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The way the cookie rumbles: F&M employees share their appreciation for each other

FAITH — Let’s get this straight: You’re saying F&M Bank employees spent all day Saturday making more than 700 creme-filled oatmeal cookies so they could give them out this week to each other?

Yep, that’s right, and it’s part of Rowan County-based F&M’s yearly Employee Appreciation Week, during which the company tries to remind its 135 employees they’re key to the bank’s success and not taken for granted.

“As a bank that bases its business model on building relationships, it’s not a surprise that our most important asset is our people,” said Steven Fisher, F&M’s president, chief executive officer and chairman. “It’s very fitting that we pause to celebrate the talented and dedicated individuals that have made our company successful for almost 110 years.

“It’s also fitting in our culture that we marry that commitment to our customers and the community in which we serve.”

The appreciation for workers has been expressed in many ways through the years. This year, an F&M management team led by Fisher began visiting all the banking locations today.

The team’s mission is to say thanks and hand out employee gift bags, which included a high-end, correctly sized raincoat from companies such as North Face and Eddie Bauer.

But also in many of those gift bags were the aforementioned oatmeal cookies — the brainchild of employees Ann Eidson and Janet Haynes. For $2 each, employees could purchase cookies for co-workers they wanted to honor — a small gesture, maybe, but these are pretty good cookies. and a nice way to say you’re appreciated.

The money collected from the sale of cookies — or the sale of decks of playing cards, for those who wanted to give nonfood gifts — went into the bank’s Relay for Life fund.

Eidson and Haynes are breast cancer survivors, and Haynes thinks the sale of cookies and cards will raise close to $2,000 when all is said and done.

“Cancer has touched us directly as a bank family and has touched the families of many of our customers,” Fisher said, “so finding a way to honor our dedicated staff and to continue the fight against this horrible disease is really a snapshot of who we are. And amazingly, Janet and Ann find a way to make it fun.”

The first order of business was making the cookies, and that came down to a group of about 15 current and retired F&M employees (and friends) who spent much of Saturday in the kitchen at Faith Lutheran Church.

The bakers really had to make more than 1,400 individual oatmeal cookies before they were combined into creme-filled sandwiches. “We thought we’d get orders for a couple hundred,” Haynes recalled.

No, it was 700-plus.

“When the numbers started coming in, I was like, ‘Oh, yeah,'” Eidson said. “… We were going to do this in our homes until the orders became astronomical.”

In the Faith Lutheran kitchen and back of the fellowship hall, the workers divided up the cookie duties into tasks such as mixing, scooping, flattening, baking, filling, assembling and packing.

Meanwhile, Daisy Fink joined Arlene Haynes (Janet’s mother-in-law) in meticulously going down lists and affixing a label to each clear plastic bag into which a cookie was placed.

The labels gave the F&M location where they were to be delivered. They also showed who the recipient was and by whom the cookie was given in his or her honor.

“We got the hard job,” said Fink, who has worked for F&M about 57 years and still runs the bank’s office at Trinity Oaks three days a week. “We’ve got to think about what we’re doing, but we also got the sit-down job.”

As one of Saturday’s final tasks, the cookies had to be divided according to the F&M location to which they were headed.

There were some tired, flour-covered folks by the end of Saturday. But they enjoyed the camaraderie, even the hijinks.

“It’s fun hanging out with co-workers outside of the office,” Janet Haynes said, “and it’s fun to be doing something for a good cause.”

Eidson and retiree Gail Yarbrough ran some of the big mixers for much of the day. The tandem was not always a well-oiled machine. Just ask Yarbrough, who felt the brunt of one mixing mishap.

“I hate you weren’t here when I told Gail to turn the mixer up, and then put flour in,” Eidson said. “It was like a volcano.”

Earlier in the week, F&M retiree Debbie Eller was walking her dog when Haynes spied her and asked for help with the cookie-making Saturday. Eller joked she would have to get a younger dog to avoid Haynes the next time.

The women used a recipe furnished and overseen by F&M employee Meredith Fisher, who for years has brought her cookies to the bank for special occasions. She pointed to a printed copy of her recipe on a kitchen counter.

It showed the cookies relied on 11 ingredients; the creme, an extra five.

“Everything is good, ” F&M employee Judy Clippard said, “but the icing is awesome.”

Suffice it to say, the bakers went through plenty of eggs, oats, sugar and flour.

“I think it’s the people mixing (that) makes it so good,” Eidson said, giving a nod to Yarbrough and herself.

Just look out for the volcanoes.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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