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First State Bank Helps Lake Shore Students Build for the Future


(St. Clair Shores, Mich.) - For almost a century, First State Bank (FSB) has played a major role in helping its Macomb County customers and communities build for the future. Today, the proof can be seen inside a 1959 ranch house in St. Clair Shores, a property sold by the bank to the Lake Shore Public School District for $1.

From basement to attic, more than a dozen passionate Lake Shore high school juniors and seniors are performing an extreme makeover on the Parkway Street home. It’s a project that has been on one man’s drawing board for a long time.

“In reality, with this economy, not all kids will be going off to college. I wanted to provide them with skills they could use the rest of their lives,” said Lake Shore Schools Superintendent Chris Loria, who developed and inaugurated the hands-on Building Renovations class. The problem: finding an appropriate place for students to learn carpentry, electricity, plumbing, and heating and cooling.

“I met with other banks about obtaining a loan to purchase a foreclosed home that could be restored - and most of them just chuckled,” recalled Loria. “I knew Kathleen Zenisek, Marketing Director at First State Bank, who is a strong advocate for local businesses, and I approached her with my idea at a local fundraiser.” As Zenisek listened, she realized that perhaps First State Bank could back the district with something even more than a loan. And, in typical FSB roll-up-your-sleeves fashion, she put the wheels in motion within the bank. Soon after, Chief Risk Officer, Bill Pilkington began discussions with Loria – not about a loan, but rather about donating a home to the district for $1. Loria credits First State Bank for believing in him and the program, “It just wouldn’t have been possible without them.”

“It had just come into our inventory,” Zenisek said of the 1,441 square foot dwelling. “I saw it when we donated it—it was scary due to its odd rustic decor.” While in need of some gutting and repair, the home proved to be perfect for the students’ undertaking. And while the framing goes in and the drywall goes up, so does the outlook in the neighborhood, with offers to pitch in with yard maintenance. “It’s projects like these that really pull the community together,” said Zenisek. “Whether we’re donating recycling bins or raising donations for the Macomb Food Bank, we find that the spirit of giving back becomes contagious when we’re helping our own friends and neighbors.”

Under the tutelage of instructor Chris Mazzola, who had his own home renovation business for 20 years before he began teaching seven years ago, the class has been a resounding success. Just ask his students. “I fell in love with it,” said senior Liz Talbot with pride and enthusiasm. The only female in the class, she explains, “I like figuring out how things work and being able to fix them. This class is amazing; I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.”

As a result of its popularity, the school plans to add a “Powder Puff Home Renovations” class next year, geared towards female students who might be nervous in a co-ed setting, to give them skills in a trade normally considered male. “It’s already filled with requests,” reports Loria. “We might have to add a second class. It’s all about creating opportunities for our students to learn.”

In February, Loria received the Winners’ Circle Award from the Michigan Association of School Administrators, in recognition of his leadership in launching “an effective program that can be replicated in other districts.”

And First State Bank will be ready, according to Kathleen Zenisek. “When they’re done with this house,” she adds, “we’ll start planning for the next project.”

First State Bank is headquartered in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. With over 94 years of service and $564 million in assets, First State Bank serves Macomb County with 11 branch offices located in Chesterfield Township, Clinton Township, Eastpointe, Macomb Township, Richmond, St. Clair Shores, Sterling Heights, Washington Township, and a Loan Center in Sterling Heights. For more information, please visit or call 866-372-1275.


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