For Santa Barbara Bank & Trust employees returning from the Veterans Day weekend, life took a cruel turn. Hours earlier, popular colleague Jeffrey Driggers, a financial consultant, was killed in a motorcycle crash. Penny Sharrett learned the tragic news the previous evening.

“It’s a terrible shock and telling our staff was the hardest thing,” said Sharrett, vice president and branch manager of the 20 E. Carrillo St. facility.

With the help of the bank’s human resources department, co-workers at their staff meeting-turned-impromptu memorial, shared how Driggers had touched their lives. There were many hugs, a few funny stories and mostly tears. Grief counselors were on stand-by.

Later when the downtown branch opened, employees scrambled to work with heavy hearts.

“Everyone went the extra mile for each other all day long,” said supervisor Kaiya Hansen.

Early the next morning at a private employee group session, a grief counselor discussed reactions, emotions and shared tips to start the healing. Some in the audience vented. All were supportive. Afterward, new accounts specialist Mathew Limon, who is also a spirited Youth Football League coach, launched his own innovative solution. He pulled everyone into a big huddle with arms extending all around. It’s a drill perfected at home.

“Mom did this when my sister died. It really helped our family and I knew it would work here,” he declared. Only this time, “Coach Mateo” added football chants and soon had everyone jumping up and down in unison.

“It cracked us up. He even had us doing ‘the wave’ and everything! It was just what we needed!” Hansen exclaimed with a smile.

There was, however, an unexpected snag. Just after some left to attend Driggers’ funeral, the branch was robbed. The suspect demanded money and was arrested nearby. No employees were hurt. The staff was further shaken, but wouldn’t stir.

The next day, another group therapy session and more team huddles …

Now in Week Two, a huddle starts each morning. The Jeffrey Driggers Memorial Fund is established and the annual “Food 4 Families” Drive is dedicated to his memory. With nearly $300 from workers’ pockets, food boxes are already overflowing. Life goes on. Slowly.

Said Santa Barbara Bank & Trust president and CEO George Leis, “I’m proud of everyone for rallying together during this incredibly challenging time. We have a great team and that’s never been more evident than it is today.”

And if you don’t believe it, here comes Coach Mateo …

To contribute to the Jeffrey Driggers Memorial Account and/or the Food 4 Families Holiday Drive, please visit any Santa Barbara Bank & Trust  location. Randy Weiss is the bank’s investor and community relations vice president.