volusia county banks

September is National Preparedness Month

September marks the sixth annual National Preparedness Month. In 2004, following the September 11 tragedies, September was designated as National Preparedness Month.

Governor Rick Scott has also designated September as Florida Preparedness Month. Scott, along with the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) reminds Floridians that September is historically the peak season for hurricanes and consequently, there is no better time than now to have an emergency plan for your family and/or business.

While Florida is one of the most hurricane vulnerable states in the U.S., it is equally important to focus on becoming better prepared for emergencies of all kinds, natural and man-made. Hazards facing Florida include extreme heat, tropical weather, thunderstorms, tornadoes, wildfires, floods and drought.

This month serves as a reminder to all Florida residents to be both alert and prepared for hazards and other disasters.

Are you prepared?

According to FDEM, all Floridians should have (if you don’t this is a good time to develop one) a disaster preparedness plan based on their own personal needs as well as an emergency kit to sustain themselves and their family for up to 72 hours after a disaster strikes.

The most important person to protect your life and property is not the firefighter or police officer or a representative from the federal government…it is you, said FEMA administrator Craig Fugate. “By taking a few simple steps now, each of us can make sure we are better prepared for the next emergency or disaster.”

Some initial steps

1. Begin by identifying an out-of-town contact that all family members know to reach should you become separated in an emergency. This individual would serve as a contact person for family members to report to in the event of an emergency to let them know their location and that they are safe.
2. Identify a location away from home for family members to meet in case of an emergency and your home is inaccessible. This would be the location, preferably close to home, that your family would meet. Be sure all family members are aware of this location.
3. Prepare a disaster supply kit. This would include but not be limited to the following:
One gallon of water for each person per day for at least three days
Canned and dried food or anything easy to prepare and doesn’t require refrigeration
A manual can opener
Sleeping bags or cots
Flashlights and lanterns with extra batteries
First-aid kit
Bathroom supplies
Medicines (prescriptions and over-the-counter medications)
Soap and hand sanitizer
Rain gear and tarps
Pet supplies
Facemasks
Tools
NOAA all-hazards weather radio or battery-powered radio
Credit cards and cash (bring enough cash keep you afloat for at least three days in the event there is no electrical power to operate credit/debit card machines)
Written list of important contacts
Games

But, this list is only a beginning. Preparedness plans come in all sizes, and need to be customized to individual and collective needs. But, the best plan for everyone is the plan that begins today. To be better prepared to plan for, respond to, and recover from emergency events visit ready.gov/September or FloridaDisaster.org.

Give Thanks at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just around the corner! Soon we will be feverishly preparing those much-anticipated annual feasts. We will be reviewing our cherished Turkey Day recipes, preparing our grocery lists, inviting our guests and calling “dibs” on the most comfy chair in the house to watch the infamous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Sadly, this holiday has lost some of its meaning over the years. It’s become an increasingly thinner slice of the celebration it was originally meant to be, sandwiched somewhere between the marketing machines of Halloween and Christmas. In many ways, Thanksgiving has become a few days of respite before the craziness of Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa unfolds.

I recently stumbled upon an extremely poignant quote by H.U. Westermayer, which I believe aptly sums up the true meaning of Thanksgiving, as it was originally intended by those who gave birth to this celebration over 390 years ago:

“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”

With these sobering words in mind, let’s all take time to give thanks for our many blessings – our health, family, home, friends, job and having food on the table.

In honor of this holiday, I thought I’d give you a few creative ideas/ways to give thanks that I recently found in an article in Better Homes and Gardens. I hope you find these crafts fun to make and will make at least one of them part of your Thanksgiving tradition.

Wine Glass Tags – Print out leaf-shape pattern (you can find one on the Internet) onto fall-color papers, cut out, and punch a hole at the base of each leaf. Ask guests to pick a leaf and write a word or short phrase describing something they’re thankful for, such as “family” or “good health.” Attach leaves to the wineglass stems using lengths of gold cord or raffia.

Notes of Appreciation – For those who can’t be at your Thanksgiving table, set pen to paper to tell them they’ve made a difference in your life this year. Print these Thanksgiving designs to make lovely foldable cards for your thank-you notes.

 A Thanksgiving Tree – Stick bare branches into a pitcher filled with sand. Make ornaments from paper cutouts by punching a hole in the top of each one and tying ribbon through it. In addition to asking guests to share their thankful thoughts, ask them to sign their name and date their ornaments. Save the Thanksgiving ornaments as mementos for the coming years.

 A Journal – Craft a paper journal to record a Thanksgiving celebration. Pass the journal among guests to capture their sentiments and memories. Start your own anthology and make a journal each year. When Thanksgiving comes around again, bring out the old journals and reminisce.

Paper Placemats – Simple pieces of construction paper become expressions of thankfulness. Ask kids to write the things they are thankful for on the pieces of paper, which they can use as place mats for the Thanksgiving meal.

Gracious Giving – Extend the generous spirit beyond your gathering of friends and family. In the weeks before Thanksgiving, pick a charity to contribute to, such as a food pantry or homeless shelter. Ask guests to bring items to donate. (Be sure to give advance notice about the project so it’s not a last-minute surprise.) Place a large basket for collecting donations near the front door or close to the main Thanksgiving festivities.

For more creative Thanksgiving craft ideas visit bhg.com

So as we begin preparations to celebrate this most special day with our families and friends, let’s take time to be mindful of the original meaning of this day and be ever thankful for our many blessings.

From my house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

We All Scream for Ice Cream!

There is nothing that sings summer’s praises like ice cream – the “Great American Dessert.” Although many of us delight in this sweet icy treat all year long (for some of us, and I’m not mentioning any names, it’s one of our favorite guilty pleasures), summer seems to set the perfect stage for this longstanding frozen delicacy.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Saturday of the month as National Ice Cream Day. So with this in mind, I thought I’d begin the month by talking about one of America’s most popular summer desserts so we can spend the remainder of the month…summer just enjoying it.

I thought I’d start with a brief history lesson so to speak… the origin of ice cream. Then I thought I’d wrap it up with one of my favorite peach cobbler recipes – the perfect complement to your favorite ice cream. This is a summer combination sure to beat the notorious Florida heat!

Okay, let’s get started!

Ice cream’s origins date as far back as the second century B.C. Alexander the Great was known to enjoy snow and ice flavored honey with nectar. There are also Biblical references showing that King Solomon enjoyed flavored ice drinks during harvesting. During the Roman Empire, Nero Claudius Caesar frequently sent runners into the mountains for snow, which was then flavored with fruits and juices. Actually, this may have been the birth of the smoothie.

Over a thousand years later, Marco Polo returned from the Far East with a recipe that closely resembled what is now called sherbet. It is thought that this recipe evolved into ice cream sometime in the 16th century. It seems that England may have discovered ice cream at the same time or earlier than the Italians. Historians report that “Cream Ice,” as it was called, was served regularly to Charles I during the 17th century. France was introduced to this frozen dessert in 1553 by the Italian Catherine de Medici when she became the wife of Henry II of France. In 1660 ice cream was made available to the public at Café Procope, the first café in Paris. It was made from a recipe of blending milk, cream, butter and eggs.
Shortly after, the dessert was imported to the United States. During this time, many famous Americans were known to have served ice cream to their guests including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Dolley Madison. Records kept by a Chatham Street, New York merchant show that President George Washington spent approximately $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790. President Thomas Jefferson was said to have had a favorite ice cream recipe that resembled today’s Baked Alaska. In 1813, Dolley Madison served a scrumptious strawberry ice cream creation at President Madison’s second inaugural banquet at the White House.
The first ice cream parlor in the U.S. opened in New York City in 1776. American colonists were the first to use the term “ice cream.” The name came from the phrase “iced cream” that was similar to “iced tea.” The name was later abbreviated to the name we know today.

Until 1800, ice cream remained a rare and exotic dessert enjoyed mostly by the affluent. However, by 1851 manufacturing ice cream became an industry in America due to the pioneering of a Baltimore milk dealer named Jacob Fessell.

Like other American industries, the production of ice cream and the accessibility to the general public grew due to several technological innovations such as steam power, refrigeration, the homogenizer, electric power and motors, packing machines, and new freezing processes and equipment. Today the annual production of ice cream in the U.S. is over 1.6 billion gallons.

Now that you have enough ice cream history to cause a “brain freeze,” let’s get to the cobbler recipe so you can perform your American duty – consuming your portion of the 1.6 billion gallons that is.

Happy National Ice Cream Month to all of you!

Easy Peach Cobbler

Ingredients:
Two 15 oz. cans sliced peaches in syrup
½ cup (1 stick) of butter
1 cup of self-rising flour
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of milk

Directions:
Drain 1 can of peaches; reserve the syrup from the other. Place the butter in a 9”x 12” ovenproof baking dish. Heat the butter on the stove or in the oven until melted. In a medium bowl, mix flour and sugar. Stir in milk and the reserved peach syrup. Pour the batter over the melted butter in the baking dish. Arrange the peaches over the batter. Bake for 1 hour. Note: the cobbler is done when the batter rises around the peaches and the crust is thick and golden brown.

Serve warm with your favorite ice cream and enjoy!

It’s Time to Celebrate!

Time really does fly by when you’re having fun. I can’t believe we are about to celebrate the bank’s five-year anniversary. I feel like this celebration is more of a birthday than an anniversary because it’s really about the birth and tremendous growth of Flagler County’s first truly hometown bank – Intracoastal Bank.

When we opened our doors on June 16, 2008, we were myopically focused on one goal – to become Flagler County’s best (not biggest) bank.

As I am writing this today, I’m extremely excited and proud to say that we’ve achieved that goal and more. Due to the selfless dedication of our staff, the unwavering guidance of our board and the overwhelming loyalty and encouragement of our customers, Intracoastal Bank has (home) grown into the best banking institution in Flagler County!

A celebration would not complete however, without looking at what we – our staff, our board and our customers – have accomplished over the last five years. Incredibly, the list is long, so I thought I’d hit on a few of the highlights.

- We have grown from 10 employees to 24 employees currently on staff.

-We started the bank with no deposits or loans. Today we have approximately $187.3 million in assets, $168.4 million in deposits and $97 million in loans.

-We’ve been rated a five-star bank by Bauer Financial consistently over the past five years.

-We’ve remained committed to the betterment and economic welfare of our community. Our staff is involved in many charitable and professional organizations to include:
Flagler County Education Foundation
Take Stock in Children
United Way of Volusia/Flagler Counties
United Way of Flagler County Women’s Initiative
Flagler Habitat for Humanity
Flagler County Chamber of Commerce
Flagler County Homebuilders Association
Rotary International
Volusia Manufacturing Association
Center for Business Excellence

-We’ve been honored with the News-Tribune’s Readers’ Choice Award – voted the area’s best bank in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

-We offer leading-edge technology and banking programs. In an environment marked by incessant change, we continue to bring our customers state-of-the-art services and innovative banking solutions to make banking convenient.

We have made monumental strides in our first five years. But you can be sure; we have no intention of resting on our laurels. Over the next several months we will be unveiling several new programs/services. Some of these include payroll services for our business customers as well as a new program dedicated to our medical and executive/professional customers. In addition, we will be evaluating the addition of a mobile capture program – enabling our customers to utilize their cell phones to make deposits.

Yes, we have much to celebrate. However, we couldn’t have done it without you, our loyal customers. As we move into the next five years and beyond much will change. But the one thing you can count on to remain the same is the overriding banking philosophy that brought us to where we are today – our dedication to our customers and to community where we live and work.

So please join me in celebrating how far we’ve come and more importantly, where we’re headed. I look forward to our very bright future with all of you.

Thank you for the fun. Here’s to our first five years together and the exciting ones yet to come!

Small businesses Fall Prey to Cyber Attacks

Hackers are expanding their sights beyond the large multinational companies to small business owners. A recent survey conducted by Symantec and the National Cyber Security Alliance found that 77 percent of small business owners in the U.S. believe that their company is safe from cyber criminals and 83 percent of them don’t have a cyber security plan.

However, the threat to small businesses is greater than ever. The Secret Service and Verizon Communications, Inc.’s forensic analysis unit, which investigates cyber attacks, cites that a majority of their responses to data breaches over the last couple of years have been at companies with 100 or fewer employees. Visa, Inc. estimates that approximately 95 percent of the credit card data breaches it discovers each year are on small businesses.

Hacking small businesses is big business and unfortunately, it is going to get worse before it gets better.

The reason for this is three-fold. The first reason is that a majority of small companies have now gone to computerized systems, digital record keeping and conduct most their financial transactions online. The second factor is that most small companies don’t have the resources (financial, tools and manpower) or the time to fully secure their businesses from today’s ever-changing and increasingly sophisticated threats. The last and most significant factor is complacency. Most small business owners have the unrealistic mindset that this isn’t going to happen to them. After all, what could a hacker possibly want with a small company anyway? These high-tech criminals want their bank account information, employee lists, including social security numbers, and their customers’ credit and debit account information.

Typically, cyber threats on small businesses come from several sources, the most popular being outside the organization and from within the organization when an employee or an ex-employee steals data. Most financially motivated attacks rely on computer code that the hackers plant on victims’ computers, often as attachments or links in emails sent to employees. While these malicious programs are well known to security experts, the hackers tweak them frequently to render them undetectable to antivirus software.

The bottom line is, the costs of a breach can put a small business out of business. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. However, the following is a list of best practices for small business:

-Use secure web browsers.

-Maintain up-to-date firewall and antivirus protection as well as an intrusion detection system.

-Establish policies that stipulate how and when employees can access the Internet, especially when accessing the computer system from home or a mobile device.

-Run automatic computer updates.

-Never open emails, attachments or links from unknown sources.

-Never have sites remember passwords or financial information.

-Shut down computers when not in use.

-Businesses that use online banking for wire transfers and ACH origination should have a dedicated computer for those functions.