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A century of service: Perham's United Community Bank celebrates 100 years

Sam Benshoof/FOCUS United Community Bank in Perham is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a celebration on Wednesday, June 15.

A lot can happen in a century.

In 1911, United Community Bank in Perham was first chartered. Now, 100 years later, the bank that's a familiar presence around Perham is celebrating its anniversary with a big community party.

To give an idea of what things were like in 1911, an article in the April 20, 1911 issue of The Perham Bulletin described how the cost of running Minnesota State Government was $48,000 per day. (Currently, a shutdown of state government is looming because Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota GOP are still nearly $2 billion apart in budget negotiations.)

UCB first operated in Bertha, Minn., but when Perham's two banks failed in the 1930s, UCB moved its charter to Perham and became Perham State Bank in 1934. In 1995, the bank changed its name to United Community Bank.

What hasn't changed in the 100 years of being in business, said Marketing Official/Business Banker Sandra Waldon, is UCB's family-owned, community-oriented service.

"We have very strong ties to the community," Waldon said. "That's our number one objective. We pride ourselves on that."

Waldon said that the bank has always stressed community involvement on the part of its employees.

Examples of UCB's community involvement around Perham include being a part of the WDAY Honor Flight in 2007, which sent World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. to see a memorial made in their honor; organizing the UCB Round-up in 2008, which donated $10,000 to the 549 Foundation for Perham schools and $5,000 to Frazee schools; partnered with Lakes Radio to establish a fund to benefit the Otter Tail-Wadena tornado victims and much more.

That community involvement, plus continuing to be family-owned, makes UCB unique, Waldon said.

Currently, Jack Cavanagh and his sons Charlie, Bill and Bob own and manage the bank.

"They're all hands-on, involved with everything," Waldon said.

The Cavanaghs credited customers with the success the bank has enjoyed throughout the century.

"All present and former staff and stockholders are grateful for all of the great customers that we have had the pleasure of dealing with, and we look forward to the next 100 years," Charlie Cavanagh, president of UCB for the last 34 years, said.

"It has been a privilege and honor to be part of the success of the Perham and Frazee area over the past 100 years," said Bob Cavanagh, who has served as vice president at UCB for the last 25 years.

"We have enjoyed the growth over the years, going from three employees in the late 30s to 69 presently. Our customers are mostly responsible for this. For that, we are grateful," added Jack Cavanagh, chairman of the board. Jack has spent 56 years with the bank.

UCB will be holding an anniversary party on Wednesday, June 15 from 4-8 p.m. A Moola Moola Celebration will be held from 4-5 p.m., which includes performances by Bob and the Beachcombers and local magician Nick Bretz. Hot dogs, ice cream and cupcakes will be served, and inflatables and a bouncy house will be on hand for kids.

The community celebration will be held from 5-8 p.m. The celebration will include a pig roast with all the fixings, cake and ice cream, a community open mic and a 'tour through the decades,' combining music from 1911 through today.

Door prizes will be awarded throughout the evening.

The bank is asking that the public bring in any artifacts from the Perham State Bank or old United Community Bank to be displayed during the anniversary celebration on June 15. All items would be returned after the party.

The anniversary celebration is open to the entire Perham community, and not just bank customers. And that, Waldon said, fits right in line with the bank's philosophy.

"We strive to be the local community bank," she said. "That's our middle name."