It's more than money for community banks

2013-05-18T11:30:00Z It's more than money for community banksAndrea Holecek Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
May 18, 2013 11:30 am  • 

Community banks say they are committed to offering more than financial services because they have a symbiotic relationship with the communities they serve.

The success of a bank is related to the quality of the community where the bank is located, said Rob Gardiner, market president for Horizon Bank in Lake County.

“Banks that have well thought-out approaches to serving community needs can help themselves, but a community banker often is motivated by more than just building up the local economic environment,” he said. “They are giving back because it is their community as well.”

A recent survey by the Indiana Bankers Association shows in addition to providing loans and capital to individuals and businesses, banks are deeply involved in community service.

Many of Northwest Indiana community banks that grow and maintain the region’s quality of life by aiding and supporting a wide variety of programs, services, and events for local residents, schools, community organizations and charities.

“Peoples has always held firm to the belief that doing business locally carries a commitment of giving back to the community that has given so much to us,” said David A. Bochnowski, chairman and chief executive office of the Munster-based Peoples Bank. “We recognize that a community gathers strength from the well-being of its neighborhoods, and that neighborhoods gain strength from community organizations.”

Through financial support and volunteering in numerous community and faith-based organizations, People’s assisted more than 200 community groups and donated almost $182,000 to community causes in 2012.

It also supports Campagna Academy as well as offering student financial literacy programs and maintains its commitment to the “Bank On” initiative with the Lake Area United Way to provide banking services to the unbanked and under-banked of the area.

People’s Bank employee-run community program sponsored bake sales, raffles and casual dress days to provide financial support for numerous organizations including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lake and Porter counties, Haven House, Neighborhoods, Inc., Opportunity Enterprises, Legacy Foundation and the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana.

Michael Schneider, first vice president of First Financial, said his bank is committed to the communities it serves and giving back to the areas where its officers and employees live and work and thus, takes “an active role in supporting our communities.”

“Company-wide, we are committed to helping our communities take another step on the path to success through our key areas of giving – economic development, financial education and neighborhood development,” Schneider said. “We believe these are important areas where the bank’s financial resources, expertise and our associates’ talents will make the greatest impact.”

First Financial recently made significant gifts to the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Indiana Inc., Ivy Tech East Chicago Campus Library Enhancements for Student Success program and Hammond’s United Neighborhoods Inc. It also assists Halo of Hope, the American Heart Association, Habitat for Humanity in Lafayette, and Teach a Child to Save at local schools.

Centier Bank has established a network of "community cordinators," consisting of branch managers and bank ambassadors who work with community leaders to provide support for local efforts. They are charged with assessing the needs of the community in order to better service a larger audience and provide educational and financial support when necessary.

"Community involvement is important to us because we are a local community bank," said Mike Schrage, bank president and CEO. "The clients and communities we serve are the core of our existence. We are nurturing long-term partnerships with our communities in order to make Indiana a better place to work and live for generations to come."

Besides assisting with annual fundraising drives hosted by the United Way, American Heart Association, and other nonprofit agencies, Centier also supports monthly "Dress Casual Day for Charity." It also collects for nonprofit fundraisers including food pantries, the Humane Society, charity walks and clothing drives throughout the year.

Horizon Bank’s officers and many employees serve as officers, directors, members or volunteers at local nonprofits, churches, chambers of commerce and service clubs.

Last December, Horizon Bank donated more than $20,000 to local Food Pantries in Lake and Porter county. Its Merrillville office, through a combination of employee, client and bank gifts, provided Christmas presents to 45 elderly people in the local community. The gifts ranged from blood pressure monitors and Meals on Wheels gift certificates to clothes, health and beauty items.

Horizon also gives grants to charities including the Boys and Girls Club’s Making the Grade Program. The bank has donated $25,000 to fund five years of this program in Hammond and Merrillville.

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