Independent Banker magazine highlights inspirational stories of community bank heroes

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 6, 2023) — The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) today announced the winners of its 2023 National Community Bank Service Awards in recognition of the creative and exemplary efforts of the nation’s community banks to help their local economies flourish. Stories are featured in the September issue of ICBA Independent Banker.

“ICBA celebrates our 2023 National Community Bank Service Award winners and is honored to share these inspirational stories, which demonstrate the resourcefulness and unwavering commitment of local community banks to the customers and communities they serve—most notably during times of need,” ICBA President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey said. “These acts of service are a poignant reminder of why community banks are different and are central to ensuring strong and resilient communities nationwide.”

The 2023 ICBA National Community Bank Service Award winners are:

Emerging Community Bank Service Award

Cross Bank in Wynne, Ark.

Supporting community events and charitable organizations reflects the culture of Cross Bank, so it was natural that Cross Bank would step up when a rash of devastating storms left a trail of devastation—leading to the creation of a new philanthropic arm, Cross Bank Cares.

“Each year, our teams give hundreds of hours to service projects, [some] of which are grassroots in nature, started directly by our employees for causes and organizations they care deeply about,” says David Dowd, president and CEO of the $404 million-asset community bank.

In the days following an EF3 tornado in the town of Wynne, the community bank extended operating hours, opened an account for donations to a relief fund, and leveraged social media to disseminate information about available shelter, food and medical services. In total, the community bank donated $10,000, 2,000 meals and hundreds of pounds of supplies to the tornado relief efforts. Additionally, the bank reached out to local businesses to help them access nearly $200,000 in disaster relief funds through Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas programs.

Exceptional Community Bank Service Award

First Federal Savings & Loan Association in Pascagoula, Miss.

Residing on the Gulf Coast, $350 million-asset First Federal Savings & Loan is no stranger to weathering natural disasters. When a tornado that ripped through neighboring Rolling Fork and Silver City resulted in loss of life and catastrophic damage, employees immediately went into action—serving up culinary skills to raise needed funds for those affected by the tornado.

The food drive helped create a “sense of community” that would allow employees to “get involved and participate,” explains President and CEO Alan Renfroe. Such food drives typically result in 150 food orders, a number that ballooned by more than 300 percent in the days following the storm and allowed the bank to present a $10,000 check to help impacted families, he explains.

Most of Rolling Fork’s immediate needs have now been met. “But every business, barbershop, drugstore, everything in their business district was destroyed,” he says. “So, there’s still a ways to go to get those back up and running.” First Federal plans to be with its neighbors every step of the way.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Olympia, Wash.-based Olympia Federal Savings ($932 million in assets) for its Better Fedder Program, which sets aside a portion of the bank’s profits for philanthropic community efforts. “Every year, we contribute somewhere between 10 percent and 15 percent of our profits back to our local community,” says Ryan Betz, chief strategy and marketing officer. “Last year, we had more than 1,200 hours of volunteer service [done by] our employees, and our management team serves on more than 30 local nonprofit boards.”

  • Houma, La.-based Synergy Bank ($1 billion in assets) for its Bayou Pack the Bus school supply drive. The bank works in partnership with more than 50 local businesses and organizations to deliver “tens of thousands of individual school supplies to local school districts,” says Katie Portier, marketing director and assistant vice president.

  • Mayfield, Ky.-based First Kentucky Bank ($554 million in assets) and FNB Bank Inc. ($670 million in assets) for their DREAM Together (Downtown Revitalization and Economic Advancement for Mayfield) initiative helping small businesses rebuild following a devastating EF4 tornado in their hometown. "Together, we’ve participated on a little less than $3 million worth of loans, and we’ve given out around $300,000 in incentives combined through grants for people to rebuild," says Sam Mahan, senior lender at FNB Bank.

“These powerful stories showcase the unmatched role of community banks as well as the care and consideration practiced by those that find their calling as community bankers,” ICBA Chairman Derek Williams said. “Their commitment to the community is based on the fundamental principle that service is not something we strive for; it’s simply a part of who we are.”

More than 100 community banks and employees have been recognized by the ICBA National Community Bank Service Awards since the program’s inception in 2002. Bank technology services provider FIS, of Jacksonville, Fla., sponsored this year’s program.

In recognition of National Preparedness Month in September, ICBA offers tips to help consumers speed up their financial recovery following a natural or man-made disaster and has established the ICBA Foundation Disaster Relief Program to support community banks and their employees in presidentially declared or state governor-declared disaster areas.

About ICBA

The Independent Community Bankers of America® creates and promotes an environment where community banks flourish. ICBA is dedicated exclusively to representing the interests of the community banking industry and its membership through effective advocacy, best-in-class education, and high-quality products and services.

With nearly 50,000 locations nationwide, community banks employ nearly 700,000 Americans and are the only physical banking presence in one in three U.S. counties. Holding $5.8 trillion in assets, $4.8 trillion in deposits, and $3.8 trillion in loans to consumers, small businesses and the agricultural community, community banks channel local deposits into the Main Streets and neighborhoods they serve, spurring job creation, fostering innovation and fueling their customers' dreams in communities throughout America. For more information, visit ICBA's website at