How this bank turned a passion for tuna salad into a way to benefit charities

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Employees at First Federal Savings & Loan Association of Pascagoula-Moss Point believe the best way to the heart is through the stomach.

The Pascagoula, Miss., thrift is full of employees who love to cook, and they've used that talent to both build camaraderie and benefit local charities. Holidays, retirement parties and important football games are just some of the excuses that First Federal employees use to bring in food. The offerings are lined up in an area behind the teller stations affectionately known as "the trough." Employees also cook twice a year for board meetings.

Tuna Tuesday is a summer mainstay. For the last decade, a handful of employees have prepared tuna salad and the fixings for all of the staff every few weeks.

In recent years, First Federal has used its cooking passion to raise money for charities, offering plated lunches, such as red beans and rice, pulled pork and, most recently, that famous tuna salad, for sale to customers.

The $311 million-asset thrift will even deliver large orders to businesses. One effort this summer scored more than 200 orders and raised $3,500 for the American Heart Association. That surpassed its initial goal of raising $3,000. Next year the bank aims to raise $5,000 with two charity lunches.

"Our customers are very supportive during our fundraising months, especially when food's involved," said Jennifer Garlich, vice president of marketing. "It's not only the cooks who prepare the food, it's the employees who volunteer to wash dishes, take orders and make deliveries that make it an enjoyable and profitable way to give back to our community."

This generosity has helped propel First Federal to No. 5 on the Best Banks to Work For list this year.

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The thrift also has candy bars for sale at the teller lines and drive-thru. The money raised from those sales is put into a pot reserved for walk-in requests for donations for local activities.

Weldon Perkins, First Federal's president and CEO, said the combination of home-cooked meals and the employees coming together for a good cause highlights the family atmosphere at the thrift. "First Federal is very fortunate to have employees who are both service and community minded," Perkins said. "Their support of fundraising for charities and families in need, year after year, speaks loudly that First Federal cares deeply about our community."

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Community banking Employee benefits Employee engagement Corporate philanthropy Best Banks to Work For