Main Street Matters ICBA Blog

Christmas in July ​

Jul 20, 2018
The classic Christmas tale “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a powerful reminder of the ties that bind us and how those connections contribute to the overall health and prosperity of our communities. 

Fortunately, the inspirational story of community banker George Bailey and his heroic acts of sacrifice and service aren’t relegated to the silver screen or the month of December. ICBA’s National Community Bank Service Awards recognize creative and economic empowerment programs deployed by community banks nationwide every GoLocalChristmastInJulyImageday.

This year’s honorees reflect a wide spectrum of civic service—whether promoting financial education, supporting local businesses, or reaching out to underserved families. ICBA congratulates this year’s honorees and celebrates their accomplishments in tribute to their communities.

Looking to the Future

Priming future generations for success was the impetus behind BayCoast Bank’s “Get on the Bus” campaign. Building on its principles for an educationally focused community, the $1.5 billion-asset bank partnered with educators and civic and business leaders to:

  • facilitate a tour to the University of Massachusetts for 800 seventh graders,
  • create a professional development program for 300 Massachusetts educators, and
  • launch an online financial education program with 14 area schools to teach money management best practices.

ESB Financial was also recognized for its creative online gaming program, MoneyIsland, which offers grade-schoolers an introductory lesson on managing money, saving, investing, and using credit wisely. “It’s never too early to teach kids about financial literacy,” said Leslie Seeley, vice president and training specialist at the $225 million-asset bank. As of March, nearly 1,000 students had participated in the program.

Sustaining Local Businesses

Supporting the local economy has always been a major focus for community banks like Royal Bank, which launched a social media campaign to promote dairy producers. “As a community bank operating in the rural communities of Southwest Wisconsin, we understand that the success of the [dairy industry] is vital to the success of our local economies,” said Natalie Adams, assistant vice president of brand development at the $415 million-asset bank.

Adams explained how dairy producers’ tightening budgets was affecting other small businesses and prompted the bank to launch its #MilkBreakChallenge. During Community Banking Month in April, bank branches hosted agriculture-themed days, incorporating local businesses and producers. The month-long effort generated more than 40,000 impressions and more than 2,000 likes, comments and shares on social media. 

Kennebec Savings Bank in Augusta, Maine, with $952 million in assets, and $45 million-asset Tri Valley Bank in Talmage, Neb., also received kudos for their Main Street revitalization initiatives, which included the renovation, repair and repurposing of downtown landmarks and local businesses to breathe new life into rundown or vacant facilities.

Connecting with Communities

Like Royal Bank, whose outreach was prompted by a struggling ag industry, $1.9 billion-asset Midwest BankCentre was inspired into action by an FDIC survey that found the St. Louis metro area had the nation’s third-highest rate of unbanked African-American households.

The bank has brought mainstream banking services to more than 1,200 previously unbanked or underbanked families. Meanwhile, employees have contributed more than 4,700 volunteer hours to help hundreds of immigrants, minorities and economically disadvantaged citizens and to spur community redevelopment and reinvestment.

“We are honored that ICBA has recognized our comprehensive effort to serve as agents of change,” Midwest BankCentre Chairman and CEO Jim Watson said. “Through the spirit of inclusivity, we are making a difference and improving the overall economic welfare of our community.”

Community banks are bedrocks of their communities—standing shoulder to shoulder with their customers—and creating a foundation that withstands the test of time and ensures a brighter tomorrow for everyone. Contribute to the rich legacy of community banking by sharing your real-life story about how your bank is making a difference.