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Benchmark Community Bank: bringing customer-focused banking to Emporia-Greensville County

Benchmark Community Bank has come to Emporia. The Kenbridge-based institution opened its doors in the Goodwill shopping center on September 4th and is celebrating its Grand Opening from September 28th – October 5th.

Celebrating its 47th year in business, Benchmark got its start in 1971 when a group of Lunenburg County residents and business people joined forces to introduce a new community banking model in their home county. President/CEO Jay Stafford recalls the local dynamic that drove Benchmark’s business model.

“Lunenburg County was, and still is, populated by farms and small businesses,” Stafford recalled. “They’re all trying to balance growing seasons and the ebbs and flows of business with the financial needs of both their businesses and families. Many of them felt they were having to sell their souls to get a loan that would help them meet their obligations when things were tight.

“That’s why Benchmark was started – to help local people find solutions for the issues facing them every day. Benchmark’s founders listened to people they knew and trusted and created a banking model built to meet the needs. That philosophy is at the heart of who we are and what we do today.”

For Benchmark’s Emporia banking professionals, the institution’s banking philosophy is what brought them on board.

 VP/Senior Business Banker Jim Saunders works with business customers to assist them with solutions for their business needs.

“Community banks are founded to give back to the communities they serve. Benchmark is totally committed to the local community bank approach,” said Emporia native Jim Saunders, Vice President/Senior Business Banker. “In a community bank, the financial decision making is done on a local level by people who are dedicated to helping local people and their hometown economy thrive. Our roots were in finding ways to support area farmers trying to finance their agricultural businesses. We still operate that way today. I like that type of banking.”

VP/Branch Manager Gloria Robinson welcomes a new customer to Benchmark Community Bank’s new branch at 316 W. Atlantic Avenue in Emporia.

Vice President/Branch Manager Gloria Robinson agreed with Saunders. “Benchmark’s bankers are not just civic-minded, but are determined to support the communities they love, live in, and spend so much of their time serving. They approach banking with the same level of commitment.”

A longtime Emporia resident, Robinson is involved with the community as a member of Main Street United Methodist Church where she serves as Church Council Chair; the Board of Directors and member of the Annual Campaign Committee of the Family YMCA of Emporia-Greensville; and the Emporia Rotary Club.

According to both Saunders and Robinson, Benchmark’s customer-focused approach to banking was the key element that encouraged them to join the organization.

"People’s finances are personal,” said Saunders. “They want to work with a bank that appreciates their individual situations and works to help them find solutions to fit their needs. Benchmark was founded on that principle and it is a bedrock philosophy for Benchmark today.

“Our slogan is ‘With you for Life!’ We do our best to help our customers and the community we serve through the ups and downs life brings,” he continued. “I’ve never worked for a bank quite like this one.”

A member of the Emporia City Council for a total of ten years and longtime member of the Main Street United Methodist Church, Saunders was in banking early in his career before assuming the helm of Saunders Gas & Oil, Inc. until 2001. He rejoined banking as Market President for Gateway Bank & Trust and graduated in 2015 from the Virginia Bankers Association School of Bank Management at the University of Virginia. He joined Benchmark in September 2017 as Vice President/Senior Business Banker based out of the bank’s Lawrenceville branch.

Saunders is a member of Main Street United Methodist Church where he sings in the choir. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Family YMCA of Emporia-Greensville where he is also a member of the Annual Campaign committee. Additionally, he coaches youth basketball and is a member of the Emporia Rotary Club.

“When people are facing a financial crisis or trying to build their financial future, they need someone to listen to what they need and do their best to find a way to help them. Our customers are the reason we exist as a bank.”

Emporia resident and banking veteran Annie Poythress will be joining Robinson and Saunders in October. Serving as Customer Service Representative (CSR), Poythress looks forward to bringing a new style of banking to her hometown.

Emporia’s Benchmark branch will celebrate their Grand Opening weekdays September 28-October 5 with a remote radio broadcast on Friday morning, September 28th, from 11:30-1:30, and prize drawings throughout each day. The public is invited to visit the new location at 316 W. Atlantic Avenue in the Goodwill shopping center. The bank is open Monday-Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm with extended afternoon hours on Fridays until 5:30.

Including Emporia, Benchmark Community Bank has branch locations in 12 Southside Virginia communities, as well as Henderson and Wake Forest, NC. A new Youngsville, NC location is slated for opening later this year. To learn more about Benchmark, Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender, its products and services, please visit the Emporia branch at 316 W. Atlantic Street or visit the bank’s website at

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