The young soldier was back home, in St. Louis, after five deployments in combat zones from Kosovo to Iraq to Afghanistan. He returned home to an estranged spouse and a home he was about to lose because bills hadn’t been paid.
His life seemed shattered. Battling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he suffered trust issues. Even opening the mail and sorting through bills seemed a threat because who really knew what the envelopes held?
Then he met Stephanie Bapst.
A loan originator for Regions Bank in South St. Louis, Bapst has worked with H.E.R.O.E.S. Care, a national organization that combines the power of national organizations to provide emergency financial aid, employment opportunities, and mental health care services before, during, and after deployment of military service members for them and their families.
Together, Bapst and H.E.R.O.E.S. Care set out to save a house. To do that, they had to save a life.
“Our mission is to take care of the troops before, during and after deployment,” said Jon Jerome, the President of H.E.R.O.E.S. Care, a national organization founded in St. Louis. “It’s been found, especially with the Guard and Reserve components, that they lack some of the support back in their hometowns.”
That care, compassion and outreach can come in many forms. For example, if someone’s utilities are turned off, “We can pay that bill, keep the power on,” Jerome said.
Throughout Missouri, H.E.R.O.E.S. Care works with partners, including Regions Bank.
“Regions brings that structure, that capability, the knowledge to say let’s go over the budget, let’s find what’s not working and then we will help stop this from happening in the future,” Jerome added.
Help can come in the form of financial advice, guidance and education.
Craig “J.R.” Spears is a proud Navy veteran. He’s also a H.E.R.O.E.S. Care client. Returning home, he learned about the services offered and the banking relationship.
“Regions Bank and H.E.R.O.E.S. Care were able to give me the financial education I need and (improve) my credit score,” Spear said. “They were also able to give me the funding I needed to run my business the way I needed to.”
Keep this in mind: Most Americans who serve in the military usually start out at a young age.
“For a lot of them in the military, this is the first job they’ve ever had,” said Regions’ Steve Beres. “One of the things that schools don’t necessarily teach is how to handle their money. Now imagine those challenges, along with multiple deployments overseas and changing duty stations. The one thing they come to realize – and I realized as a young soldier – is that when you’re deployed overseas the bills don’t stop.”
After multiple tours of active duty, Beres now serves Regions as Regions Service Members and Veterans Affairs Manager.
“One of the great things about Regions: Regions recognized early on the needs of our service members and veterans,” Beres said. “In fact, that’s one of the reasons my position was created. I served over 20 years in the military.
“My position is unique in the financial industry – there are few if any positions like mine, which focuses on doing more in the community and how we can work with service members and veterans to ensure that their needs are being taken care of.”
Oftentimes, the help is needed beyond the service members.
Darcella Craven is the Executive Director of the Veterans Business Resource Center. She has seen countless cases of families who struggle when a service member is deployed.
“They leave family members behind who have to pick up where they left off – maybe doing the budgeting or any number of things,” Craven said. “So we’re really happy that H.E.R.O.E.S. Care and Regions are working together because we see those two agencies having the same values as we do.”
Military service members give years to protecting their nation, often at a great cost.
By partnering together with companies like Regions, H.E.R.O.E.S. Care makes certain that those who protect are protected, as well.
“With Regions coming on we already have huge successes – not only of bringing that person back from the brink but, we know of two lives we have saved because they came to us and (Regions) resources were brought to bear,” Jerome said.
Stephanie Bapst knows the stories first hand.
Remember the service member struggling with PTSD?
They started by simply sorting his mail, which revealed that he had unpaid medical bills and had not filed taxes since 2009. What initially seemed insurmountable became salvageable. Soon, the soldier trusted Bapst enough to meet at her office, and she arranged for a tax attorney to come help him file back taxes. With past tax returns, he was able to work with his mortgage company to avoid foreclosure.
Bapst also brought in banking partner Katrina Underwood from a local branch to help the soldier develop trust in her so that she and the other branch associates could help meet his consumer banking needs.
A house was saved. A life was renewed.
It wasn’t the first. It won’t be the last.
“It makes me feel amazing when a service member leaves my office crying and saying thank you, that I saved his life because I helped him get his finances in order,” Baptst said. “It puts you in a state of shock and makes you appreciate the small things.”