For the past 50 years, First Interstate has been committed to philanthropy and corporate citizenship within the communities we serve, donating more than $3.3 million and 11,500 volunteer hours in 2017 alone.
Whether it’s through grants, sponsorships, or volunteer efforts, giving back is part of First Interstate’s core identity, something our employees proudly celebrate each and every day. To commemorate Giving Tuesday, we would like to shine a light on some of our volunteer ambassadors—a few shining stars whose passion for giving continuously inspires others. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it illustrates what makes First Interstate so special—the power of team, the power of giving, and the power of cultivating caring communities.
Kat Healy — Billings, MT
Community Giving Catalyst
As First Interstate BancSystem Foundation’s Philanthropy Associate, Kat Healy is, in many ways, the conduit through which all First Interstate employees channel their philanthropy. Working directly with employees to maximize community giving efforts, Kat loves leading the charge at local coat drives, Teach Children to Save events, and boots-on-the-ground volunteer efforts.
Make Room for Millennials
Kat is passionate about inspiring others into action—especially younger business professionals. This is why she’s taken an active role as a Red Ants Pants Foundation Youth Leadership mentor, serves on the Yellowstone Art Museum’s Art Auction committee, serves on the Board of Yellowstone Public Radio, and is involved in the Alberta Bair Programming Committee. “I’m motivated to make sure that Millennials are represented on boards,” Kat said. “It’s important for younger generations to be at the table.”
Attitudes into Action
For Kat, the most impactful volunteer experience has been serving as a youth mentor—watching her mentee come up with a big idea and then work to accomplish that goal. “The youth I was partnered with was incredibly driven and passionate. She decided to start a recycling program in her hometown, and it has been rewarding to support her.”
Sarah Beninga — Jackson, WY
Enrich, Enhance, Repeat
Sarah Beninga is excellent at connecting dots—whether it’s taking the extra step to help a client or one of her fellow First Interstate colleagues in Jackson, Wyoming. Detail-oriented and passionate about serving others, Sarah works as an administrative assistant and continually looks for ways to make people’s lives a little bit better and a little bit brighter.
One Step at a Time
Sarah volunteers for a variety of community causes and events, but is most passionate about her time spent as a “Sidewalker” at the Jackson Hole Therapeutic Riding Association. Here, Sarah works with a 9-year-old girl who is non-verbal and autistic. Since starting at JHTRA and doing horse therapy with Sarah, the girl is now able to say “whoa” to make her horse stop, and “wa-wa,” her version of “walk-on,” to make the horse go. “I receive so much gratification from spending time with those kids—I receive so much more than I give.”
Words of Wisdom
Sarah credits First Interstate with affording her the opportunity to get out from behind a desk and actively give back to the community. “Volunteering is a privilege—it fills your soul like nothing else can,” Sarah said.
Ingrid Reuter — Rapid City, SD
Advocate for the Arts
The curtain called early-on in Ingrid Reuter’s life—first volunteering at the children’s theater at Storybook Island theme park in Rapid City when she was 14, then later at the Black Hills Community Theater. These experiences laid the foundation for Ingrid to work as a nonprofit business manager for the Black Hills Playhouse, and now as an administrative assistant at First Interstate Bank. “Then and now, a love of the arts has kept me volunteering.”
A Child’s Joy
One of the things Ingrid enjoys most about her volunteer work is being spotted by children she’s helped or inspired. “There is nothing better than having a little kid see you in the grocery store or somewhere saying, ‘Mommy, look, there’s the girl from Storybook Island’,” Ingrid said. “I have a lot of fun putting smiles on kids’ faces.”
Feeding South Dakota
While much of Ingrid’s past volunteer experience is tethered to the arts, she’s also been involved in the Junior Achievement Board, Habitat for Humanity, and Feeding South Dakota. Ingrid gives Feeding South Dakota the nod as the most “powerful” work she’s done, because of its backpack program. On Fridays, volunteers fill backpacks for children in need so they have nourishment over the weekend. “Over 1,800 backpacks go out every week—that number is staggering and sobering,” Ingrid said. “I have never been without, and it’s easy to forget that people really struggle.”
Shelley Beal — Bozeman, MT
The Benevolent Banker
Shelley Beal, retail bank manager for First Interstate in Bozeman, is a lifelong volunteer and advocate for children, the homeless, health and human services, and everything in between. Causes attended and volunteer board positions held are so numerous, they take up a half sheet of paper. Some of Shelley’s most passionate causes include Big Brothers Big Sisters, Special Olympics Montana, and the Cody Dieruf Benefit Foundation for Cystic Fibrosis. “I am friends with the founder, who lost her daughter to Cystic Fibrosis,” Shelley said. “There is no cure for the disease, and we work hard to help the kids in our community with funds for travel, extended hospital stays, and--ultimately—a double-lung transplant.”
Dollars and Sense
In addition to donating time to serve on various nonprofit boards and assist with volunteer efforts, Shelley also uses her skills and knowledge as a banker to help others. She is the Treasurer of the Cody Dieruf Benefit Foundation, working with an accounting firm to report on quarterly financials during board meetings and also helps the organization prepare an annual budget.
As a lifelong volunteer and volunteer coordinator, Shelley said participants shouldn’t be deterred from volunteer work because of the unknown. “You can learn on the job,” Shelley said, adding “…until you spend some time within the organization, you don’t really know what drives it or makes it successful.”
Nancy Choules — Boise, ID
Power in Numbers
Nancy Choules’ position at the bank has evolved over the years, but ultimately, she describes herself as an organizer of people and projects. Nancy’s colleagues agree, calling her “a champion of bringing people together.” Nancy enjoys volunteering in a group setting and has developed many great relationships while volunteering—with bank employees, community volunteers, and organizations. “We are all there for the same reason—to make our community a better place,” she said.
The Gift of Hope
One of Nancy’s most memorable volunteer experiences occurs every Christmas when she and her colleagues sponsor a family at the Women’s and Children’s Alliance in Boise. “We are provided with the family’s gift wish list, then employees go to work getting every present on the list—plus more!” Nancy said. “It’s amazing to see the WCA gym filled with Christmas presents for families staying there.”
A Strong Foundation
Since its inception in 1990, the First Interstate BancSystem Foundation has donated more than $25 million to the communities it serves. But community members might not know about additional perks offered by the Foundation. “Our Foundation offers a $10 per-hour match of volunteer hours after the minimum 10 hours is met and a donation reimbursement of up to $5,000 per employee,” Nancy said. “That is a significant benefit—take advantage of it!”