By Donna Hilton

Officials at several area banks say they are doing whatever can be done to assist persons who are in Clark County due to Hurricane Katrina.

Elk Horn Bank and Trust, Regions Bank and Summit Bank have all agreed to waive the fees for ATM use and check-cashing services for those people who have been displaced by the hurricane.

Bill Wright, president of Elk Horn, said the bank is doing “everything we can” to assist. “We’ve called several banks” to verify funds availability, he said.

The same thing is being done at Summit Bank, Ross Whipple, chairman and CEO, said. “We’re accepting incoming wires for them, opening new accounts, whatever we can do,” he said.

Both banks are making it easier to open accounts or cash personal checks, the two bank officials said.

Elk Horn and Summit also encourage their employees and customers to contribute to the relief effort. The two banks are matching their employees’ contributions.

“We’re hitting up our customers,” Wright said. “We’ve got flyers posted everywhere, even at the drive-through, asking customers to contribute.”

Summit allows its employees to take time off from their jobs to volunteer at the Red Cross shelter, office or distribution center, Whipple said.

Karen Nipper, a loan officer with Regions Bank, said Regions is also helping those affected by the hurricane with their financial needs.
Regions Bank customers from those affected areas can defer some loan and credit card payments, she said. The bank is also helping by increasing credit limits on those customers’ credit cards and providing special discounts and introductory rates on new equity loans and lines of credit.

Regions Bank has locations in 16 states, including Louisiana and Mississippi. Many of those displaced are Regions customers. The three banks are also assisting customers from other banks.

“We’ve had several in here who are looking for a branch of their bank,” Nipper said. “We’ll help them find it.”

Nipper and Wright both mentioned customers of one bank in Louisiana that also has a branch in Texarkana.

“This one guy told me that if he had known that, he would have already taken care of it,” Wright said.

Regions Bank and Elk Horn’s branch on Pine Street also serve as drop off points for goods needed by the refugees.

“If the customers will bring things here, I personally will take it to the distribution center,” Nipper said.

Employees of US Bank in Arkadelphia are giving their time and effort to assist refugees from Hurricane Katrina, said Paula Rowe, branch manager.

“We have a fund for the Red Cross,” Rowe said. Employee contributions to the fund will be matched by the bank’s parent company, she said.

Contributions from the public are also welcome in the fund, she said.

“We’re doing anything we can to help,” Rowe added.

Wright, who also serves on the board of the Diamond Valley Chapter American Red Cross, has helped several of the displaced persons find temporary jobs in the area. “We’re calling our commercial customers to see if they may have a job opening,” he said. “We’ve matched up a few.”

The Red Cross is working with the local Employment Security Division to match the refugees with jobs, Debra LeMay, executive director of the local chapter, said.

A representative of the ESD has been to the shelter at the Arkadelphia Recreation Center to speak with persons there who may be looking for jobs, LeMay said.