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John Freyek

John Freyek - Commercial Relationship Manager

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John Freyek, Commercial Relationship Manager with First Merchants Bank, has a passion for service – whether that’s serving his clients at First Merchants or serving his community.

As a young man, John said he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. At least not until his father, a banker of 51 years, offered a suggestion.

“I was working in retail, selling shoes, and my dad said, ‘Have you ever thought of becoming a banker?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely not. That’s what you do,’” John recalled with a laugh.

But shortly thereafter, John landed his first job at a bank, and soon moved into the lending sphere. Now, John works as a high-density relationship manager, and is responsible for more than 200 accounts. Despite his young self’s reluctance to work in finance, it’s become a job he loves.

“If I’m doing my job right, I’m talking to customers every day, multiple times a day, just making sure I’m still the trusted advisor they need,” he said. “I get to see how stuff is made every day – and it’s fun.”

However, it was his mother and nephew who inspired his passion for community service.

“I have a soft spot in my heart for people with disabilities,” he shared. “I feel like it’s the most important thing I can do is work with those people.”

John’s mother lived with Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years.

“And every day watching her was an example of how to treat people with disabilities – both positively and negatively. Because people would see her shaking and react one way or another,” he said.

When his nephew was born with disabilities, John threw himself into advocacy work – first with the March of Dimes, then with Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehab Center. Now, he serves as the Chairman of the Board for Opportunity Enterprises, an organization in Valparaiso, Ind. that connects those with disabilities with job opportunities and job training.

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“There is a saying to the effect of, from whom much is given much is expected. And, you know, you count the blessings in your own life and the opportunities you’ve been given, and it’s your responsibility to pay that back,” John said. “I don’t do the work – I’m on the boards – but to be able to give people who do that work the attention and the funds and what they need is the most important thing. In a way, I’m serving my parents, I’m serving my nephew, and I’m serving my community in the best possible way I know how.”

Here, too, John uses the lessons he’s learned as a relationship manager to advocate for others.

“To be able to interact with the people we’re helping and to be able to see them as people first is such a blessing,” he said. “I like to be on boards where I can connect to the mission, and that means I’m walking through a building, and I can talk to the client. I know these folks and I know them by name, and they know me. And they’ve hugged me, and I’ve hugged them. So, when I advocate for them, I’m not advocating for a sort of shadowy figure in the back. I’m advocating for these people who I know.”

It's work John says he’s able to do because of his work with First Merchants.

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First Merchants Bank’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility compels us to invest in our communities by finding ways to reduce inequalities, improve the quality of our neighborhoods, and promote positive economic mobility through our five community pillars: Employee Empowerment; Community Investments and Charitable Giving; Financial Wellness; Community Home Lending; and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This series features First Merchants teammates who embody the spirit and impact of the company’s Vision: “to enhance the financial wellness of the diverse communities we serve.”