Stephanie Madison’s mom taught her two very important lessons in life.
“The first is ‘Girls can do anything boys can do, but better,’” Madison said. “She constantly reinforced that idea throughout my lifetime, and when someone tells you something enough times, you believe it.”
The second, Madison said, was a passion for helping others. “Growing up, I saw my mom buy food for hungry people, help women stranded on the side of the road, and even raise a family of bunnies because they were abandoned. She always helped those who couldn’t help themselves.”
Madison has been the Community Market and Client Director at First Merchants Bank for almost two years, but has been in financial services for almost 20. Madison learned early on that there was a connection between banking and human services, so working for First Merchants Bank seemed to be a perfect fit.
“When I was working as a banker and a branch manager, we really were working to help people get to different or better points in their lives through financial management and making smart choices with their money,” she said. “When this position opened up and I realized I could have a significant impact on the community, it was the perfect marriage.”
Volunteer work is important to both Madison and First Merchants Bank. She works with the following organizations: Chairwoman of Girls on the Run of NWI, incoming President of Hammond Rotary, Hammond Family YMCA Advisory Board Chair, Crossroads YMCA Board of Directors, East Chicago Education Foundation Board of Directors, Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, St. Joseph’s Carmelite Home, Junior Achievement of NWI, and the Hammond Development Corporation Board of Directors. “There are so many worthwhile organizations out there that need leaders to step up and serve. When I serve on a board, I get to see an entire group of individuals working together and contributing and lending talent and treasure. When that happens, great things happen,” she said. “And even more important to me, my two daughters get to see me work in the community and I get to teach them that even small groups of people or one person can leave a significant impact on the world around them.”
At the beginning of the year, Madison focuses a lot on the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. She coordinates a group of volunteers in the area to help with tax preparation for individuals who fall within a certain income level.
During the summer, Madison does a lot of work with the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) of Indianapolis. Through this program, home improvement grants are offered to homeowners who meet certain qualifications. The program also infuses up to $300,000 into NWI communities, helping to create new jobs and making an even bigger impact.
“The impact is tangible. There is an actual person in front of me who is telling me that their life will be different or better because they no longer have to worry about water coming in their roof or if their furnace is going to last another winter,” Madison said.
Madison enjoys spending the little free time she has with her husband, two daughters, and dog. She also loves to read and cook.
Reflecting on her time in the field, Madison would like to thank her first manager in banking, Christa Huizenga, who works with her now.
“She really took a chance on me and encouraged me to reach out for new positions. She saw something in me and always pushed me and kicked me into gear when I needed it,” she said.
Looking forward, Madison noted that she feels very content where she is now.
“I love what I do. I love having an impact and encouraging others to have an impact,” she said. “I have a lot of freedom to try new things and run with ideas, so I think that’s a very good fit for me. I work with a lot of supportive individuals and have a strong internal network to make things happen.”