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Growing Forward with the Owners’ Dividend:
Sue and Bob Onderdonk

Q&A with Sue and Bob Onderdonk, ESL personal banking members since 1981

ESL members for more than 40 years, and married for 38, Sue and Bob Onderdonk are enjoying life in Churchville with their kids and grandkids. They were first drawn to ESL for the convenience as employees of Eastman Kodak in the 1980s, but the financial relationship only grew from there, driven by the personal connections and relationships they’ve forged with the employees at their local branch in Chili and banking services that aligned with their personal and professional banking goals. Sue and Bob are not only longtime members, but longtime recipients of the Owners’ Dividend payout, which has helped them invest in their future and feel as if they belong to something bigger.

What was your reaction to your first Owners’ Dividend payout?

Sue: It was like hitting the lottery!

Bob: It came as a surprise. We said to ourselves, “What’s this check for?” when we first received it. It was something we weren’t expecting, but we’re savers and every little bit helps. Last year, when the early Owners’ Dividend payout was issued, we were very thankful. At the time, those checks meant a lot to many people, and by thinking ahead and giving members their dividend payouts early versus waiting another six months, it really helped a lot of people. It speaks for itself that they’re worried more about people than they are about the bottom line.

Sue: Bob is an essential worker, so he was working throughout the pandemic, but I had to shut down my business for three months. I’m a massage therapist and I work out of our home. Although we were able to still pay the bills, I was very nervous about the future. When I eventually reopened my business in the spring, I didn’t know if I was going to have to shut down again and I had incurred several expenses to comply with the new safety guidelines in order to reopen. Having those additional expenses coupled with a lot of unknown, we put the money away in our account right away, hoping we didn’t have to touch it because we just didn’t know what to expect, like everyone else.

 'It's the relationships, the family, and the community - you feel like you truly belong.' - Sue Onderdonk

After receiving the Owners’ Dividend over the years, is there anything special you’ve done with your payout?

Sue: It goes into what we call our bonus account where we save for vacations and other things. We had been planning a trip to Germany and were saving toward that, but the pandemic changed those plans. That kind of money goes into that account, and we just wait and see if some of the things we’re hoping for will occur.

Bob: It’s one of those added things we didn’t do anything to earn, but it’s extra money we can put away and know it’s there if we need it or want to put it toward something like a vacation. It’s not that we expect it every year, but when it comes, it goes right into the account.

What does it mean to you to belong to something bigger?

Sue: It honestly is just the relationships, the family and the community you feel when you walk into a branch. I don’t feel like I’m just a number. When we go into the Chili branch, they know us and most of the tellers greet us by name and we know who they are. You walk out smiling, and to have that personal touch means a lot to us!

Bob: We live in a small town out in Riga and it’s nice to know the bank is there when you need it, whether we need help with a car loan, a mortgage or are looking to refinance. I know I can trust the people there. Like Sue said, we’re not a number. When you go into the branch, you belong.

Sue: You’re treated like family. I know it sounds odd, but you are. We feel as though we’re not only dealing with a bank, but more than that, we’re dealing with the people. They’re taking care of us and we’re taking care of them. It truly has meant the world to us and we’re thankful to have been members for this long.

Learn how an annual dividend payout has grown to become so much more >

The individual Owners’ Dividend payout amounts ESL members receive are based on established Owners’ Dividend criteria. For more information about the criteria, please visit Qualification for the Owners’ Dividend is subject to eligibility requirements and payment of the Owners’ Dividend is not guaranteed.