The Art of Partnership

Posted on January 03, 2022

After years of the ubiquitous holiday meat-and-cheese trays, popcorn balls and chocolate boxes, Dana Dykhouse, CEO of First PREMIER Bank, had an idea.

“It’s been close to 20 years now,” says Dana. “We were sending and receiving those gifts, which everybody gets and gives, and we thought, ‘this isn’t what Christmas is all about. It should be about the kids.’ So, we decided to take the money we would have spent and donate those funds to Children’s Home Society.”

"So rather than buying gifts for our customers and vendors, we just say we are making a donation in your name to Children’s Home Society. Then we make that donation and send a Christmas card.”

“We’ve been partners with Children’s Home Society for many years and in many ways,” Dana says.

“And then we came up with the idea that it would be fun to have a coloring contest at Children’s Home Society, so that the greeting cards the bank sends would be children’s artwork,” he says.

“I hate those pre-printed cards with people’s signatures stamped on them so, at First PREMIER, each department has a signing party. We all sit down with snacks, pass around the cards and hand sign them.”

It’s become a tradition—and customers and vendors look forward to seeing each year’s card. “This Christmas card is one of the fun things that really shows the true meaning of Christmas,” Dana says.

Behind the scenes

Lisa Compton, Loving School Art Teacher, is in charge of the contest. All students participate and it gets underway in September, as a back-to-school project, because it can take as long as a month to complete.

“Every year the theme is Christmas or winter,” says Lisa. “I tell the students that when you're doing artwork for something public like this, you've got to think of who your audience might be. It might be somebody your age who will see the card. But it could also be someone older, like your mom, your dad, your aunt, your uncle or your grandparents. You want things to bring back good memories, so think of your favorite things to do in winter. And then, because I have to incorporate curriculum needs, we talk about layout, design and composition, of course.”

Lisa has over 100 examples of Christmas cards, which students can review for ideas. The activity serves as a platform for teaching elements such as shading techniques, choosing colors, etc.

“I get all these pieces—art, social skills and classroom dynamics—wrapped under the heading of the First PREMIER Bank contest.”

When Lisa first started operating her side of the contest, children were hesitant to participate. “We have a lot of students who don't want to give things because they're afraid of not getting things back. It is an attachment issue that a lot of our students have.”

“Or, kids would say, ‘Well, I won't win because somebody's a better artist,’” Lisa says. “But now there is history; it's gone from us having to push kids to do it to seeing enthusiasm throughout the school.”