Brandie Belstra has never left the Portage community. If she had, she never would have had a front row seat to the many changes and improvements occurring in her city.
Belstra grew up in Portage and was a swimmer in high school. She was the co-captain of the team, which was the perfect role for the social leader she was turning into. For college, she commuted to Purdue Northwest for a degree in organizational leadership and supervision.
“I knew I wanted to be in management,” Belstra said. “I have always taken on a leadership role. I like to help others in that way.”
Right out of college she worked as the front-end manager at Toys “R” Us, realizing that two years there was enough
“Two Christmas seasons at Toys “R” Us was more than I wanted to do!” she exclaimed.
She stumbled upon a position at the local Centier Bank branch. The bank did not require any former banking knowledge, she said, so she was hired in 2003 in the management development department.
Now, 14 years later, Belstra is the Portage Willowcreek branch manager, and has never thought about another career possibility.
“This is truly a hometown bank. They are very family oriented and my mom worked for the bank for 10 years at our Valparaiso downtown office opening accounts,” she explained. “So it is a very family-friendly company, and a great place to work. Normally when people get in, they don’t like to leave.”
Her job is the perfect position for a friendly people-person, she said. She will be in the office and every few minutes finds herself waving to customers and friends, or lifting her head to someone knocking on her window to say ‘Hi.’
“With me living and working in Portage I feel like I know everybody, so it is a lot of fun to be so involved in the community,” she said. “Even going to the grocery store my husband is like, ‘Can’t we get through one aisle without you running into somebody you know?’ It is a lot of fun and I am a very social people-person, so it is right up my alley.”
Belstra gets even more involved with the community with her roles on the Board of Directors for the Portage Chamber of Commerce and on the Portage Economic Development Corporation, where she is the treasurer. She is also the treasurer of the Lions Club in Portage, a group she has been a part of since 2005.
“Centier encourages employs to get involved in community organizations and I reached out to them since I had many friends in the organization already,” she said. “Plus, they do so much.”
Belstra has helped the club give vision screenings to Portage elementary students and assembled kids activity kits for the Portage Fire Department to give to families when they have a fire and need to keep the kids calm, she explained.
Beltra has three young kids with her husband: a 2-year-old, 4-year-old, and 7-year-old. With two of them involved with the Portage YMCA and one at Wallace Aylesworth Elementary School , which means PTO meetings and events for Belstra, her days outside of work are pretty much filled to the brim.
But, spending time with her family at parks and on family vacations is what she looks forward to the most when she has some free time.
The new Hannah’s Hope playground, which she learned more about while attending the organization’s gala last weekend, is one those changes and improvements going on in the city, and which puts a smile on Belstra’s face as she sits back and watches.
“I love watching Portage grow. I remember when Willowcreek was only two lanes and Walmart was a corn field,” she said.
Even at work, the days are pleasantly hectic with people asking for loans and checking and savings accounts. The hustle and bustle is showing the growth of the community and its members, she explained.
“I was born and raised here. I like the community and I like the direction it is going in,” she said. “The kids are excited for the outdoor movies at Founder’s Square again. If only I can get the 2-year-old to sit through a movie, that would be awesome!”