What does the word “community” mean to you?
One definition, from the Oxford Dictionary, is “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of common attitudes, interests and goals.”
This meaning aptly describes the community in “community bank” and represents our common interest in addressing the banking needs of local families, businesses and farmers, which allows people and small business owners to achieve their goals and prosper. Yet community banks’ role in society often extends beyond performing financial transactions. Their role also involves providing much-needed resources to customers and the community at-large in changing and challenging times.
ICBA recently announced its 2017 National Community Bank Service Award recipients, our annual recognition celebrating the outstanding and innovative volunteer efforts of the nation’s community banks. These efforts span a variety of categories: from fraud prevention for senior citizens to disaster relief to economic empowerment for underserved groups.
More than 100 community banks from across the nation submitted nominations, and more than 100 have been recognized since the program’s inception nearly 16 years ago. As in years past, each of the award-winning programs highlight specific, localized issues in which bank leaders and employees saw the need to collaborate with each other and with local or statewide organizations to supply necessary fiscal and material resources to fellow citizens for the greater good.
Grand Award winner Poca Valley Bank of W. Va., delivered post-flood relief to a neighboring town in the form of financial aid nearing $100,000 and participated in a winter coat giveaway for affected citizens.
Of these efforts, bank President and CEO Linda Ashley says, “I am proud of the employees who generously donated their time to help restore a sense of normalcy to our community and demonstrated that community banks truly do stand shoulder to shoulder with customers through good times and bad.”
In addition to their Grand Award-winning efforts to provide disaster relief, Poca Valley Bank has contributed to their community with a creative twist on their Student Savings Program, by implementing a Piggy Bank Exchange program. The program helps teach children, especially those in financially challenged areas, to save by presenting them with a tiny piggy bank, which can be exchanged for a larger bank each time it is filled.
Woodforest National Bank, which also received an honorable mention for its “Texas Homeownership Initiative” demonstrates the ability community banks have to affect change locally. The bank partners with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to offer more affordable first mortgages to first-time homebuyers, mainly residents of low- and moderate-income communities. Through this private-public initiative, 1,558 individuals have achieved homeownership.
These two programs — along with countless others — showcase the positive imprint community banks leave on their communities as discussed in this MOPIK News article featuring National Award recipient ChoiceOne Bank, which took their service efforts in a different direction by immersing themselves into their community through language and education. ChoiceOne saw a need to better serve employees in the heart of their West Michigan agriculture/farming community and focused on providing safe, secure ways for employees to be paid with minimal fees, financial education delivered in Spanish, along with Spanish speaking customer service options.
ChoiceOne was clearly committed to reaching this audience and developed customized offerings accordingly.
ICBA’s National Community Bank Service Awards show that community banks across the nation put the word “community” in community bank. Their desire to enact change to benefit their customers, neighbors and fellow business owners is a testament to the leadership role that community bankers fulfill and the fellowship they commit their careers and work to every single day.