It was 2016. Gayla Land, a Regions Bank branch manager in Dothan, was serving a customer. But Land knew she could give better service.
The customer had severe hearing loss. For Land, communicating with him was a challenge.
“I felt there was something missing. It frustrated me,” she said. “I could only provide what I could write down. I couldn’t share the information in his approved language.”
Motivated to do more, Land enrolled in American Sign Language classes at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. The nonprofit program provides comprehensive education, rehabilitation and other services for people of all ages who are deaf, blind or multidisabled. Family members receive training, too.
“I fell in love with the deaf community and the language itself,” Land said. “Then I told the school, ‘Let’s make a partnership to have them come into the branch for financial education seminars,’ and they agreed.”
Land began teaching a series of lessons that cover money management, retirement, identity theft and fraud prevention. Her first group graduated this year.
“They feel more confident in their ability to make financial decisions, and I learn something new every time they are with me.” Land said.
Heralding her journey as a financial education advocate for the hearing-impaired, Regions presented Land with the Better Life Award on Wednesday. The award is the top honor given to a Regions associate for outstanding dedication and job performance and exemplary involvement and commitment to the community.
In addition to the Better Life Award, Regions donates $1,000 in the name of the recipient to a nonprofit organization of the winner’s choice. Land chose Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.
“They do great work providing skills and education to the deaf and blind communities,” Land said. “I know they will make great use of the money to provide for those families.”
Meanwhile, Land plans to sharpen her ASL fluency by taking advanced classes. She urges others to learn the language as well.
“Don’t be fearful or feel judged. Just try to learn. Even if it’s just one new word every day,” she said. “Your eyes will be opened to a new perspective, and you’ll be embraced by the deaf community because you tried.”