“Never tease a weasel; this is very good advice. A weasel will not like it – and teasing isn’t nice!” Jean Conder Soule spoke up in favor of weasels in her beloved children’s book Never Tease a Weasel, originally published in 1964.

This summer, KeyBank employee Suzan Jones took that weasel-teasing advice to heart and helped bring it to a new generation of young learners. The Central Ohio Market Senior Payments Advisor joined with her 11-year-old niece, Zoe, and recorded a video of themselves reading the story. It was for the benefit of Key community partner South Side Early Learning Center in Columbus.

Jones was among a group of Key team members who volunteered their time recording videos on behalf of South Side Early Learning Center for its Story Time Challenge, designed to provide stories and resources to families in Columbus with young children.

Central Ohio Market Executive Assistant Madison Smith organized the activity as part of Key’s Neighbors Make the Difference Month, in which KeyBank facilitated thousands of community-wide volunteering opportunities that could be scheduled and even completed virtually. The month reimagined Key’s long-standing Neighbors Make the Difference Day, the annual in-person and on-site experience, canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we found the learning center’s Story Time Challenge, we thought this would be a fun and unique way to connect with families in our communities and support early learning.” – Madison Smith, KeyBank

Smith worked with South Side Early Learning Center to bring a virtual volunteer opportunity to KeyBank employees. The learning center was looking for volunteers to create videos of themselves reading children’s stories (suitable for ages 0-5) to use in their remote learning curriculum for the children and families they serve.

She saw this was a great fit for a virtual Neighbor’s project for Columbus-based employees. “When we found the learning center’s Story Time Challenge,” Smith said, “we thought this would be a fun and unique way to connect with families in our communities and support early learning.”

Smith solicited volunteers and created instructions on how to record/submit videos, and provided technical support along the way.

In total, Columbus market employees – with help from family members and even pets! – created 10 videos that were shared with the center to offer as unique, learn-at-home educational enrichment tools to children and families in their communities. Joining Suzan Jones and Zoe among the video creators included Columbus Market President Melissa Ingwersen and her dog Mason reading Jez Alborough’s Duck in the Truck.

Southside Early Learning Center uploaded KeyBank’s videos and added them to other community videos on its website.

“It was very rewarding, knowing that young children and families will be reading or listening right alongside us – it’s a great feeling,” Smith said. “I think everyone enjoys revisiting their old childhood favorites, and getting the opportunity to share those stories makes us feel really connected.”