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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Checking In With Susie Cleckner

For the residents of Mansfield, Ohio, and the surrounding area, Mechanics Bank is not just a financial institution.

“For many of the 50,000 people in Mansfield, Mechanics Bank is referred to as ‘My Mechanics — my bank,’” said Susie Cleckner, vice president and program director of the bank’s Good Life program.

“For over 100 years, Mechanics has strived to be an important part of people’s lives beyond just the place where they deposit their money.”

Six years ago the bank’s staff asked themselves what more they could do to give back to their customers.

“We’re not ones to just say we want to do something. We take action. So, they asked me to come up with something,” she said. “We received the Bank Travel Management magazine, so I was aware of bank travel programs. I decided to go to a conference to explore the idea, and I couldn’t believe it: Everyone was so helpful in my venture.”

Taking on this loyalty program with gusto, the bank was delighted that more than 500 customers quickly joined the Good Life for the opportunity to not only travel but also take part in a wide variety of events, classes and volunteer opportunities.

“My colleagues thought I might be overwhelmed and asked, “How are you going to deal with all these people?’” Cleckner said with a laugh. “I just said, ‘One at a time.’”


Community Spirit

Today, with an age requirement of 50 and a request of $5,000 in deposits, the Good Life has 2,100 members.

“The program is so well known that we have people come to our bank and make deposits just to join,” said Cleckner. “We take about six day trips and two extended trips a year, but equally attractive are our programs that have included volunteering at a hospice, organizing a food pantry, sorting toys for needy children, movie days, ballroom events and even self-defense classes.

“Our staff also gets involved in many of our offerings. On our Techie Tool Day, members bring in their iPads and other devices, and our younger employees help them figure out how to maximize these tools. We want to soon have our program on Facebook.”

Traveling to Cleveland to watch the Cleveland Indians play ball at Progressive Field is a favorite day trip for the Good Life.

“We have club seating where food is provided throughout the game,” said Cleckner. “Many of our day trips are personal to our members. We have enjoyed a nostalgic day with dinner and music in theaters throughout central Ohio, taken a pontoon boat ride on Seneca Lake and taken wine trips to Geneva on the Lake. We have also enjoyed a historian who loves our local history take us back in time with the Westinghouse Corporation, the place where over half of the attendees had been employed.”


No Standard Itineraries

Cleckner takes pride that from the moment guests are greeted on the motorcoach, her travels are not “cookie cutter” trips.

“Blankets, cup holders, games, prizes, coffee and juice, and even tacos are a part of the ride to ensure everyone has a great day,” she said.

And for those extended trips, even the most seasoned travel planners will be awed to hear about the eight-day trip the Good Life enjoyed on its Western Sky Adventure with TBI Tours and Adventures. Traveling on a private jet that held 28 passengers, the group saw five national parks and iconic destinations such as Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea and the Pebble Golf Course.

“We flew into little destinations, a motorcoach picked us up, and we stayed in four-star hotels. The plane was awesome, and the guides were exceptional. We had such incredible service, including flying over the Grand Canyon, something that is typically a no-no, but our pilot made it happen,” she said.

On their seven-day Big Sky Country adventure in Montana with Trips, traveling in open-air jammers, rafting the Flathead River, horseback riding and eating skewered steak on a pitchfork was part of the fun.

“Visiting a Hutterite colony really put this on top of my list for an exciting adventure,” said Cleckner. “These communal people, typically very private, invited us for lunch and shared their lifestyle, even opening their closets to see how they exist from a personal point of view — what an eye-opener to another culture right here in our country.”

Alaska and Cape Cod are upcoming targets on Cleckner’s agenda, and she is considering an Ireland excursion.

“There is so much to see in the United States,” she said. “But if we cross the big pond, I think it will be to this storied destination.”