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J.D. Bailey

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Janet Choate, Farmers Bank & Trust Commercial Loan Officer and Volunteer Firefighter

In countless towns across the land, everyday heroes can be found anywhere – even in the smallest of places. And in one tiny southwest Arkansas community of only 285 residents, it’s no different. 

Janet Choate has been a part of the Blevins, Arkansas, community for decades and still calls the small town home today. For a day job, she makes the 15-mile trip to Hope, Arkansas, where she serves as a commercial loan officer with Farmers Bank & Trust. In her spare time, though, she and her husband, Tim, spend much of their lives at the Blevins Fire Department, where they volunteer as local first responders and firefighters. Tim is chief of the two-bay station, while Janet helps respond to fires and emergency and medical situations of all sorts. Both are trained emergency workers with countless hours of training and real-world experience under their belts.

 

Janet and her husband, Tim, Blevins Fire Department Chief

For 20 years, Janet has been a part of the Blevins Fire Department. She joined the agency in October 2002 and has responded to hundreds of emergency and rescue calls during that time. Since Blevins FD is an all-volunteer service, the 12-person roster is tasked with responding to emergency calls within and around the small town. Sure, the agency has mutual aid agreements with surrounding communities and towns, but the immediate response often lies at the feet of the dedicated few within Blevins. 

“We respond to almost anything,” said Janet. “We’ve even helped a get a cat out of a tree before.”

The small fire department, however, is not without resources. The department contains two pumper trucks, a tanker truck, a service truck, and even a new side-by-side ATV for hard-to-reach wooded areas.   

“We’ve been really lucky,” said Janet. “Tim and the fire department have been able to get us so much equipment through donations and grants. We can handle a lot of situations here in Blevins.”

Janet and Tim are also right in the middle of the action in Blevins. The couple resides directly next to the town’s largest and most well-known attraction, Hillarosa ATV Park. The 2,000-acre recreational area and tourist destination has hosted multiple large-scale events over the years, including Mud Nationals 2022, which is one the biggest ATV celebrations in the region. That means lots of people flock to Blevins for these events, but that also means there are plenty of opportunities for emergency calls during the festivities.

 “We see plenty during those big events,” said Janet. “We live right next door, so we are always pretty close to the action.”

 Farmers Bank & Trust, where Janet spends her time during the work week, has also been a big supporter of the Blevins Fire Department. The Arkansas-based lender, through its charitable foundation, recently donated $5,000 to the agency to help equip the new side-by-side ATV for off-site fire and rescue tasks. The move will help Janet and the rest of the rescue team access hard-to-reach areas of the ATV park and its surrounding rural acreage.

 “Sometimes, there can be accidents and injuries at the park, and we’re able to get to them pretty quickly, especially now,” she added.

 The bank has also accommodated Janet when an incident occurs during the day. When she was previously the branch manager at the Farmers Bank & Trust location in Blevins, she was always allowed to respond to calls should an incident occur.

“If we had an emergency call and we had to staff to cover, they would always let me leave to go respond,” she said.

 

Blevins Fire Department Truck

LIFE-SAVING LESSONS

 

One of Janet’s more memorable experiences as part of Blevins FD actually came from a child who retained a few life-saving tips from a fire-prevention class held at the station. The program is performed annually for school-aged little ones, and during each session, the firefighters instruct kids on how to plan for and execute an evacuation from their home.

“We just try to tell them to set up an escape plan ahead of time, so if you ever are in a hurry, you already know what to do,” she said.

That particular fire-prevention session paid off in a big way.

“We had just held a class that day, and then a two-story house burned that afternoon,” said Janet. “The kids were able to get everyone out using what they had learned earlier in the day. The kids even had their parents set a ladder to the second floor. It was truly a life-saving event. I don’t know if everyone would have gotten out without what they had just learned.”

NOT SLOWING DOWN

 

With two decades already under her belt, Janet, along with Tim, is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

“I guess we will stay with the fire department until we can’t really do it any longer,” said Janet. “It’s just been such a part of our family and our lives for so long now.”

And a family affair it is. The desire to be a first responder is not limited to just Janet and Tim. The couple’s son-in-law is also a full-time professional fireman in Conway, Arkansas.

“I guess we’re just all over the place,” said Tim. “We probably wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Renderings of the Farmers Bank & Trust Workforce Center.
The Farmers Bank Foundation has committed $100,000 to the University of Arkansas at Hope-Texarkana (UAHT) to fund the construction and development of a new Workforce Center at the Texarkana, Arkansas, campus.

Farmers Bank & Trust Workforce Center

The building will be called the Farmers Bank & Trust Workforce Center and is set to open for the 2023 spring semester. The new 14,754-square-foot facility will serve as a modern employment training center for students in the southwest Arkansas region and house the Arkansas High School Collegiate Academy and the Secondary Career and Technical Education Center.
Renderings of the new Farmers Bank & Trust Workforce Center at the Texarkana, Arkansas, campus.
“We are excited to partner with the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana to provide a state-of-the-art facility for workplace education,” said ElizabethBurns Anderson, Executive Director of the Farmers Bank Foundation. “Preparing students with hands-on employment training is the future of education and benefits local communities for years to come. We are humbled and grateful to support the efforts of UAHT. This type of project is exactly why the Farmers Bank Foundation was established.”

10 Years

The contribution from Farmers Bank & Trust’s charitable nonprofit organization was approved in early September by the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees, which oversees UAHT. The six-figure donation for the Workforce Center will be paid out over 10 years. The Bank announced the gift publicly Saturday evening, Oct.8, 2022, with a check presentation at the UAHT 10th Anniversary Celebration at the Texarkana, Arkansas, Convention Center.
The Bank announced the gift publicly Saturday evening, Oct. 8, 2022, with a check presentation at the UAHT 10th Anniversary Celebration at the Texarkana, Arkansas, Convention Center.
“We are grateful for Farmers Bank &Trust’s investment in our students and community through this generous gift,” said Dr. Christine Holt, UAHT Chancellor. “These funds will be used to provide our students with state-of-the-art education and job training, which will, in turn, help them invest back into our communities in the future. Partnerships like this will help improve our communities for decades.”

No Better Fit

“When I thought of the opportunity for naming the Texarkana Workforce Center and it being the first named building on our Texarkana campus, there was no better fit in my mind than our friends at Farmers Bank and Trust,” said Anna Powell, UAHT Executive Director of Institutional Advancement. “The Farmers Bank and Trust Organization is the real deal. They are a consistent long-term partner of The University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana, and I am honored to have their name on our building.”

Long -Lasting Impact

James Bramlett, Texarkana Market President at Farmers Bank & Trust added, “This is a fantastic opportunity for the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana and Farmers Bank & Trust to work with our partnership in education for the Texarkana region. This will help us to better prepare our workforce for the future and have a long-lasting positive impact for our region.”
Farmers Bank & Trust CEO Chris Gosnell (left) is pictured with the Southern Arkansas University Trap Shooting Team. The group took first place at the third annual South Arkansas Outdoor Social trap shoot near Magnolia on Sept. 17.

Farmers Bank & Trust hosted its third annual South Arkansas Outdoor Social in Columbia County on Sept. 16-17. The two-day, three-event benefit served as a fundraiser for the Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation.

Families participated in the free fishing derby on Friday, September 16.

The affair consisted of a free fishing derby at the Southern Arkansas University Engineering Pond on Friday, Sept. 16, then followed on Saturday, Sept. 17, with a competitive trap shoot at the Farmers Bank & Trust Trap Shooting Range at Southern Arkansas University’s facility along Columbia Road 13 nearMcNeil.

The winner of the event was the SAU Trap Team. The champions took home a $2,000 prize as well as numerous individual gifts, including custom coolers featuring Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation graphics. The benefit concluded Saturday night with a free Red Dirt Country concert at Southern Arkansas University’s Alumni Center. The show featured the Texas-based Drew Fish Band, as well as fellow Lone Star State act, Saints Eleven.

Saints Eleven performing at the South Arkansas Outdoor Social.

All proceeds from the two-day, multi-event benefit went to the Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation. The nonprofit organization serves as a fundraising arm of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. The auxiliary’s mission includes supporting conservation efforts throughout the state, as well as property acquisitions to help enhance fishing and hunting opportunities in Arkansas. The Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation also aids in enhancing youth interest in outdoor and recreational activities, education, and more.

In total, the two-day benefit saw dozens of volunteers from Farmers Bank & Trust, Southern Arkansas University, and the Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation participate to help make the South Arkansas Outdoor Social possible in 2022.

Talesha Tatom, Vice President and Senior Retail Loan Officer

Farmers Bank & Trust is proud to announce the return of Talesha Tatom, Vice President and Senior Retail Loan Officer, to the Magnolia Market. Tatom, a 20-year banking veteran, came back to the Farmers Bank family in June.

The longtime lending professional previously served at Farmers Bank & Trust from 1999 to 2018. During that time, she began her career as an executive assistant and moved into lending as a retail loan officer.

Experience

Tatom brings with her a wealth of lending knowledge and experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Southern Arkansas University. She has also earned numerous American Banking Association certifications, including graduating from Mortgage Lending School, Credit Analyst School, and Basic Lending School. Tatom’s primary areas of expertise include residential mortgages and auto loans, as well as personal loans and other borrowing programs. Her office is located at the Magnolia Main Branch at 200 E. Main Street, and she can be reached at 870-235-7000.

“It is such a blessing and privilege to do what I do,” she said. “Whether it is someone purchasing their first vehicle or a couple building their dream home, it is an honor to be able to help them achieve that dream. It feels really good to go to work and get to do what you love.”

Community Involvement

Tatom attends and takes part in activities at First Baptist Church in Magnolia. She has also been part of charitable and social organizations such as the Magnolia Junior Charity League, Circle of Friends for Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and the Columbia County Sesquicentennial Committee.

“Having Talesha back in the Farmers Bank family is a great asset for both our customers and our community,” said Monty Harrington, Farmers Bank & Trust Magnolia Market President. “Her knowledge in this market is second-to-none, and we couldn’t be more pleased to see her back in the building again.”

The Farmers Bank Foundation recently donated $10,000 to the Magnolia Fire Department to go toward the purchase of new life-saving vehicle extraction equipment, commonly known as “jaws of life.”

The donation will aid in further outfitting the Magnolia Fire Department fleet with vital rescue technology.

“Every new firefighter has to be EMT-certified, so these tools are extremely valuable,” said MFD Chief Greg Pinner. “We currently have them on our rescue truck, but, if it’s gone from the station on a call, we don’t have anything left if another incident comes in.”

The new extraction equipment to be purchased with the help of the Farmers Bank Foundation is quite advanced. Instead of requiring two separate mechanical tools –one for cutting and one for spreading during rescue situations –the “combi” setup that the fire department will purchase features attachments for both tasks in one, easy-to-exchange, handheld device.

“This funding will really help us out,” Pinner added. “We’re always grateful for the donations from Farmers Bank.”

The Magnolia Fire Department is responsible for all fire and rescue operations in Magnolia. The emergency agency also responds to all significant vehicle accidents throughout Columbia County. The MFD staff now contains numerous certified paramedics, as well as firefighters.


For more on the Farmers Bank Foundation, visit HERE.