It was 2016. Gayla Land, a Regions branch manager in Dothan, Alabama, was serving a customer. But she knew she could do better. The customer had severe hearing loss. For Gayla, communicating with the customer was a challenge.
“I felt there was something missing. It frustrated me,” Land 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 (ASL) classes at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB). The nonprofit program provides comprehensive education, rehabilitation and other services for people of all ages who are deaf, blind or multi-disabled. 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 in 2019.
“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 Better Life Award is the top honor given to a Regions associate for outstanding dedication and job performance, as well as 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 AIDB.
“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,” Land said. “Your eyes will be opened to a new perspective, and you’ll be embraced by the deaf community because you tried.”
See Land’s outreach in action in this video on the Regions Financial YouTube Channel.