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FLORENCE — For 20 years, Florence Bank has awarded grants of up to $5,000 each to dozens of nonprofits chosen by its customers, and at its annual gathering this year, it will once again offer up $100,000 to organizations that support young and old in the community. 

At its 20th Annual Customers’ Choice Community Grants gala, to be staged May 19 at 5 p.m. at Frank Newhall Look Memorial Park, the bank will offer awards to 45 nonprofits and celebrate a total of $1.4 million in community giving through this one channel. 

Organizations like Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield and the Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Holyoke will receive awards for the first time this year thanks to customer voting. 

“We are so grateful,” said Stacey Perlmutter, director of development at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Springfield. “All care and services at Shriners Hospitals for Children are provided regardless of a family’s ability to pay. This grant money will help us to continue to provide life-changing pediatric specialty care to families throughout Western Massachusetts and beyond.” 

Likewise, Gerry O’Connor Page, executive director of Therapeutic Equestrian Center (TEC) in Holyoke feels grateful for an assist that will help provide therapeutic horseback riding to individuals with physical, emotional or psychological disabilities. 

“We will use the money to enable us to keep prices down,” she said. “It helps make the service accessible.” 

In the past, the bank has granted funds to some Hampden County-based nonprofits, such as Dakin Humane Society, which typically is the top vote-getter each year. This year, as Florence Bank develops its engagement in the southern county, the awards to organizations based there are increasing. 

“We have branches now in West Springfield, Springfield and Chicopee, and we very much want to be good neighbors in those communities,” said Florence Bank President and CEO Kevin Day. He noted that this year, the bank held a Zoominar event to educate Hampden County nonprofit leaders about the Customers’ Choice program. 

“We wanted to be sure they were aware of the program so they could take part and have the best chance at success,” he said. 

Florence Bank’s community grants program is an annual offering founded in 2002, and, through it, Florence Bank customers are invited to vote for their favorite local nonprofit in hopes it will receive a share of grant funding. 

Voting takes place all year long, online at www.florencebank.com/vote and in bank branches, and each customer has only one vote. To qualify for a community grant, organizations must receive at least 50 votes. In 2021, roughly 6,700 votes were cast, making 45 nonprofits eligible for a grant. 

Over the past 20 years, Florence Bank has tallied more than 141,000 customer votes and given grants to roughly 164 different organizations. 

Organizations to receive awards this year range from police, fire, library and school groups to nonprofits that provide food, shelter or support to people living with a serious illness or disability. Leaders of these nonprofits will learn the amount of their award at the May event. 

In addition to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Springfield, the Therapeutic Equestrian Center and Dakin, the following organizations received enough votes to qualify for a grant and will receive an award at the celebration: Amherst Neighbors, Amherst Survival Center, Belchertown Animal Relief Committee Inc. (BARC), Belchertown K-9, Cancer Connection, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Cooley Dickinson Hospital VNA & Hospice, Easthampton Community Center, Easthampton Elementary Schools PTO, Edward Hopkins Educational Foundation, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Friends of Forbes Library, Friends of Lilly Library, Friends of M.N. Spear Memorial Library, Friends of Northampton Legion Baseball, Friends of the Williamsburg Library, Goshen Firefighters Assoc., Grow Food Northampton, Granby Senior Center, Habitat for Humanity Pioneer Valley, Historic Northampton, Hitchcock Center for the Environment, It Takes a Village, J.F.K. Middle School, Kestrel Land Trust, Leeds Elementary School PTO, Ludlow Boys & Girls Club, Manna Community Kitchen, Northampton Community Music Center, Northampton High School PTO, Northampton Neighbors, Northampton Survival Center, Our Lady of the Hills Parish, Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, Revitalize CDC, Riverside Industries, R.K. Finn Ryan Road School, Safe Passage, Smith Vocational High School PTO, The Parish Cupboard, Whole Children, and Williamsburg Firefighters Association. 

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