge Bible Camp Executive Director, Kevin Grifhorst. “If there is a silver lining to this pandemic, it has allowed us time to work on many of our cabins, grounds and facilities so the Camp will be in great shape when our campers come back, hopefully yet this summer.”
Preparing to celebrate their 75th anniversary next year, Pine Ridge Bible Camp is among many camps around the world that have been hit hard. Normally, the Camp offers spring retreats and field trips to businesses and schools, which were all cancelled. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, all gatherings including summer programs at the Camp are in waiting for the time when guests and campers can return safely.
“While larger banks struggled to process PPP applications during the first and second rounds of funding, our staff across the state worked hand-in-hand with our small business customers like Kevin at Pine Ridge Bible Camp,” said Potes. “Because we are a community bank, we know and understand our customers and therefore can work quickly to meet the needs of the small businesses in our communities.”
Community Partnership a Home Run
Pine Ridge Bible Camp, like many other nonprofits, had contingency funds and reserves, but realized those would have been used up quickly without the PPP loan. Since the coronavirus pandemic began spreading in the United States, Grifhorst had been tracking the news and therefore was tuned into relief funds.
“Fortunately we had a Board of Directors meeting at that time and one of our directors is an accountant,” said Grifhorst. “He was familiar with the disaster relief loans through the SBA, so we looked at our options and it became clear the PPP loan would be the best for our situation and actually provide more funding. We worked with our ChoiceOne Bank Commercial Lender, Jason Parker, and applied for our PPP loan as soon as we could. We are grateful to everyone at ChoiceOne Bank who worked hard to move our loan request along in such a timely manner. Without this rescue loan, we would be making some major changes with our staffing and how we are able to move into the future.”
Pine Ridge Bible Camp has been a customer of ChoiceOne Bank for over 10 years. They had been with another bank in town – a bigger, national bank. As Grifhorst recalls, “they just seemed reluctant to support us as a nonprofit organization. So, we looked for a bank that wanted to partner with us as part of the community. ChoiceOne has done that and it’s been a home run!”
Cedar Springs Home to Camp and Bank Branch
With a branch office in Cedar Springs, where the Camp is located, ChoiceOne Bank understands how important a local partnership is to Grifhorst. “ChoiceOne meets our needs with great care and they have always been there for us,” said Grifhorst. “On top of that – they have been a true partner in supporting our fundraising events.”
ChoiceOne Bank is a long-time sponsor in the annual “Tee Up Fore Kids” Golf Outing. The Bank puts in a team of golfers and also provides a volunteer team to greet golfers as they arrive, answer questions and help serve a continental breakfast.
“The fact that ChoiceOne is a local community bank is the primary reason that we switched banks over 10 years ago,” said Grifhorst. “It wasn’t that our other bank was doing anything wrong, but we wanted a bank that cared about what we were doing in the community. Our camper population largely comes from the Grand Rapids and West Michigan area, so we are very community oriented. The majority of our guests are coming from our area, so having a bank that cares about the families, kids and special needs campers we are serving as a local nonprofit, is everything to us.”
The staffing at Pine Ridge Bible Camp fluctuates throughout the year because their primary business is seasonal. Currently, there are four full-time employees and four part-time employees through most of the year. The Camp will employ about 30 seasonal employees based on needs.
Caring for Kids…And Their Safety
During the summer, Pine Ridge Bible Camp offers camping experiences to youth, as well as two sessions for disabled youth and adults. Grifhorst has been with Pine Ridge Bible Camp for 32 years. His first job was washing dishes, then a cabin leader, and holding many other roles throughout the years until he became the Camp Director 19 years ago. He is hoping to have a big celebration next year for the Camp’s 75th anniversary.
Like many other small businesses and nonprofits, the pandemic is hitting the Camp hard. Gathering to serve people is the reason the Camp exists – to have people come together and grow in their relationships with each other and God. There is considerable concern this might not happen this summer.
“Kids look forward to summer camp all year, especially our special needs campers,” said Grifhorst. “We have one special needs camper that immediately packs for the next year when she gets home. Camp is all she talks about for the good part of the year. It’s going to be very disappointing for the kids and the special needs campers that planned to come this summer if we can’t open.
“I can’t emphasize enough that our slogan is we care for kids…and we do, inside and out, and through and through. So, as sad as it is that we might not be able to serve our population this year – we do value safety. If we are able to have a program – we intend to do that keeping everyone as safe as possible. We are waiting to see what comes out of Lansing and our state government and whether we can either have camp this summer even if it’s abbreviated. We intend to do whatever is in the best interest of our campers and their families because we care for them. We will surely miss them if they can’t be here. In the meantime, we will focus on what we can be thankful for…like maintaining our beautiful camp so it’s ready when our guests and campers can enjoy it once again.”
ChoiceOne Bank Focused on Community Needs
On May 15, Lakestone Bank & Trust and ChoiceOne Bank will become one – ChoiceOne Bank. These two high-performing community banks, each over 120 years old, will now span Michigan with 29 branch offices to serve their communities. This merger will allow ChoiceOne Bank to leverage their new size to help their customers during these tough times.
“As the local community bank, ChoiceOne Bank is always focused on the wellbeing of the families and businesses in our communities,” said Potes. “During these challenging times, we understand our customers may need additional attention and care. If we have a third round of PPP funding, we will continue to be selective and nimble in getting the funding to the businesses and nonprofits in our communities as quickly as possible. We look forward to the day when our customers’ uncertainty is replaced with optimism for recovery and new growth.”
ChoiceOne Bank has a mission to provide superior service and high-quality advice and show our utmost respect to everyone we meet. Potes concludes, “At the end of the day, it is how we treat one another that will set us apart, especially during these unprecedented times. Please take care of yourself and your families and know we are here for you…and stronger together.”
About Pine Ridge Bible Camp
Founded in 1946, Pine Ridge Bible Camp sits on 100 acres in Cedar Springs, Michigan, offering overnight and day camp for children, youth, and special needs campers. Pine Ridge exists to share and model the message of Jesus in a safe, innovative, and relational setting. Retreat facilities are available for churches, schools and other organizations. For more information see www.pineridgecamp.com.