LEE — The town of Lee has one of the smallest high schools in Berkshire County. But what the school lacks in size it makes up for in support.
"The whole community supports that school," said Jennifer O'Neil, the manager of the Greylock Federal Credit Union's Lee branch.
And she ought to know; she graduated from Lee High School in 1998.
"It's like Patriots' fans," she said, "they're so supportive of their teams."
The county's largest credit union has found a way to capitalize on that school spirit/town pride. Greylock recently released a new Lee Wildcats' debit card that includes the school's logo — a large black cat's paw — printed on an orange background. The Wildcat is Lee High School's mascot, and orange and black are the school's colors.
Every time a credit union member signs up for a Wildcats' debit card, Greylock makes a donation to Lee High School.
The new debit card is currently only available at Greylock's Lee branch at 47 Main St. But it has become so popular — "We've been issuing them daily," O'Neil said — that some unusual requests have come across her desk.
"One of the Wildcats' football players I went to school with asked if we could put the number of his football jersey on the card," O'Neil said. "We couldn't, but he did it with a Sharpie."
Greylock had done specialized cards before. It once printed an Infinity card for the Berkshire Museum that had a stegosaurus, a replica of the statue of the armored dinosaur located by the museum's main entrance, printed on the front.
"That was not well received by the public," said Bob Maxwell, Greylock's vice president of marketing. "We've gotten a little smarter since then."
The idea for trying high school debit cards surfaced after Greylock was able to install debit card printers in its branches, President and CEO John Bissell said.
"It seemed natural to try it in Lee," Bissell said. "They have great high school teams. So we decided to pilot it there and it took off."
Maxwell and Greylock's graphic designer, Tom Buckley, also held a contest among Lee High School students to design the logo for the new card. O'Neil reached out to Lee High School art teacher Nicole Clark for assistance. The winning design, a cat's paw with "Lee Wildcats" written in script above it, was submitted by Jessica Sammons, who graduated from Lee High School last spring.
"One of the unique challenges to this for an art class was designing something for a canvas that is 31/2 inches by 21/4 inches, which is a typical credit card size," Maxwell said. "Not only is it a small canvas, but you have to work with the Greylock and Visa logos. It's a challenge to design something that small."
Maxwell said Greylock received close to two dozen entries.
"We got all kinds of things," he said. "Photography, illustrations, actual painting."
Sammons painted her entry.
"Our school mascot is the Wildcat and we have the paws in our school," said Sammons, adding contestants were asked to send in their submissions on a piece of paper. "I wanted to do something more simplistic with the paws than more complex. There were people who did some beautiful complex designs."
"It seemed like the most appropriate one to us," Maxwell said.
Both Sammons and the contest's runner-up received $100 gift cards from Greylock, Maxwell said.
The Lee branch had a waiting list for the Wildcats' debit cards before they came out, and Bissell said Greylock may expand the idea to include other Berkshire high schools.
"It's possible that we will offer this idea for other high schools in other branches," Bissell said. "But for now down there it adds a local flavor."
Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413 496-6224.