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Florence Bank to Exceed $1.1M in Giving in Community Grants Program

FLORENCE — Ten years ago, a first-time mother struggled with the care of her newborn and later helped another mother having difficulty. Her efforts marked the grass-roots founding of It Takes a Village in Cummington.

Today, a handful of part-time staff members and a committed team of volunteers for the nonprofit provide support — ranging from help with laundry and dishes to an extra set of hands at a doctor’s visit — for families in the hilltowns with infants in their first year.

The organization served 1,500 families last year and distributed more than $100,000 in diapers and other baby supplies. It also offers parenting and wellness classes and runs a distribution center, where parents can find free maternity wear, diapers, clothing, and strollers, regardless of income, age, or adoption status.

As a sponsor of It Takes a Village, Florence Bank has offered funds that will be used for a resource kit that all families will receive on a first visit. And, come mid-March, for the first time, the bank will also offer a grant to the organization through the annual Florence Bank Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program.

Lisa Goding, co-executive director, is grateful for the assist, which will be put to use to recruit additional volunteers to help eliminate a waiting list for services. “We want to do some outreach for the home-visit program,” she said. “We want to eliminate the wait so more families can experience that extra set of hands.”

In 2018, more than 10,000 votes were cast through the Customers’ Choice program. As a result, 55 nonprofit leaders like Goding will accept a check on Tuesday, March 5 at the annual event at the Garden House at Look Park from 5 to 7 p.m.

During the event, Florence Bank president and CEO John Heaps Jr. will hand out 55 checks, topping the $1.1 million mark in terms of grants made to community nonprofits over almost two decades. 

“We are a committed community partner, and we love this annual event, which offers us the chance to invest in organizations that benefit our employees, customers, neighbors, families, and friends,” Heaps said.

The Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program is an annual offering founded in 2002, through which Florence Bank customers are invited to vote for their favorite local nonprofit in hopes it will receive a share of grant funding. To qualify for a community grant, organizations must receive at least 50 votes. Ten organizations that received between 40 and 49 votes were also invited to attend the event this year to be in a drawing for one additional $500 award.

The following organizations received more than 50 customer votes and will receive an award at the event: Dakin Humane Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, Friends of Forbes Library, Friends of Lilly Library, Cancer Connection, Northampton Survival Center, Amherst Survival Center, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Friends of the Williamsburg Library, Our Lady of the Hills Parish, New Hingham Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization, Northampton High School Parent Teacher Organization, Edward Hopkins Educational Foundation, Easthampton Elementary Schools Parent Teacher Organization, BARC Inc., Belchertown K-9, Friends of Hilltown Cooperative Charter School, Granby Senior Center, Grow Food Northampton, Safe Passage, Belchertown Firefighters Assoc., Friends of Clapp Library, Jackson Street School Parent Teacher Organization, Northampton Senior Center, R.K. Finn Ryan Road School, Williamsburg Firefighter Assoc., Leeds Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization, Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, Bright Spot Therapy Dogs, Northampton Community Music Center, Easthampton Dollars for Scholars, Friends of Northampton Legion, Tapestry Health Systems, Children First Enterprises Inc., Whole Children, Friends of M.N. Spear Memorial Library, Riverside Industries Inc., Kestrel Land Trust, Friends of Amherst Senior Center, Smith Vocational High School Parent Teacher Organization, Hitchcock Center for the Environment, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Easthampton Community Center, Belchertown Public Schools, Historic Northampton, It Takes a Village, Northampton Neighbors, Pelham Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization, John F. Kennedy Middle School, Hospice of the Fisher Home, Cub Scout Pack 705, Emily Williston Library, Granby Free Public Library, Amherst Regional Public Schools, and Manna Soup Kitchen.

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