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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Personal accounts: Life after 50!


Shirley Van Dam with a group in California

Shirley Van Dam can testify that sometimes there is a silver lining to even the bleakest of situations.

“I had worked 32 years in the banking industry, the last eight years of that as an operations officer, when our bank was sold,” Van Dam said. “I was then told I was overqualified for the position.”

Devastated at age 50, Van Dam was out looking for a job. Within a month, she received a call from a past co-worker about a position open for a financial assistant and club director of CorClub at CorTrust Bank in nearby Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“I was thrilled to have a position that would require travel with bank customers as well as working with Raymond James Financial Services on the financial side,” she said. “The past 13 years have taken me all over the United States and parts of Canada, and today I have my dream job.”

Hands-On Experiences
That dream job means sharing her travel duties with five other directors at some of the bank’s 23 locations.

“My group primarily joins forces with one other director and her group. She collects the money, and I do most of the writing and planning, including making arrangements with food vendors and events,” she said.

CorClub has 2,700 members, all 40 years or older and holding a minimum of $2,500 in interest-bearing accounts in either Raymond James or the bank. Van Dam’s group enjoys about eight excursions a year, including two day trips and two extended trips.

“Our day trips and overnighters often feature industrial plants where people can see how things are made and perhaps even participate,” Van Dam said. “We have toured Custom Touch Homes, a manufacturer that builds and ships entire homes — a popular option in the oil fields of the Dakotas. We have toured a John Deere manufacturing plant in Iowa and even the Toyota car manufacturing plant near Lexington, Kentucky.

“We also have such beautiful destinations not too far away that offer fantastic four- to five-day getaways, including Door County, Wisconsin, and Mackinaw Island.”

Grandchildren are occasionally invited to travel with CorClub. Those themed excursions have included visiting a local Ukrainian woman who paints Easter eggs.

“I’ve taken my own grandkids with us, and while they all have strict orders from their parents, they can’t help but be entertaining to the rest of the group,” said Van Dam. “Many of our members have grandkids, but they live hundreds of miles away, and rarely do those members get to experience that childhood enthusiasm.”

Van Dam has clients who travel with her on every venture, among them an 82-year-old woman whom she describes as being extremely active.

“I’ve seen her climb the White Mountains in New England,” she said. “She never sits back.”

Adventure is the theme of many of CorClub’s excursions.  The group has cruised the Panama Canal, explored Prince Edward Island and the Pacific Northwest, enjoyed the gold rush days in California and taken a historical tour of the East Coast. Van Dam often takes great advantage of World Class Tours — a tour operator based in Pipestone, Minnesota — and the expertise of convention and visitors bureaus.

“When I call the CVBs, I tell them, ‘Give us the best you’ve got; we want to hear it all.’ We’ve had fabulous local guides, like a fellow on a trolley tour in Chicago. He was not only a historian but an entertainer.”