Woodlands National Bank President Ken Villebro has agreed to meet with Anita Reyes-LeRey at her home in Minneapolis. The meeting is to include her choice of supporters and Minneapolis Council Member Gary Schiff.
“We won!” announced Andrew Crow, OccupyHomes MN to the crowd outside the bank building, “we got exactly what we were asking for which is a sit-down meeting with Ken Villebro, the president of this bank.” Reyes-LeRey was pleased with the outcome and she said, “I am so happy they came!”
Reyes-LeRey had a series of negotiations with Woodlands National Bank after health problems caused her to miss mortgage payments. The issue came to a head when the bank withdrew a financing offer because she was four minutes late in calling the bank.
Community support helps turn things around
At the urging of a friend from Alabama, Reyes-LeRey contacted OccupyHomesMN, which in turn contacted the American Indian Movement (AIM) in Minneapolis. A series of meetings and barbecues were held to build support.
On July 26, 2012, a group of supporters from OccupyHomesMN and AIM accompanied Reyes-LeRey to Woodlands National Bank main office in Onamia, MN, and requested a meeting with bank VP Cindy Koonce who had been negotiating with her. Ms Koonce declined to meet with her.
With the help of OccupyHomesMN Reyes-LeRey set up a petition on change.org. By August 8, 2012 more than 100,000 signatures had been collected. The petition page invited everyone to come to the Minneapolis American Indian Center and walk to the Minneapolis office of Woodlands National Bank. About 30 people joined Reyes-LeRey in delivering the petitions and requesting a meeting with the bank president.
Occupy Homes says the bank’s original offer to Reyes-LeRay that the bank backed out on was to lease her home to her for a year. But the bank could still evict her at anytime. Occupy Homes, Reyes-LeRay, and her neighbors put together an alternative lease that is more favorable to her. That lease will be the topic of their meeting with the bank’s president.
Local bank manager Joanne Whiterabbit was very patient with the group crowding into the bank lobby. Whiterabbit told the group, “We need to set up a time Anita when you and your representatives whoever, you remember I said yesterday that who you want, when you want to meet, when and where, and I will do it.” After a few phone calls, a meeting with Bank President Ken Villebro, Minneapolis Council Member Gary Shiff, Reyes-LeRey and her supporters was scheduled at her home Wednesday, August 15, 2012.
Woodlands National Bank opened a branch in Minneapolis in 2009. The Minnesota AIM council had urged the opening the Minneapolis branch. According to the bank’s web site, “The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe started the bank when it bought First State Bank of Onamia in 1996, becoming only the third Indian tribe in the United States to own a bank. The bank also became the first Native-owned bank to be granted a national charter.”