How a Vermont bank is supporting its workers and the community

WELLS RIVER, Vt. (WCAX) Family-owned restaurants are especially feeling the pinch as stay-at-home orders continue around our region. But eateries up and down the Connecticut River Valley are getting a boost to their bottom line thanks to a local bank. Our Adam Sullivan reports.

The grill is still hot at Tuttle's Family Diner in Wells River. That's despite the fact the restaurant is no longer serving the walk-in crowd.

"It is definitely slow," Jennifer Tuttle said.

It's takeout and delivery only. Tuttle's is one of only a handful of businesses still operating in the community.

"We are treading. We are just keeping open for the locals right now because there isn't other places that are open right now," Tuttle said.

A couple of doors down, bank tellers staff the drive-thru window at the Wells River Savings Bank. Essential employees who are working up an appetite.

"We want to make sure that there are still going to be businesses around," said Frank Tilghman, the CEO of the Wells River Savings Bank.

One way the bank is doing that is by buying lunch every day for its employees working the window.

"We depend on our communities; our communities depend on us," Tilghman said.

It's not just happening in Wells River, it's happening at all the bank's branches where the drive-thru is open. That includes Thetford, Fairlee and Bradford, where local restaurants in each community get a daily order.

"It means a lot," said Molly Simonds, a bank teller.

For Simonds, the free lunch is one less thing she has to think about in a world that has never looked the same.

"It is stressful. Definitely a lot to think about," Simonds said. "I think everybody has been doing a good job. People coming up with gloves on, using hand sanitizer."

At Tuttle's, it means 25 to 30 meals they can count on every day to help make ends meet.

"It helps," Tuttle said, "everything helps."

"You know, we got to keep the community going and it is distressing to look out and see closed businesses," Tilghman said.

He says the lunches will continue as long as the shutdown does. After all, he says, if you don't support small businesses and Main Street, especially in a time of crisis, there won't be a Main Street to go to.