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Lee Bank Establishes Foundation to Build on Community Reinvestment

LEE — Lee Bank is amplifying its longstanding community-reinvestment efforts with the creation of the Lee Bank Foundation, after a record year of contributions to the Berkshire nonprofit community.

In 2021, Lee Bank projects it will distribute $250,000 through the foundation, a more formal entity for community donations. In 2020, Lee Bank awarded $179,000 to community organizations, following several years of steady growth in funding.

“Lee Bank’s community contributions stretch back to its origins in 1852, but establishing Lee Bank Foundation sharpens our focus even further,” said Chuck Leach, the bank’s president. “The foundation also simplifies the application process for organizations doing meaningful work to support our Berkshire community.”

The foundation has its home at Marble House, a former residential property at 102 West Park St. in Lee. Purchased by Lee Bank in 2018, the building was recently renovated by Allegrone Construction. The property offers gathering spaces for community groups, bank staff, board meetings, and special events, and will also be home to a new financial-wellness service, for which hiring is under way.

In recent years, Lee Bank has typically set aside at least 5% of its annual net income for the support of area nonprofits. This giving has been on the rise: in 2020, the bank contributed nearly $179,000 to community nonprofits; in 2019, $145,000; and in 2018, $120,000. Last year, Lee Bank’s distributions included $50,000 to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County.

The bank has supported more than 200 programs and organizations in recent years, including Greenagers, Community Access to the Arts, Berkshire Humane Society, Berkshire Immigrant Center, and others.

The foundation will be funded at $5 million by Berkshire Financial Services (Lee Bank’s parent company), with the goal of providing $250,000 in grants annually to nonprofits.

“The timing for creation of the Lee Bank Foundation could not be better,” said Jake McCandless, a foundation board member. “After a year of turmoil and uncertainty with COVID-19, nonprofits supporting our community and our neighbors will benefit from a streamlined process that supports their vital missions now and into the future.”

In addition to a 2021 grant goal of $250,000, Lee Bank’s employee-driven, branch-based sponsorships will continue as in the past, with a $70,000 projection this year. “In addition to foundation funding, our branch-based sponsorship awards are recommended by employees based on their awareness of local needs and activities in their branch communities,” Leach said.

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