A deadly 2017 hurricane season reminds us that our families, our homes, our businesses and our health can be devastated in minutes. Without charitable contributions, and the difficult, dangerous and often heroic work of volunteers, communities overwhelmed by the tragic impact of those storms would have faced an even tougher road to recovery.
New Jersey’s banks have been leaders in addressing problems and desperate need in the Garden State. While their causes are often less dramatic than the super storms that New Jerseyans know all too well, the need is equally great. Affordable housing. Employment opportunities. Educational, health and wellness services. Through their financial acumen, and the dedication and service of employee volunteers, the state’s banks are making a difference for individuals, families and communities.
Philanthropy & Volunteerism
Investors Bank’s vision and mission are built on four core values: cooperation, character, commitment and community. Philanthropy and volunteerism are significant elements of Investors’ mission, and are linked intrinsically to its values.
“From our perspective, Investors has an obligation to make a positive difference in the communities where our employees and our customers live and work,” Kevin Cummings, chief executive officer and president, says. “It is important to us that Investors not just be successful, but also significant. We want to make a significant contribution to changing the world for the better. One way that we do so is through our philanthropy – the Investors Foundation and the Roma Bank Community Foundation – and the other is through the thousands of hours our employees spend in serving their communities.”
In 2007, when the Paper Mill Playhouse needed help, Investors answered the call. “The day we made the loan to Paper Mill Playhouse was a great day,” Cummings recalls. “From a banking standpoint, it was not an easy decision to make. However, we knew that providing a bridge loan to help Paper Mill through a difficult time was the right thing to do. Paper Mill is our neighbor in Short Hills, and the loan saved a 70-year-old institution from failure, and saved jobs in the community.”
A local resident stepped up to guarantee the loan and provide additional support necessary to ease the regulatory concerns. The effort was a great example of a private/public partnership – a local bank, the township of Millburn, and a concerned citizen. Plus, the community itself was galvanized and raised $1 million in just four weeks.
“We are proud to be able to continue to assist the Playhouse – and ultimately, the community – through additional support of more than $1.5 million through our Foundation,” Cummings adds. “We have also served on the board of trustees, underwritten the Rising Stars Awards for high school students, and continue to be a seasonal corporate sponsor.”
Boiling Springs Savings Bank was originally formed by a consortium of residents and business people to serve its community. Boiling Springs continues this mission through its volunteerism and the innovative Community Alliance Program (“CAP”). Local non-profits maintaining addresses in Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Essex and Hudson counties can apply to participate in the program. If accepted, they then urge their constituents and supporters to open an account or pledge an existing account in support of their organization at Boiling Springs.
The bank pays the non-profit a quarter to a half a percent on the aggregate balance of all of the accounts tagged for its benefit. “The amount paid does not affect the interest paid on the deposit accounts; it is purely a donation by the bank to the non-profit,” Ken Emerson, executive vice president/chief operations and strategy officer, points out. “This is, in effect, the bank’s means of paying dividends to its communities. In fact, we have donated $3 million since the CAP Program’s inception.”
The Kip Center in Rutherford is one of the largest participants in the CAP program. Kip provides Health & Wellness, Activities, Education, Fitness and Information for older adults. Kip’s former executive director, Peggy Letsche, is on the Board of Directors of the bank. Many of the bank’s employees volunteer their time to assist in serving meals and participating in Kip activities. All employees are urged to volunteer their time to the 425 local non-profit organizations enrolled in the CAP Program or within the bank’s footprint.
“OceanFirst has a long history of supporting community development through our lending efforts for low- and moderate-income housing development, senior citizen and disabled adult group homes,” Joseph J. Lebel, executive vice president, notes.
In 1996, OceanFirst became the first bank in the country to establish a foundation in conjunction with its mutual to stock conversion. OceanFirst Foundation was created with a one-time donation at that time of $13.4 million in OceanFirst Financial Corp. (OCFC) stock. Among the millions of dollars in grants provided by OceanFirst Foundation, over $1.5 million in scholarships have been awarded to local high school students continuing their education at 2-year and 4-year colleges located in the OceanFirst market area. OceanFirst Bank employees also give countless hours of their time to serve on the boards of several college foundations and dozens of local non-profit organizations.
Education, Health & Justice
Through its partnership with education technology company EverFi, Provident Bank offers its Becoming Financially Fit (BFF) financial literacy program to school districts throughout central and northern New Jersey as well as eastern Pennsylvania. For the 2016-2017 school year, 25 school districts participated in the program, with 3,270 students receiving 16,186 hours of learning.
“Our concern for our customer base is reflected in the outreach we provide to the local communities surrounding our branches, including volunteering, sponsorships, and fundraising. But the most impactful is our work in financial literacy,” says Chris Martin, president and CEO, Provident Bank.
In addition, The Provident Bank Foundation presented its $100,000 “Signature” Grant in the Health, Youth & Families funding priority area to Jersey Battered Women Service (JBWS) of Morristown. JBWS was selected to receive the Signature Grant for a new initiative, The Morris Family Justice Center. The Center is a public safety strategy that will improve the safety and quality of life of domestic violence victims and their children.
“We invest in those institutions that contribute to a sense of community, and offer a diversity of programs that make people healthier, happier and safer,” Jane Kurek, The Provident Bank Foundation’s executive director, notes.
Bob Doherty, New Jersey market president, says Bank of America’s comprehensive global employee volunteerism strategy equips and empowers employees to engage in their local community, either as individuals or as part of the company’s volunteer team structure – Bank of America Community Volunteers (BACCV). In an effort to support the passions of bank employees, they can receive two hours of paid time off per week to volunteer. To honor those who give their time and service to causes important to them, Bank of America awards volunteer grants, which are up to $500 per employee for each calendar year and are made in the name of the employee to eligible charitable organizations.
“We work to create thriving economies and a better future for all,” Doherty notes. “Our volunteerism, local giving and signature programs – Neighborhood Builders® and Student Leaders® – reflect how we are investing in the communities we serve in order to advance economic mobility.”