Fast Facts about Kathleen Scego
Kathleen Scego is the Memory Makers Program Director at the Maries County Bank in Owensville, Missouri.
Maries County Bank opened its doors in 1900. The community bank has 11 locations in small towns across central Missouri with assets of over $466 million. Account holders over 50 years old can join the Memory Makers. There are now 600 people enrolled in the travel program.
Born: St. Louis
Education: She has an associate’s degree in marketing and advertising from East Central College.
Employment: After 16 years as the religious education coordinator for her church, Scego went from organizing programs for children to travel planning for older adults. In 2001, she began work at the bank managing loan documentation. The travel program started two years later.
Family: Scego has been married to Bill for 45 years. They have three children and three grandchildren.
Hobbies: Scego enjoys scrapbooking, crocheting and spending time with family.
Perseverance Pays Off
Why Kathleen Scego didn’t quit after her first international group tour is a lesson in perseverance.
“I look back at that and wonder why I didn’t quit then,” said Scego, program director for Maries County Bank’s Memory Makers.
Scego had already successfully run several shorter trips, so a cruise to Alaska and Canada seemed like an easy next step. But during the tour, a traveler became ill and was transported by ambulance to a Vancouver, British Columbia, hospital.
“This small-town girl had to find a way to get from our hotel to the hospital to check on this gentleman, which is a whole other funny story,” said Scego. “After learning that he had pneumonia and had not taken his diabetic medicine, we found out he would have to stay a few days. I had to contact his daughter and basically say, ‘I’m leaving your father in another country. Someone will pick him up. It’s going to be fine.’
“That trip taught me some valuable lessons, including the importance of travel insurance.”
Scego calls the trip her “baptism by fire” journey into group travel planning. Because she decided to learn from the experience and keep traveling, Scego has grown the program to more than 600 members over the course of 16 years.
A Good Idea
After the loss of her son in a tragic accident, Scego began searching for a new life purpose and attended East Central College as a nontraditional student. After her graduation at age 50, she began working in the loan department of Maries County Bank.
Two years later, her husband, Bill, suggested she ask the bank if she could start a travel program. Though she had no prior travel planning experience, she suggested the idea to the bank’s board members, who reacted with enthusiasm.
“After I presented the program at the board meeting, I told the board members to contact their friends and tell them about it,” said Scego. “The bank president said, ‘I can’t believe you told those good old boys to go out and find you customers.’ I didn’t know any better. I had to learn a lot. Luckily, the bank has always been very supportive of the program.”
To launch the fledgling program, Scego advertised a Get the Scoop ice cream social.
“In a small community, 44 people showing up was pretty good,” said Scego. “After that travel show, the program was off and running. Perhaps they just came for the free ice cream, but I was able to connect with a group of folks that loved to travel as much as I do.”
One Step at a Time
Scego first realized the importance of a planner’s demeanor on a previous day trip to Cave Man Restaurant in Richland, Missouri.
“The elevator to get up into the cave decided to malfunction on our way out,” said Scego. “The only choice was to go down the spiral staircase on the outside of the restaurant. One lady froze and said she just could not do it. So, with Bill in front of her and me behind her, we coaxed her down that steep spiral staircase.
“I think it is vital to keep a positive attitude even if things are falling down all around you. You can’t let the customers see how stressed you are.”
Scego also incorporates surprises into each tour because she feels these unexpected moments make the members feel valued by the bank. Each tour includes an extra activity or gift, such as a free flower at a trip to a nursery.
Window to the World
Not long after Scego began Memory Makers, she attended the Select Traveler Conference for a glimpse into the travel industry.
“I was so new that I did not even have business cards,” said Scego. “Fellow group leaders were so helpful to me with ideas and suggestions to make our travel program a success.”
The conference ended on a high note after she won a familiarization tour to Germany with Trips.
“I will never forget that adventure,” said Scego. “Bill and I had never traveled outside of the U.S., and our passports barely got to us in time for the trip. Spending that week networking with other bank club directors taught me so much, and I made some lasting friendships.”
To choose her travel destinations, she continues to mix conference suggestions with travelers’ expressed desires. The group travels 18 times a year, with tours ranging from day trips to longer international tours. Alaska remains a favorite destination; Scego offers trips there every two years or so.
“Our members are very different groups of people,” she said. “Some don’t want to leave their dog overnight. Some only want to be gone a couple of days. Some want to explore all over the world. I have tours to match each type of traveler.”
Although a hectic tour schedule can take the joy out of trips for some planners, Scego still cherishes each travel memory.
“I had not done a lot of traveling growing up,” said Scego. “My husband loves to travel, so I started to plan trips with him. It was his love of travel that led me to explore the world a little more.”
• Smile and spread kindness. Mr. or Mrs. Grouchy on your trip may have pains and heartaches that you know nothing about, so be kind.
• Strive to make each person you encounter feel special.
• Take time to make a great memory each day because none of us are promised tomorrow.