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Gate City Bank team member Antoinette Sailor poses with a large group of BIO Girls and their mentors in Devils Lake, ND

Building Self-Esteem With BIO Girls in Devils Lake, ND.

When a team member felt moved to launch a local nonprofit that empowers young girls, Gate City Bank backed her with unlimited paid volunteer hours that helped make it possible.

It was a beautiful summer day in Devils Lake, and while Lakewood Park was abuzz with buses, bug spray and bonfires, Antoinette Sailor had her hands full in the parking lot. Opening the doors to her Chevy Suburban, she braced herself as an avalanche of overpacked knapsacks and shrieking middle school girls came spilling out of the vehicle.

The mom of three chuckled to herself as she glanced around in time to catch the perplexed looks of curious bystanders who had turned their heads to see what all the hubbub was about. Bible camp was in full swing, and like the little ladies she had been chauffeuring around all afternoon, Sailor, too, found herself full of excitement. She had always had a special place in her heart for this annual retreat.

Turning back and kneeling down to organize the heap of bags now scattered at her feet, Sailor suddenly noticed something else out of the corner of her eye – a head of swishing blonde hair bolting straight for her from a nearby group. And before there was time to blink, she tumbled to the ground as a pair of tiny arms wrapped around her neck and a sweet voice squeaked, “Hi, Antoinette!”

Sailor’s bewildered expression quickly melted into a warm smile upon recognizing her surprise visitor, whom she joyfully hugged in return. “Well hey, girl!” she exclaimed before sitting back up and beaming at the little one face-to-face. “It’s so good to see you again.”

Gate City Bank’s Antoinette Sailor & BIO Girls-Devils Lake co-founder Margi Yanish pose for a photo wearing matching t-shirts
Antoinette Sailor (left) and her friend, Margi Yanish, co-founded BIO Girls in Devils Lake. Gate City Bank backed Sailor with unlimited paid volunteer time to fundraise, secure a location and handle other key logistics to bring the nonprofit to life.

Trading Pain for Passion.

“You’re beautiful inside and out.” These are words every child deserves to hear – to recognize self-worth, build confidence and feel loved – and they’re what spurred Sailor to become co-founder of the Devils Lake chapter for BIO Girls, the phrase’s abbreviated namesake. Established in 2013, it’s a nonprofit with a beautiful mission: to end the self-esteem crisis in adolescent girls. And as fate would have it, it’s what led to the heartwarming encounter in Lakewood Park.

As Sailor sat on the ground and listened to her little friend jabber adorably about how much fun her summer had been so far, she shook her head in disbelief. This happy kiddo was a night-and-day difference from the timid little girl who had trudged into the BIO Girls opening session just a few months prior. The transformation was remarkable, to say the least – and it hit close to home.

“There’s always that one girl in each session that needs a little extra love. That was this girl,” says Sailor, who serves as Assistant Vice President, Senior Customer Service & Sales Supervisor at Gate City Bank. “On that first day, she had looked so sad. She was constantly crouched with her head down, and she was so nervous that her lips wouldn’t stop quivering. The moment I looked at her, I saw myself as a child.”

While growing up, Sailor was plagued by a crippling wave of anxiety and depression. Her feelings of fear and hopelessness were often so debilitating that ordinary day-to-day tasks like doing homework and interacting with friends felt impossible. Fortunately, she discovered the strength to step out of the darkness and plant her feet firmly on a foundation of peace. Never in a million years would she have guessed that her old sense of desolation would rear its ugly head in adulthood. Then came COVID-19.

“The fear of the pandemic sent me down a spiral, impacting both my home and professional life. I suddenly started to withdraw from everyone and everything I loved,” Sailor says. “But thanks to the support of my amazing family, friends and team members, I was able to get the help I needed and recover. At that point, it became my mission to give back by helping anyone, especially young girls, who may be struggling in a similar way – and that’s when Gate City Bank stepped in.”

A group of happy BIO Girls and their mentors get ready to take part in a non-competitive physical activity on a sunny day
In its mission to end the self-esteem crisis in adolescent girls, BIO Girls empowers young ones through non-competitive physical activities, positive mentorship, skill learning and more.

Banking on BIO Girls.

Sailor has always cherished Gate City Bank’s one-of-a-kind culture, especially when it comes to going above and beyond by encouraging team members to give back to community causes they’re passionate about. So when her supervisor promptly gave her the green light to use paid volunteer time to help launch BIO Girls in Devils Lake, she was all the more thankful. This was an opportunity to embrace servant leadership – her big shot at making a difference! And it would all pay off.

Thanks in part to the bank, Sailor and her BIO Girls co-founder were able to raise sufficient funding and secure a location. They organized crucial focus groups that served as a pulse check on what struggles local girls were experiencing. They even inspired one of her fellow team members to join the cause as a volunteer mentor. From helping to cover work while she was away to cheering her on when she returned to the office, Sailor’s co-workers went out of their way to show their support.

“It’s been really wonderful to experience what it’s like to help start a community movement like this with my fellow team members behind me every step of the way. It means the world,” Sailor says. “Gate City Bank truly walks the walk when it comes to prioritizing philanthropy, and this opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without my wonderful colleagues.”

Gate City Bank’s Antoinette Sailor smiles and holds up a blue Gate City Bank sign that says “We Love Our Communities”
Sailor, who has a passion for giving back to her local community, was incredibly grateful for the support of her fellow team members while she was helping to launch BIO Girls in Devils Lake.

Celebrating Girl Power, For a Better Way of Life.®

A few years in, the local BIO Girls chapter is thriving, operating at full enrollment. For 12 straight weeks each season, numerous young girls have access to loving mentors who build them up with empowering group sessions, engage them in physical activities that foster teambuilding, teach them invaluable life skills for tomorrow and provide them with opportunities to give back to the community.

Every year, Sailor has to pinch herself to make sure it isn’t all a dream. Being able to help others through her personal story and passion for giving back has been a true joy, and she’s eternally grateful that Gate City Bank offered her something that was key to ensuring local girls feel beautiful inside and out: unlimited time.

“I feel so blessed to work for a company that offers precious paid volunteer hours that help you make a difference in your community,” she says. “Knowing that you’ve found your purpose – that you’ve had an impact on even one little girl’s life – is worth everything.

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