Bank of the Ozarks is celebrating our friend and colleague Brenda Lovelace of Kings Mountain, NC, today on her 50th year as an employee of Bank of the Ozarks (including years of service at the acquired bank) – perhaps the only employee of Bank of the Ozarks to have attained this milestone.
Today, Lovelace is Senior Vice President/Commercial Lender at Bank of the Ozarks in Kings Mountain, but on August 15, 1966, she was the newest teller at Kings Mountain Building and Loan. The oldest child of textile workers, she took the part-time position while studying at Gaston College to become a math teacher.
Instead, she built her career in community banking, home loans and commercial lending. Her degree came through the Savings & Loan Institute and the University of North Carolina School of Banking.
As her industry and community changed, Lovelace saw the building and loan become First Carolina Federal Savings Bank. Later, it merged into First National Bank of Shelby and, in 2013, that institution became part of Bank of the Ozarks.
Serving across the generations
Now Lovelace rubs shoulders with the second and even third generation of some of her earliest customers. “I see people’s adult children come in whose home loan we did years ago,” she recalls with a smile.
Cindy Wolfe, Carolinas Division President at Bank of the Ozarks, has observed Lovelace’s work since 2013 and says that while she may make it look easy, she works hard to ensure bank customers receive excellent service.
“Brenda enjoys a challenge. She remains a student of banking as well as an effective manager and mentor to everyone at the Kings Mountain office,” Wolfe says. “It’s wonderful that after a half-century her commitment to excellent customer service is unwavering. I’m excited to congratulate her on achieving 50 years of service.”
Kent Teague, Market President for Carolinas Foothills Group at the bank, echoes that thought. “We are happy to celebrate this milestone today by honoring Brenda with a community reception, a special award and a personal note from our Chairman and CEO, George Gleason.”
Wolfe adds, “The opportunity to celebrate a golden anniversary is rare, and it’s not every day that you have the opportunity to work with someone who has given so much to our customers. You can tell that she enjoys the work and she has built a tremendous rapport with our customers and the entire community.”
When her office door is open, many customers who pass by stop to talk about what’s happening in their lives, even if they don’t need Lovelace’s lending services. “If I have to close the door, they peck on the window and wave,” she adds. “They are all customers and friends.”
“It’s always a good feeling when I know I’ve done something meaningful. When I’ve helped someone to buy or build a home or to succeed in their own life, that’s a good day.”
The best advice ― ever
Lovelace says the best advice she’s ever received is the same as she dispenses to her banking team: “The Golden Rule sums it up. Be understanding and optimistic. Think about what your customers need and treat them as you want to be treated. I work to remember that and to stress it to my team.”
Away from the bank, she stays active in community service, so much so that in 2014 the Cleveland County Chamber of Commerce named her Kings Mountain Business Person of the Year.
Honor upon honor
In 2012, Lovelace received a Distinguished Rotarian award for initiating a program that provides 200 elementary school students with backpacks that are filled with enough food to meet their needs during the weekends. She’s also a Paul Harris Fellow, an honor named for the founder of Rotary International.
For several years, Lovelace was in a group of local businesswomen who sang, danced and performed comedy routines. “We were quite popular locally,” Lovelace recalls. “And I guess we were pretty good ―we were invited to perform with the Sweet Potato Queens of Mississippi.”
She’s led Sunday School classes for more than 40 years, and chuckles, “I did some teaching, after all.”
Thanks to her son, Lovelace has fulfilled her desire to see a Super Bowl game and a Masters Golf Tournament. More frequently, she enjoys time with her grandchildren, her daughter and family in Asheville, and going the beach with her husband, a retired postal worker.
After 50 years, where is retirement on her horizon? “I am asked that quite a bit,” Lovelace says. “I’m not ready to make that decision. I have tried to think about it. I love what I do, and when you put so much effort into something, you feel an ownership.”
“Whenever I leave, I know it’s going to be different and that’s fine. I just want the customers to always have the same level of service that I’ve worked to give.”
All of us at Bank of the Ozarks join the people of Kings Mountain in celebrating Brenda’s half-century of service, and we share her commitment to excellence in all that we do for every customer.