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Daily News

WARE — Once again, Country Bank and Old Sturbridge Village are teaming up to ensure Thanksgiving meals are provided to those who need a little help celebrating Thanksgiving this year. The bank’s nonprofit partners shared that they are seeing an increased need for food assistance as prices continue to rise, and more and more people need support.

Paul Scully, president and CEO of Country Bank, wanted to double the bank’s efforts this year and provide 1,500 meals to those needing assistance spanning from Springfield to Worcester. On Wednesday, Nov. 24, the team from Country Bank will deliver 1,500 free meals that were prepared and assembled by the culinary team at Old Sturbridge Village, including a full turkey dinner with all the sides and apple pie for dessert.

Meals will be delivered to St. Johns Food for the Poor, YWCA, Abby’s House, Veterans Inc., Elm Street Congregational Church, Christina’s House, Ronald McDonald House, Mustard Seed, Project New Hope, Old Sturbridge Village, Friends of the Homeless, and Hatfield, South Hadley, Chicopee, and Easthampton Veterans’ Services.

In addition, the students of Old Sturbridge Academy created handmade greeting cards to go with the meals, which are sure to bring a warm smile to anyone’s face.

“We want to do everything we can to help support families in the community this Thanksgiving,” said James Donahue, president of Old Sturbridge Village.

“Country Bank and Old Sturbridge Village share a collective belief that the strength of the community begins with giving back to those in need,” Scully added. “As a community partner, we want to offer our support where it is needed most this holiday season. We know we can make a difference when we work together.”

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank, a full-service financial institution serving Central and Western Mass., recently supported the Ride to Remember, the 100-mile bicycle ride in tribute to fallen police officers and firefighters. This year, the event was rerouted to include a round-trip ride from Springfield to Worcester to pay tribute to the lives lost by the Worcester Police and Fire departments.

Country Bank President and CEO Paul Scully, who previously participated in the ride, presented a $10,000 donation to the Ride to Remember with funds directed to the Manny 267 Foundation in Worcester. The Manny 267 Foundation was established after the city of Worcester suffered the loss of officer Manny Familia, a five-year veteran who responded to the 911 call of a 14-year-old boy in distress at Green Hill Pond. Unfortunately, neither Familia nor the boy survived.

The goal of the foundation is to raise funds to provide rescue tubes for every police cruiser and, with the collaboration of the YMCA, provide proper training for police to perform water rescues. In addition, they want to offer swimming lessons and water-survival skills for kids and teenagers in the Worcester community. Finally, their goal is to donate a ‘Manny tube’ to every police department in the U.S. and to prevent this type of tragedy from ever happening again.

“Country Bank’s involvement in this meaningful event is a great way for us to show our gratitude and support for our frontline workers,” Scully said. “Our appreciation for their work to support their communities is to be commended.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Country Bank announced it is opening a business office on the 17th floor of Tower Square in Springfield at the end of October to support its continued growth in the markets it serves.

The new business office will support local businesses and allow the Country Bank team to become ingrained with the companies and nonprofits in Springfield. Bringing more than 20 years of commercial banking experience, Senior Vice President Ben Leonard will lead the Springfield team. He has spent more than a decade fostering relationships in Western Mass. with both community and business leaders while he was with Wells Fargo.

“The team at Country Bank has demonstrated a profound level of commitment to the community and its customers,” Leonard said. “I knew that I wanted to be a part of a team whose values align with my own. These values are not just statements, but are put into action every day at Country Bank. This was evident from my first annual meeting with Country Bank, when it pledged $1 million to the Food Bank of Western Mass. and the Worcester County Food Bank. If that is not walking the walk, I don’t know what is.”

Leonard serves on the board for Revitalize CDC in Springfield. In 2018, he was a BusinessWest 40 Under Forty honoree and is a graduate of Wells Fargo’s Credit Management Training Program. He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Texas.

“We are thrilled to have Ben join the team to lead our western division,” said Tom Wolcott, first senior vice president of Commercial Lending. “His extensive expertise within the commercial-lending space and the Springfield market makes him a great addition to the team. We know that he will be a valuable asset to the Springfield community and Country Bank’s business customers and community leaders.”

Daily News

WARE — The Boston Business Journal has once again named Country Bank an honoree in its annual 2021 Corporate Citizenship Awards, recognizing the region’s top corporate charitable contributors.

The magazine annually publishes this list to highlight companies that promote and prioritize giving back to their communities. During this year’s virtual celebration held on Sept. 9, 98 companies qualified for the distinction by reporting at least $100,000 in cash contributions to Massachusetts-based charities and social-service nonprofits last year. This year, the honorees include companies from healthcare, technology, financial and professional services, retail, professional sports, and more.

Country Bank, which ranked 55th, employs 215 staff members within Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester counties. Staff members actively promoted the bank’s mission of giving back to the communities they serve by volunteering to a variety of nonprofits.

“The Boston business community has always been committed to helping the people and organizations in need, and 2020 was an extraordinary year,” Boston Business Journal Market President and Publisher Carolyn Jones said. “Given the many challenges we all faced, it is a true testament to the companies and the people who have given so much of their resources, money, and time to help others and keep our community moving forward. We at the BBJ are grateful to have the opportunity to recognize companies large and small for the example they set for us all to do good.”

Paul Scully, president and CEO at Country Bank, added that “we are honored to be recognized by the Boston Business Journal for Country Bank’s philanthropic efforts. As a community bank, it is our mission to help make a difference in the lives of others.”

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank President and CEO Paul F. Scully announced the appointment of four prominent business professionals to its board of trustees and four new corporators from local businesses within the communities it serves.

Attorney Richard Maynard, owner of the Law Offices of Richard H. Maynard, PC and Elizabeth Rappaport, partner at Century Investment Company, both from Western Mass., have joined the board of trustees. Central Massachusetts Board of Trustees include Ross Dik, owner of Knight-Dik Insurance in Worcester, and Stacy Luster, general counsel and assistant to the president of Worcester State University, who will also serve as a corporator. 

Newly appointed corporators include Jennifer Cooke, CRPS, CPFA, AIF, and director of Retirement Plans at CIG Private Wealth Management; Melissa Fales, Loan Program coordinator at Quaboag Community Development Corporation; William Trudeau, executive vice president/partner at HUB International LLC; and Kyriakos Konstantaki, co-founder and principal at Amcomm Wireless.

“While each of our markets offers a unique value proposition, we are adding strategic business professionals throughout the region to our team to help us focus our efforts on the areas that will provide us with the most growth opportunities,” stated Scully. “We are delighted to have these new dedicated and experienced business professionals join us. Together, we look forward to the future with great optimism for continued success, growth, and prosperity for our Community, Customers and Staff.” 

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank announced several recent staff promotions.

Julie Yi has been promoted to senior vice president, controller and Operations. She has extensive experience in finance and operations and serves on Country Bank’s senior management team. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and is a certified public accountant.

Justin Calheno has been promoted to assistant vice president, Retail Lending. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Westfield State University and is a graduate of the New England School for Financial Studies. He serves as a board member for the Ludlow Boys and Girls Club.

Lisa Saletnik has been promoted to assistant vice president, Business Systems. She holds an associate degree in health science from Bay Path University and is a graduate of the New England School for Financial Studies.

Mackenna Hogan has been promoted to Commercial Banking Administration officer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from UMass Amherst.

Antonio Palano has been promoted to assistant vice president, Retail Lending. He holds an associate degree in business administration from Springfield Technical Community College.

Newly appointed officers include Sam Pursey, Erin Skoczylas, Ashley Swett, and Sarah Yurkunas.

Pursey has been promoted to Relationship Management officer. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from UMass Amherst.

Skoczylas has been promoted to assistant controller. Erin holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western New England University, an associate degree in business administration from Springfield Technical Community College, and is a graduate of the New England School for Financial Studies.

Swett has been promoted to Customer Care Center officer. She is a graduate of the New England School for Financial Studies.

Yurkunas has been promoted to Relationship Management officer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Bay Path University, a certificate from the Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. in Fundamentals of Credit Analysis: Intro to Commercial Lending, and is currently enrolled in the New England School for Financial Studies.

“I am thrilled to congratulate Julie, Justin, Tony, Lisa, Mackenna, Sam, Erin, Ashley, and Sarah on their promotions and all of the accomplishments that got them here; they are a key part of our success,” said Miriam Siegel, first senior vice president of Human Resources. “We’re pleased to provide the opportunities for our people to develop not only within their roles today, but into new opportunities tomorrow. These team members embody our corporate values of iSTEP – integrity, service, teamwork, excellence, and prosperity.”

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank and the Worcester Red Sox have announced a community giving campaign to support nonprofit leaders throughout the region.

To kick off the campaign, dubbed “WooStars,” Country Bank recognized 11 local nonprofits at Polar Park, including Springfield-based organizations Friends of the Homeless, Ronald McDonald House, Christina’s House, and Habitat for Humanity, along with Worcester-based organizations the United Way, Why Me, Sherry’s House, Provision Ministry, St. John’s Food Pantry for the Poor, the Boys and Girls Club, and Habitat for Humanity. Each nonprofit was presented with a $5,000 check from Paul Scully, president and CEO of Country Bank. Representatives of the nonprofits also participated in a television commercial to support the campaign.

Country Bank and the Worcester Red Sox Foundation will select nine additional nonprofit leaders who have stepped up to the plate to serve their community. The deadline for nominations is Aug. 15. Each winner will receive a $5,000 donation to their nonprofit and will be recognized at a presentation in Polar Park on Sept. 9. A total of $90,000 will be donated this year through the WooStar campaign.

“One of the most important goals of our partnership with the Worcester Red Sox is to find ways for us to collectively give back to our communities in an impactful and meaningful way. Country Bank is deeply rooted in supporting its communities and a value that we have lived by for 171 years,” said Shelley Regin, the bank’s senior vice president of Marketing, adding that “this campaign rewards those doing the life-changing work out there.”

In addition, the bank has also launched a Most Valuable Teacher (MVT) campaign that recognizes the outstanding work teachers do every day to educate and support students. Country Bank has a long-standing Teacher of the Month campaign to support teachers in the region, so it is exciting to partner with the WooSox to make the MVT campaign even more rewarding for teachers and students.

“We are continually inspired by the unrelenting community outreach of Country Bank,” WooSox President Charles Steinberg said. “Our shared interest in education is leading us to recognize some of our unheralded heroes — our MVTs, or Most Valuable Teachers. We look forward to shining the spotlight in the sunlight on our educators, and we thank Country Bank yet again for their splendid partnership.”

The public is invited to nominate a WooStar or Most Valuable Teacher by clicking here or here to complete a simple nomination form.

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank, a full-service financial institution serving central and Western Mass., announced the recipients of the 2020 President’s Platinum Award. The bank’s recognition program, “CB Shines”, encourages staff members to be on the lookout for co-workers who embody the bank’s corporate values of Integrity, Service, Teamwork, Excellence, and Prosperity (iSTEP).

Within this program, an employee can receive different levels of recognition: Silver Spotlight (awarded anytime), Gold Star (awarded quarterly) and the President’s Platinum (awarded annually).

The 2020 President’s Platinum award was presented to both Dianna Lussier, Risk Management officer, and Nicholas Thompson, assistant manager, Customer Care Center. “Our staff members are extremely dedicated, knowledgeable and committed to delivering the best service both to their external customers as well as their internal customers”, said Paul Scully, President, and CEO of Country Bank.

“Dianna’s forward-looking and collaborative manner, as well as her willingness to think outside the box and assist others when a problem arises, is noteworthy. In addition, Dianna looks to add value in her cross-divisional relationships, assumes extra duties when needed, and is considerate of other’s opinions”, said Dawn Fleury, first senior vice president, and chief risk officer.

“I am extremely honored and grateful to have been named the co-recipient of the prestigious 2020 President’s Platinum Award,” said Lussier. “Winning this award would not have been possible without my mentors and colleagues’ endless support and encouragement. I have learned to challenge myself and to use successes and setbacks as a way to continually develop my skillset.”

Ashely Swett, Customer Care Center manager, said of Thompson, “ Nick is a driven individual and is committed to improving his skillset by stepping out of his comfort zone and learning new things. He has been recognized for his professionalism and knowledge in retail banking. One of the most notable things about Nick is — he doesn’t shy away from times of friction or discomfort.”

“Being a recipient of the Presidential Platinum Award is such an amazing honor,” said Thompson. “I am thankful to Paul and to Country Bank for all of the opportunities that have been provided to me.”

Banking and Financial Services

Strike Against Hunger

Andrew Morehouse thanks Country Bank

A surprised Andrew Morehouse thanks Country Bank for the $500,000 donation to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Paul Scully says he wants to “throw hunger a curveball.”

And to the leaders of two Massachusetts food banks, it was a welcome pitch indeed.

At its annual meeting on June 21, Country Bank unveiled its most recent — and largest — donation targeting the persistent issue of food insecurity in the Bay State, surprising Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and Jean McMurray, executive director of the Worcester Food Bank, with two $500,000 checks, one for each organization.

“With everything we’re hearing these days about the shortage of food and the high expense of food … the need is real out there,” Scully said during the announcement event. “It’s really exciting for us and an honor to announce we’re kicking off a million-dollar pledge to throw hunger a curveball, and we are presenting a $500,000 check to both Jean and Andrew for your organizations.”

It’s just the latest, and largest, in a remarkable show of support from banks across the region in the fight against food insecurity, which spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to be a persistent problem. Most banks in Western Mass. have ramped up their contributions to area food banks and food pantries, often significantly.

“As a community partner, we care deeply about the sustainability of our communities and the people who live in them,” Scully added, noting that this $1 million pledge reflects an recognition of the burdens many have experienced throughout this past year.

“I’m in awe of Country Bank’s generosity and so impressed by their commitment to the community, whether it be Worcester County or the four counties of Western Massachusetts.”

Newly appointed Country Bank board members Elizabeth Cohen-Rappaport, Richard Maynard, Ross Dik, and Stacey Luster presented the checks to Morehouse and McMurray at the annual meeting.

“I’m in awe of Country Bank’s generosity and so impressed by their commitment to the community, whether it be Worcester County or the four counties of Western Massachusetts,” a visibly surprised Morehouse said. “This demonstrates that Country Bank is for real, and they practice what they preach.”

McMurray was equally touched. “This was totally unexpected, but, when I think about it, Worcester, and Worcester County, is the best place to live, to work, and to give back, and we are going to put this tremendous gift from Country Bank to work so none of our neighbors has to go hungry.”

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts relies on donations from individuals, businesses, foundations, civic organizations, faith-based groups, schools, and government to fulfill its expanding mission. With the help of that support, it provided the equivalent of 12.3 million meals in in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2020 — a significant increase from meals provided in previous years, and a pace that continued as the pandemic extended well into 2021.

“Country Bank is always looking at the basic needs of folks in our communities, whether food services, shelter and homelessness, as well as healthcare — those are the primary pillars where the bank tries to make the most of its donations,” said Shelley Regin, the bank’s senior vice president of Marketing.

The support for food banks comes at a critical time, not just in Massachusetts, but nationally. Feeding America estimates that the pandemic caused 13.1 million non-elderly adults to seek free meals or free groceries for the first time.

“The pandemic forced businesses and workers to make tough decisions,” said Ash Slupski, the organization’s website marketing manager. “To prevent the spread of coronavirus, many businesses were forced to close or lay off employees. This is especially true for people employed in restaurants, hotels, other service industries, and small businesses.”

Meanwhile, the needs of remote learning, especially for young children, forced many working parents to temporarily leave their jobs to be home, if they couldn’t work remotely themselves. And many faced reduced hours and paychecks when they did return to work, Slupski noted. “All these changes impact people’s ability to provide for their families now and plan for the future.”

To meet the growing need locally, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts recently revealed plans for a new distribution center and headquarters, which will be located on the corner of Carew and East Main streets in Chicopee. Construction on the new headquarters, which will be larger and more sustainably build than the current location in Hatfield, is expected to begin next spring.

Regin noted that, in 2020, Country Bank’s philanthropy exceeded $1 million by supporting 450 nonprofits throughout the region, mainly focused on helping food pantries, homeless shelters, COVID-19 relief services, veterans, and other programs that supported the everyday needs of the people in its communities.

“Country Bank really wants to make sure we’re supporting all our communities,” which extend geographically from Springfield to Worcester, she noted. “It starts with Paul, and we all follow his lead in looking for ways the bank can make a difference. We support many charities, as many banks do, but it starts with Paul; he’s a great leader in that way, and we’re all on board.”

 

—Joseph Bednar

Daily News

WORCESTER — At its annual meeting on June 21, held at Polar Park in Worcester, Country Bank President and CEO Paul Scully announced a $1 million pledge to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the Worcester County Food Bank.

Newly appointed Country Bank board members Elizabeth Cohen-Rappaport, Richard Maynard, Ross Dik, and Stacey Luster surprised both Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and Jean McMurray, executive director of the Worcester County Food Bank, with checks for $500,000 each.

“As a community partner, we care deeply about the sustainability of our communities and the people who live in them,” Scully said. “In recognizing the burdens that many have experienced throughout this past year, Country Bank is ‘throwing hunger a curveball” by pledging $1 million to the communities it serves. Supporting and enriching its communities has been the bank’s mission since 1850.”

In 2020, Country Bank’s philanthropy exceeded $1 million by supporting 450 nonprofits throughout the region, mainly focused on helping food pantries, homeless shelters, COVID-19 relief services, veterans, and other programs that supported the everyday needs of the people in its communities.

Daily News

Samuel Ortiz

WARE — Country Bank announced that Samuel Ortiz has joined its Commercial Lending division. A 40-year veteran of the commercial-lending industry, Ortiz is an experienced business-development leader serving Western and Central Mass. He earned an associate degree in business administration from Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) and has attended various banking and financial programs throughout his career, including the School of Finance and Management at Fairfield University. He is also a Certified Internal Auditor.

Prior to joining Country Bank, Ortiz worked for Common Capital, where he was responsible for all aspects of business-loan operations. He also owned his own consulting firm, where he provided small-business loan underwriting, as a consultant, to the Western Massachusetts Enterprise Fund in Greenfield.

“I truly enjoy working with small and mid-sized businesses seeking opportunities to enhance and grow their businesses,” Ortiz said. “Being proactive, creative, and looking outside the box to identify opportunities in helping existing and new customers brings me great satisfaction and pride.”

Miriam Siegel, first senior vice president, Human Resources, added that “welcoming Sam to the small-business lending team at Country Bank is very exciting for us. He has an extensive background working with business owners to develop business plans and financing strategies and, in the process, building long-term partnerships. These partnerships are what define Country Bank, and Sam is a valuable addition to our team and exemplifies our iSTEP corporate values of integrity, service, teamwork, excellence, and prosperity. We are pleased that he has chosen Country Bank to be his employer of choice.”

Banking and Financial Services

PV Financial Announces Two Additions to Team

PV Financial Group recently welcomed two new members to its team — Antonio Bastos as retirement plan coordinator and Andrea Santos as digital marketing specialist. Both will be working in PV’s main office located in Ludlow.

Antonio Bastos

Antonio Bastos

Andrea Santos

Andrea Santos

Upon graduating from Nichols College in Dudley with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management, Bastos accepted a job with MassMutual Retirement Services. During his five years with the company, he represented and sold MassMutual’s qualified retirement plan platform to small and mid-sized businesses. Bastos also obtained his Series 6 and Series 63 licenses while gaining beneficial knowledge and experience with qualified retirement plans.

At PV Financial, Bastos’s role is to manage all the qualified retirement plan clients, from day-to-day servicing to fielding all inquiries from retirement plan participants and plan trustees. He will also maintain relationships with retirement-plan providers in the industry. Other responsibilities will include staying connected and up-to-date on new products, services, and ERISA compliance regulations so he can properly and confidently serve PV Financial’s retirement plan clients and participants.

“By having Tony join the team at PV Financial, we have committed to the qualified retirement plan marketplace,” said Edward Sokolowski, PV’s managing partner. “As many local financial firms have been exiting this business, Tony will be able to fill the void and offer professional guidance to companies looking for quality advice for their retirement plans.”

Santos graduated from Holyoke Community College with an associate’s degree in Business Administration, as well as from Elms College with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Marketing. Upon graduating from Elms, Santos accepted a job at Northwestern Mutual. During her four years with the company, she held the position of director of Client Services, where she was responsible for the oversight of new business insurance applications and investment accounts, as well as insurance underwriting correspondence. She also worked with clients directly on account inquiries and led the office’s marketing efforts.

At PV Financial, Santos will be the digital marketing specialist. She will be the first point of contact for new and current clients who are a part of PV Financial’s new program, PV Navigator. Other responsibilities include maintaining the program’s website and social media accounts, staying up to date with the services provided within the program, maintaining relationships with the program’s clients, and assisting the advisors with outreach.

“Having Andrea join our team is a major step in the future success of PV Financial,” said Sokolowski. “Andrea’s talents in social media and client relationships will be a cornerstone to our newly launched investment program, PV Navigator.  I look forward to the energy and focus Andrea will bring to our firm and the positive impact she will have on our clients.”


Country Bank Appoints New VP of Marketing

Country Bank announced that Justin Roberts has joined the Marketing and Community Relations team as vice president of Marketing. Roberts’ experience in strategic marketing spans more than a decade in various industries. As a former small-business owner, he brings not just marketing savvy, but real-life experience.

Justin Roberts

Justin Roberts

“I am excited to join the Country Bank team,” Roberts said. “Having admired the brand for several years, I am looking forward to help activate the bank’s founding partnership of the Worcester Red Sox and promoting Country Bank’s presence throughout the region.”

In Roberts’ previous positions, he worked as the Development officer at American International College (AIC) in the office of Institutional Advancement, and also worked at MassLive, where he helped lead the Digital Marketing Strategy team to support local, regional, and national clients. His entrepreneurial spirit recently led him to open his own marketing and community-relations agency before joining the Country Bank team.

Roberts, who earned his bachelor’s degree and MBA in marketing from AIC, is the founder of Suit Up Springfield, a nonprofit organization that provides professional attire and mentorship to young men in Greater Springfield.

He also serves as vice president of the board for Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity. He has served on many nonprofits and community organizations, including Wonderfund of Massachusetts, the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, the Rotary Club of Springfield, and Square One. He is a member of the New England Financial Marketing Assoc. and received the Game Changer award from the Center for Human Development.

“We are thrilled to welcome Justin to the Marketing and Community Relations team. His experience in marketing and digital strategies, combined with his extensive civic and community engagement, makes him a perfect fit for Country Bank,” said Miriam Siegel, first senior vice president of Human Resources. “We’re proud of Justin’s efforts within the communities we serve and look forward to his profound passion for community service while representing Country Bank. u


 

Florence Bank Welcomes Experienced Lender

Florence Bank announced the appointment of Douglas Gilbert to the position of vice president of Commercial Lending. Gilbert comes to the bank with more than 27 years of banking experience.

Douglas Gilbert

Douglas Gilbert

His most recent role was at Country Bank, where he served as first vice president and team leader in the Commercial Lending department. His duties there included managing the Commercial Lending team and an extensive loan portfolio. His experience also includes serving as vice president and head of Commercial Lending at Easthampton Savings Bank and as assistant vice president in Commercial Lending at Westfield Bank.

“It is a great opportunity to be affiliated with Florence Bank, which has such an excellent reputation and does so much good in the community,” Gilbert said. “Everyone here has made me feel right at home from the beginning.”

Gilbert is a certified public accountant who earned an undergraduate degree from Westfield State University and an MBA from the University of Connecticut. He also serves on the board of the Quaboag Valley Business Assistance Corp.

Kevin Day, president and CEO of Florence Bank, added that “Doug is a great addition to the Florence Bank team. His significant lending experience coupled with his knowledge of the communities we serve will be a tremendous value to our business customers.”

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank announced that Russ Fontaine has been promoted to senior vice president, Customer Experience. He is a seasoned banking professional with 30 years of experience in key management and leadership roles in consumer sales and service.

Fontaine previously held the position of first vice president, Sales and Market Management with Country Bank, where he oversaw sales and service. One example of a new program introduced by the bank, as a result of Fontaine’s recommendation, was the deployment of a “Voice of the Customer” program that enables the bank to measure and better understand the overall customer experience through various survey metrics.

In his newly created role, Fontaine is tasked with leading a bankwide collaborative effort to view things from the customer’s perspective; this applies to both the bank’s external customer and its internal customer. “This increased focus of looking at things through the lens of the customer will strengthen Country Bank’s ability to deliver a best-in-class customer service experience and, as a result, attract new customers for the bank while deepening the relationships of existing ones,” he said.

Mary McGovern, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Country Bank, noted that, “for over 170 years, providing excellent customer service has been a hallmark value and priority for Country Bank. In today’s ever-changing, dynamic customer-service landscape, customer-facing companies must ensure that the entire customer experience is a primary focus. Russ exemplifies Country Bank’s iSTEP corporate values of integrity, service, teamwork, excellence, and prosperity, and is the perfect person to fill this new role.”

Fontaine is active within the community, serving on the board of directors for the Central/Western Massachusetts March of Dimes and as a 2021 co-chair for the March for Babies fundraising event in Massachusetts. He has also served on the Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity board of directors, including holding the chair role for the organization’s Restore committee. Additionally, he has been an avid supporter of the United Way and the Western Massachusetts Special Olympics.

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank is partnering with PROSHRED Security for its annual Shred Day to allow the public to discard their documents safely and securely.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were 1.4 million identity theft reports in 2020, and that number continues to rise. Country Bank offers this free shredding service to the public because it understands the importance of helping consumers keep their identity safe. All visitors are asked to practice social distancing and will be required to wear a mask.

Country Bank’s free Community Shred Day will take place on Saturday, April 10 at the following Country Bank branch locations:

• 155 West Street, Ware, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.;

• 2379 Boston Road, Wilbraham, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.;

• 1084 Main St., Leicester, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.; and

• 37 Worcester Road, Charlton, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Items to consider for shredding include old documents, tax returns, bank statements, receipts, bills, or anything that contains personal, identifiable information.

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank announced it has partnered with seven other local banks to transform the Credit for Life program from an on-site event to a virtual event. Credit for Life, a popular financial-literacy program, has been offered for more than a decade within many Massachusetts public schools.

With most, if not all, schools adopting a virtual learning model for students, Credit for Life organizers connected last summer to explore a virtual experience in 2021. As part of the virtual transformation, organizers enlisted FitMoney.org, a nonprofit financial-literacy organization, to serve as the key fiscal agent, and Stackpole & Partners of Newburyport for the design and implementation of an interactive website. Contributing partners are Country Bank, Institution for Savings, Cape Cod 5, Bay Coast Bank, HarborOne Bank, the Savings Bank, Rockland Trust, and Westfield Bank.

During the half-day, online Credit for Life Fair, students will assume the role of a 25-year-old adult and be asked to make financial decisions on how to spend their money.

“The Credit for Life Fair is one of the most important and impactful events we offer every year,” said Jodie Gerulaitis, vice president of Community Relations at Country Bank. “We are honored to be able to partner with other local banks to make the fair a reality again for students. The interactive website is a tool that educators and others can use in the current learning environment. Teachers are being asked to do so much right now, this is just one small way we can offer our support.”

Development of the website is in the final stages; the group is hopeful that the site will be ready for use by high schools toward the end of March. In addition, the partnership group is also in the process of establishing a 501(c)(3) that will allow for the ability to raise funds and plan for future school financial-literacy initiatives similar to creditforlife.org.

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank announced that Seth Arvanites has joined its Commercial Lending division. Arvanites, who has been in the commercial-lending industry for 22 years, came to Country Bank from People’s United Bank and earned a bachelor’s degree in both political science and geography from Syracuse University.

“The best part of this role is getting to meet, learn about, and serve the people and businesses in the community,” he said. “The great people I’ve worked with over the years instilled in me the value of kindness, responsiveness, flexibility, and teamwork. I’m excited for the opportunity, and I look forward to getting to know my clients and teammates.”

Miriam Siegel, first senior vice president, Human Resources, added that “we are excited to welcome Seth to the Commercial Banking team at Country Bank. Seth’s commitment to a high level of customer service is evident, and we are excited for him to begin working as a partner with our business customers to enhance their businesses and the communities they serve. Seth’s trusted approach to commercial banking aligns with the bank’s iSTEP corporate values of integrity, service, teamwork, excellence, and prosperity, and we are pleased that he has chosen Country Bank to be his employer of choice.”

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank recently announced three executive promotions within the bank’s senior management team.

Dawn Fleury, CPA, has been promoted to first senior vice president of Corporate Risk. Before joining Country Bank in 2012, she had a 21-year career with the FDIC as a commissioned senior bank examiner. In her current role, she oversees the bank’s comprehensive risk-management programs, including compliance, corporate risk, internal audit, BSA fraud, commercial credit, commercial loan workout, and residential collections.

Miriam Siegel, CCP, CBP has been promoted to first senior vice president of Human Resources and chief diversity officer. When she joined Country Bank in 2018, she brought 26 years of professional experience as the senior vice president of Human Resources for United Bank. In her current role, she oversees all aspects of the bank’s human-resources initiatives, as well as driving talent-management strategies to lead the bank’s learning and development team. She serves on the board of Behavioral Health Network in Springfield and the Wilbraham Personnel Advisory Board.

Tom Wolcott has been promoted to first senior vice president of the Commercial Lending and Business Banking divisions. He joined Country Bank in 2019 after a previous career in the financial-services industry that spanned more than three decades, including senior vice president roles at People’s United Bank, United Bank, Citizens Bank, and Fleet Bank, primarily in the Connecticut, Springfield, and Worcester markets. He has extensive expertise in managing diverse and complex commercial clients as well as assisting small businesses with creative solutions to help them achieve their financial goals.

“Promoting these talented members within our existing leadership team strengthens our foundation for the future,” said Paul Scully, president and CEO of Country Bank. “Dawn, Miriam, and Tom have proven to be immensely skilled leaders and have been strategic partners in major decisions we have made at Country Bank. I am excited they will be taking on additional responsibilities in their expanded roles to help further drive our strategic direction and growth. They each exemplify Country Bank’s iSTEP corporate values of integrity, service, teamwork, excellence, and prosperity.”

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank announced that Peter Morales has joined its Innovation & Technology Division as senior vice president. Morales has held several technical leadership positions, most recently as vice president and chief information officer for an international educational organization supporting more than 45,000 students in more than 40 countries worldwide. He also held positions at New York University, (leading technology at the Law and Engineering schools), and the New York and American stock exchanges.

Morales began his career developing diagnostic systems for the F18, the jet the Blue Angels currently fly. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, a master’s degree in engineering management, and a doctorate in computer science and information systems. He continues to teach in two master’s programs at NYU and is on the board of directors for several incubator startups and nonprofits.

“We are extremely excited to welcome Dr. Morales to our leadership team,” said Miriam Siegel, senior vice president of Human Resources at Country Bank. “His extensive background as a senior technology leader in a variety of industries brings an exciting level of strategic thought and direction to the Country Bank brand of community banking. His commitment to technology development, high-performing teams, and experience as an educator aligns with our iSTEP corporate values of integrity, service, teamwork, excellence, and prosperity. We are proud that Peter has chosen Country Bank to be his employer of choice.”

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank announced a $25,000 donation to the Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp. (QVCDC) to support various programs to help local communities in the region.

A portion of the donation will be used toward a matching grant for a senior-citizen outreach program. This project was funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development, Massachusetts CDBG Program. Projects are developed and administered by local officials with the assistance of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. Services for the outreach program include grocery shopping and prescription pickups for low-income seniors in Ware, Hardwick, Belchertown, and Warren.

“At highest risk are seniors with underlying medical conditions and a population who has been urged to shelter in place if possible,” said Shelley Regin, senior vice president of Marketing at Country Bank. “These two factors have significantly impacted their ability to get out safely to meet their everyday needs. The deliveries allow them to remain safely at home while addressing their critical needs.”

The QVCDC also offers various programs to assist businesses in the region with navigating these unchartered times. One of the latest programs includes companies with up to five employees that could be eligible to receive up to $10,000 in grant funding through a Microenterprise Assistance Grant.

“Thank you for the generous donation from Country Bank to support the activities of Quaboag Valley Community Development Corporation,” said Sheila Cuddy, executive director of the QVCDC. “This donation represents Country Bank’s continued investment in the economic growth and stability of the Quaboag region. It will help provide matching funding for initiatives to support the needs of our community, including the Senior Outreach Program, the rural transportation initiative, and work with microenterprises impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank announced that Victoria Graffam has joined its Corporate Risk division. Graffam held various BSA and loss-prevention roles before joining Berkshire Bank in 2017 as the BSA/AML EDD manager. While at Berkshire Bank, her focus was to develop and maintain a program to identify and mitigate risk for higher-risk customers. She is also a member of the Assoc. for Certified Anti Money Laundering Specialists.

“I am passionate about inclusion and the value in having different perspectives as it pertains to combating various forms of fraud,” Graffam said. “I believe that, when we work together sharing our experiences and knowledge, we all contribute to making well-rounded decisions.”

Miriam Siegel, senior vice president of Human Resources, added that “we are excited to welcome Victoria to Country Bank. She brings over 30 years of professional experience, with 20 years in community banking, and is a perfect cultural fit for our team. Her can-do attitude, commitment to customer service, and collaborative management approach aligns perfectly with our iSTEP corporate values of integrity, service, teamwork, excellence, and prosperity. We are proud that Victoria has chosen Country Bank to be her employer of choice.”

Banking and Financial Services

Play Ball

Paul Scully Charles Steinberg

Paul Scully (right) tours the under-construction Polar Park in Worcester with team President Charles Steinberg.

Baseball season is — hopefully — just four months away, and Paul Scully says that’s reason for excitement in Massachusetts.

“Just think about this year and the fact that so many of us have been inside, just looking for something to do,” said Scully, president and CEO of Country Bank, while talking about the bank’s ‘founding partner’ status with the Worcester Red Sox during a recent episode of BusinessTalk, the BusinessWest podcast.

“Just the prospect of having baseball back, right here within a quick drive for most of us … we’re very excited about it for the fans, for our customers, and for businesses throughout the area. It’s a great time.”

As one of 21 founding partners of the WooSox, who plan to begin play in Worcester’s brand-new Polar Park this spring, Country Bank’s multi-tiered sponsorship includes a large sign in right field atop the stands known as the Worcester Wall, along with the Country Bank Guest Services area located on the first-base concourse.

“We toured the park two weeks ago … and it really has some wonderful attributes that represent the Central Mass. area. It’s different from Fenway, but there are some similarities,” Scully said, noting that the high Worcester Wall is in right field, and will be colored blue, as opposed to the left-field Green Monster in Fenway.

Meanwhile, the Country Bank Guest Services area is a place where fans can come for help with any number of issues, from missing keys to missing kids, he noted — a way for the bank to extend its customer-service philosophy to this new partnership.

Speaking of partnerships, the bank and the WooSox Foundation will work together on a number of charitable efforts, from a Teacher of the Month recognition program to a combined charitable-giving campaign throughout the baseball season.

“We have been impressed and inspired by Country Bank’s sense of community involvement,” WooSox President Charles Steinberg said. “We see how helpful they are to various institutions and thousands of people in our region, and we welcome them to Polar Park with open arms as we work together to enhance the quality of life in our community even more.”

To kick off their partnership last month, a team from Country Bank and the WooSox mascot, Smiley Ball, delivered 500 Thanksgiving meals prepared by Old Sturbridge Village along with apple pies from Worcester-based Table Talk to the St. John’s Food Pantry for the Poor.

“Just the prospect of having baseball back, right here within a quick drive for most of us … we’re very excited about it for the fans, for our customers, and for businesses throughout the area. It’s a great time.”

“The alignment of our organizational values with the WooSox solidifies our commitment to service and teamwork as we continually strive for excellence in all we do,” Scully said.

He noted that, at a time when spectator sports continue to be redefined by new norms of social distancing, sports sponsorships are taking on new forms, extending beyond the stadium walls to make a real impact in the community. But he knows fans want to have a good time, too.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the WooSox and the Worcester community,” he said. “The addition of year-round entertainment, including ballgames, concerts, and various family activities at Polar Park, is exciting for the people and businesses in the region. We all look forward to the day when we can come together again at the ballpark, enjoying activities with our families and friends. We also look forward to seeing our businesses thrive once again after being heavily impacted by the pandemic.”

Scully knows, of course, that the pandemic is far from over, and the baseball season may or may not start on time in April. But he also senses a regional fan base that will enthusiastically support another professional sports franchise in this region, especially one with the cachet of the Boston Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate.

“They’re part of the Central Mass. community now, and we’re excited for them, and we’re excited for us,” he told BusinessWest. “But, more importantly, we’re just excited for the fans.”

 

—Joseph Bednar

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank donated more than $130,000 to local food pantries throughout the year to assist with supplying food to its communities.

The Greater Boston Food Bank recently reported that food insecurity in Massachusetts reached an all-time high in November. The state has experienced a 59% increase since 2018, representing more than 1 million people in need of food assistance. Most people are using food pantries for the first time, and food insecurity is projected to increase to 81% for children.

As part of Country Bank’s “Season of Giving” campaign, it donated additional funds to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the Worcester County Food Bank. The donation was to honor its banking customers and partners in place of traditional holiday gifts. “This was such a great idea and so wonderful to help others at this difficult time,” said Therese Rakouskas, owner of Five Star Gardens in Palmer.

Added Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, “we’re so grateful to Country Bank for its social investment of $20,000 in the Food Bank’s mission to feed our neighbors in need at this critical time. With this support, we’ll be able to provide 40,000 meals to households struggling to make ends meet and put healthy food on the table. For every dollar donated, we provide the equivalent of four meals,.”

Jodie Gerulaitis, vice president, Community Relations at Country Bank, noted that “the pandemic has undoubtedly placed a strain on our local food pantries. As a community partner, we are fully committed to helping those in need throughout this pandemic.”

Daily News

WORCESTER — Country Bank has entered into an elite-level corporate sponsorship arrangement as a ‘founding partner’ of the Worcester Red Sox. Country Bank’s multi-tiered sponsorship includes a sign in right field atop the stands known as the Worcester Wall, along with the Country Bank Guest Services located on the first-base concourse.

The partnership between the WooSox and Country Bank also underscores their mutual commitment to the community through the WooSox Foundation and Country Bank’s Charitable Giving Program by supporting local nonprofits in the region through a combined charitable-giving campaign throughout the baseball season.

In addition, both organizations will work together to launch a Teacher of the Month program that recognizes the outstanding work teachers do every day to educate and support students.

“We have been impressed and inspired by Country Bank’s sense of community involvement,” WooSox President Charles Steinberg said. “We see how helpful they are to various institutions and thousands of people in our region, and we welcome them to Polar Park with open arms as we work together to enhance the quality of life in our community even more.”

Added Paul Scully, president and CEO of Country Bank, “in an era where spectator sports continue to be redefined by new norms of social distancing, sports sponsorships are taking on new forms. With that in mind, we couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the WooSox and the Worcester community. The addition of year-round entertainment, including ballgames, concerts, and various family activities at Polar Park, is exciting for the people and businesses in the region. We all look forward to the day when we can come together again at the ballpark enjoying activities with our families and friends. We also look forward to seeing our businesses thrive once again after being heavily impacted by the pandemic.”

To kick off their partnership, last week a team from Country Bank and the WooSox mascot, Smiley Ball, delivered 500 Thanksgiving meals prepared by Old Sturbridge Village along with apple pies from Worcester-based Table Talk to the St. John’s Food Pantry for the Poor.

“The alignment of our organizational values with the WooSox solidifies our commitment to service and teamwork as we continually strive for excellence in all we do,” Scully said.

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank announced a series of initiatives to help support local communities during the 2020 holiday season, especially those affected by the economic fallout from the ongoing pandemic.

As part of these initiatives, Country Bank teamed up with Old Sturbridge Village to offer 750 free meals to families in need this Thanksgiving. Meals were delivered to St. John’s Food for the Poor, the YWCA, Abby’s House, Veterans Inc., and Elm Street Congregational Church.

“We wanted to do everything we could to help support families in the community this Thanksgiving,” said James Donahue, president of Old Sturbridge Village. “Country Bank and Old Sturbridge Village share a collective belief that we can make a difference when we work together, and we are doing just that.”

On Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28, the Country Bank retail banking team will support local small businesses by purchasing 400 gift cards from businesses throughout its markets. These gift cards will be distributed in Country Bank branch locations on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1. The corporate-office team will also partner with Provision Ministry and assemble 250 backpacks filled with essential care items to be delivered to the Springfield Rescue Mission.

Throughout the month of December, the famous red kettles will be visible at several Country Bank branch locations to help fill the void the Salvation Army will experience this year, in part due to the pandemic. Country Bank has donated $10,000 toward this meaningful cause.

Finally, as part of its Community Cares program, the staff participated in its own Boston Marathon by ‘walking the distance’ via a downloadable app. This virtual challenge brought people together while supporting charities of their choice with a $500 donation. A total of $30,000 will be granted to charities.

“As a community partner, we care deeply about our communities, and we want to offer our support where it is needed most this holiday season,” said Paul Scully, president and CEO of Country Bank. “As we reflect on the past year with gratitude for the bank’s strength and ability to support so many in need, we are also humbled to witness so many great acts of kindness and support throughout our communities from the people and businesses who make this region the remarkable place it is to live and work.

“The pandemic has taken its toll on the people and places in our communities,” he added. “We know that many have suffered losses over the last several months. Some have lost their jobs, their business, and others have lost loved ones. There is no more significant time in our history for community partners to step up and provide support to those in need.”

To learn more about the various activities that Country Bank will be participating in and how to donate to the local charities it is supporting, visit www.countrybank.com/seasonofgiving.

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank recently donated $10,000 to Behavioral Health Network (BHN) to assist with the Under 5 Thrive program and the Kid Stop Child Center based in Ware. BHN serves nearly 50,000 people annually in 40 locations throughout Western Mass. in areas including mental health, children’s services, and addiction and recovery.

“Thank you so much for this important contribution to our children’s services in Ware. This will go a long way toward helping local families with resources and assistance to keep their children safe and healthy in the coming year,” said Susan West, senior vice president of BHN.

Over the past eight years, Country Bank has donated a total of $315,000 to support the work BHN offers to the region.

“The pandemic has certainly placed a strain on our local communities; child care has been one area that has been hugely impacted and has left families trying to balance childcare needs with work schedules,” said Shelley Regin, senior vice president, Marketing at Country Bank and advisory board member at BHN. “It has not been easy for anyone throughout the last several months, and we are so grateful to have these places right here in our community to help support local families. The essential programs that BHN provides aligns perfectly with Country Bank’s mission to help improve the livelihood of those in our communities.”

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank announced three recent promotions of long-time staff members.

Scott Emerson was promoted to vice president, IT Security. He has more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry and has been an essential part of the Innovation & Technology team at Country Bank for 14 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UMass Amherst and has also achieved several professional certifications, including information systems security professional (CISSP), information security manager (CISM), and GIAC enterprise defender (GCED).

Alyson Weeks has been promoted to assistant vice president, Human Resources. She began her career at Country Bank 12 years ago as a teller and has worked in various other roles in the Retail Banking division, including teller supervisor, Branch Operations manager, and Retail Operations manager, before joining the Human Resources team five years ago. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Worcester State University and has a master’s degree in education from American International College.

Erin Skoczylas has been promoted to assistant controller. She began her career at Country Bank 23 years ago as a part-time Operations clerk. Before transitioning to accounting in 2008, she worked in various positions throughout the Operations department. She holds an associate degree in business administration from Springfield Technical Community College and a bachelor of business administration degree from Western New England University. She is also a 2017 graduate of the New England School for Financial Studies.

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank announced donations to local schools that participate in the bank’s Savings Makes Sense school banking program. Each school received a $250 Visa gift card to assist with back-to-school supplies and other items, including personal protective equipment.

“During these challenging and uncertain times, our communities need us now more than ever,” said Jodie Gerulaitis, vice president of Community Relations at Country Bank. “We know how difficult it is for the schools to obtain all the supplies they need when budgets become tight. We hope this donation is a reminder that we are all in this together.”

Country Bank is offering new educational resources for all students in grades K-12 through online financial-literacy lessons found on its website at www.countrybank.com/student-banking. Parents, teachers, and students are encouraged to use this resource to continue conversations around saving and budgeting.

Daily News

WARE — The Boston Business Journal has once again named Country Bank an honoree in its annual 2020 Corporate Citizenship Awards, recognizing the region’s top corporate charitable contributors.

The publication annually publishes this list to highlight companies that promote and prioritize giving back to their communities. During this year’s virtual celebration held on Sept. 10, 107 companies — a record number — qualified for the distinction by reporting at least $100,000 in cash contributions to Massachusetts-based charities and social-service nonprofits last year. This year’s honorees include companies from healthcare, technology, financial and professional services, retail, professional sports, and more.

Country Bank, which ranked 60th, employs 209 staff members within Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester counties. In 2019, staff members actively promoted the bank’s mission of giving back to the communities they serve by volunteering more than 1,100 hours of community service.

“During a year filled with unprecedented events and change, it’s incredible to think that the Boston Business Journal’s Corporate Charitable Contributors list is the largest we have ever compiled. These companies give back at least $100,000 to the local community, and now we are in a time when giving back and helping one another is more important than ever,” Market President and Publisher Carolyn Jones said. “These philanthropic companies prioritize the welfare of our communities, and we are excited to be able to honor them.”

Paul Scully, president and CEO at Country Bank, added that “we are honored to be recognized by the Boston Business Journal for our charitable giving. Country Bank’s mission is to help make a difference in the lives of others, and now more than ever, we are committed to this mission as we continue through such a historic time in our history.”

Company Milestones

Company Milestones

Paul Scully, president of Country Bank

Paul Scully, president of Country Bank

It was March 1850. Millard Fillmore was still working through his first 100 days in office as the thirteenth President of the United States — although no one was probably counting the days back then. In six months, California joined the Union as its 31st state, taking the country from coast to coast and Ware Savings Bank was incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Thus, the first chapter in the 170-year history of Country Bank was written.

There have been a number of important chapters written since — including the incorporation of Palmer Savings Bank in 1870 and the merger of those two institutions in 1981 to form Country Bank for Savings (later shortened to simply Country Bank). Paul Scully, the bank’s current president, noted that many things have changed at this institution over those 170 years, everything from its footprint — it now stretches from Ludlow to Worcester, with 14 branches and 23 ATM/ITM locations — to how people do their banking.

Company:
Country Bank
www.countrybank.com
800-322-8233
Home Base:
Ware, Mass.
Founded:
1850
President:
Paul Scully
Company Snapshot:
A community bank with 14 locations

What’s more significant to him — and all members of the Country Bank team — is what hasn’t changed in that time. Specifically, it’s a commitment to the customers, communities, and staff that sets this institution apart. In short, what hasn’t changed is that this is still a community bank in every sense of that phrase. “What we are celebrating is the bank’s support for those who have been right there with us along the way,” stated Scully. “And we’re celebrating our independence in being a mutual savings bank, and one of the most highly capitalized banks in the Commonwealth.”

This rich history of support prompted the bank to assume a leadership role during times of crisis — and there have been many over the past 170 years, perhaps none more significant than the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past several months, the bank has stepped up to assist its commercial and consumer customers impacted by the virus and resulting economic downturn. “Every customer matters, regardless of their deposit balance, and we’re here to help them achieve their dreams or navigate through rough waters.” None have been rougher than those generated by the pandemic, he noted, adding that the bank has written 475 Payment Protection Plan (PPP) loans in amounts ranging from $1,500 to $2 million and helped many commercial and mortgage borrowers. “It’s the premise of why community banking and Country Bank exist,” he went on. “Since the start of the pandemic, the bank has donated over $450,000 to COVID-related relief efforts along with an additional $400,000 to other local non-profits. For the past one hundred and seventy years, the bank’s operated with the belief that healthy communities thrive; recognizing that it has not only an opportunity but a responsibility to support its communities at varying levels.”

A RICH HISTORY

There have been many milestones for Country Bank since 1850, and dates to remember:

July 1869: The Committee of Investment voted that the bank loan to the town of Ware in the amount of $70,000 was to be used in the building of the Ware River Railroad;

• 1920: The service of school savings accounts was inaugurated to help establish a habit of thrift among young savers;

• 1945: The first home loan to a veteran of World War II was made under the G.I. Bill of Rights;

• 1982: The first ATM was installed;

• 2017: The Boston Business Journal first recognized the bank for its charitable donations; and

• 2019: Country Bank became a founding member of the Worcester WooSox.

These milestones collectively speak to the notion of what a community bank is — or should be — and that legacy is being celebrated as this institution turns 170. “Behind the individual milestones is a consistent pattern of service to the community,” Scully said.

A LEGACY OF CARING

When asked how the bank would mark its 170th birthday, Scully said there would be “subtle” celebrations. “We’re not big on tooting our own horn on things,” he noted, adding that there would be themed events in the fall celebrating its 170th birthday and the staff and customers who have been a part of the bank’s legacy. Rather than celebrate with lots of hoopla, the bank is far more focused on continuing — and building upon — its strong track record. “It’s a significant milestone that you can’t take lightly,” he said. “For all of us who are associated with the organization, we are given the challenge — and opportunity — to maintain a legacy: a legacy of supporting those in need and helping customers achieve their financial goals and dreams, whatever they may be. And that’s what is being celebrated as this institution turns 170.”

Daily News

WARE — Country Bank announced several grant recipients associated with its Community Heroes campaign, an effort to recognize exceptional acts of service by local individuals in the region and the continued fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

After seeing the significant efforts local community members were making to help others through these challenging times, Country Bank vowed to ensure their heroics didn’t go unrecognized and created a campaign to honor them.

As part of the campaign, more than 200 heroes were nominated through an online submission process explaining why they should be chosen. A new hero was selected each week and awarded a $250 gift card to the local business of their choice. In addition, a donation to a COVID-19 relief organizations was made in their name.

“This campaign aims to commemorate local heroes while also supporting local businesses and COVID-related relief services,” said Paul Scully, president and CEO of Country Bank. “As a longtime part of the community, we consider it our duty to stand by and be of support to our neighbors in times of need.”

The chosen Community Heroes include Noelle Grace Efantis, registered nurse at Baystate Wing Hospital; Michelle and Jay Demore of Demore’s Automotive Center; Paula Perrier, director of Child Development Services at the YMCA Tri-Community Child Development Center; Benjamin Mead, operations manager of Environmental Services at St. Francis Hospital; Alan Tracy, Pioneer Valley USO director at Westover Air Reserve Base; and the directors and transit care specialist at Beers & Story Funeral Home of Palmer.

Country Bank continues to be one of the many businesses supporting its communities throughout the pandemic. The bank has made $450,000 in donations to local COVID-19 relief efforts and continues to look for ways to give back in a meaningful way during these challenging times.

COVID-19 Daily News

WARE — As the pandemic continues to disrupt business activities both nationally and in Massachusetts, Country Bank announced a $75,000 series of donations designed to assist organizations on the front lines.

As the latest installment in a string of recent financial support, the bank will be facilitating donations to select organizations throughout its market from Springfield to Worcester. The Greater Worcester Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts will each receive $25,000 to provide additional grant funding for critical-needs programs. These programs offer support for vulnerable seniors, those without stable housing, with limited English proficiency, and with compromised health conditions, including mental health and drug addiction.

Other programs receiving a contribution include: Springfield Rescue Mission and Friends of the Homeless in Springfield; and Abby’s House, Saint John’s Food Pantry, and the Boys and Girls Club in Worcester. These donations will assist in continuing to meet the ever-changing needs in their communities. Many nonprofit organizations are not only combating reduced financial support as many businesses are closed, but also face a lack of volunteers, and have to continually evolve how they support their clients while keeping everyone safe on a limited budget and with limited resources.

“This is an uncharted time for our bank, our customers, and our local business community. As part of our effort to assist those most affected by COVID-19, Country Bank has already donated $400,000 to help local hospitals, first-responder recovery centers, food pantries, homeless shelters, veterans, children, and community foundations,” said Paul Scully, president and CEO of Country Bank. “We continually look for opportunities where we can help make a difference in the health and well-being of the people in our communities.”

COVID-19 Daily News

WARE — Country Bank announced it has donated $250,000 to four local hospitals to help assist with the work they are doing for patients as they fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The hospitals receiving donations include Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Harrington Hospital in Southbridge, UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, and Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester.

“We are so grateful to Country Bank for its most generous support and appreciate its continued partnership during this unprecedented time. This gift will directly support resources needed at Baystate Health as we continue to address and prepare for the care our community needs as we face this worldwide pandemic,” said Scott Berg, vice president of Philanthropy, Baystate Health, and executive director, Baystate Health Foundation.

Paul Scully, president and CEO at Country Bank, noted that “these are challenging and ever-evolving times as we face uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. As a community partner, we care deeply about our communities, and we wanted to support our local hospitals to help ease their financial burden as they continue to offer exceptional care to our friends and neighbors in the region.”

Banking and Financial Services

Collaborative Culture

 President Paul Scully

President Paul Scully

When Country Bank sought to overhaul its space on South Street in Ware a few years ago — a former mill building that houses about 110 employees — its leaders banked on what they call a collaborative culture, where low cubicles, glass walls, and comfortable, casual meeting spaces all aim to promote better communication and interaction, and a work environment that appeals to the young professionals that comprise the bank’s future.

Walking down the wide main hallway of Country Bank’s headquarters in Ware, you notice certain things. The central, glass-walled café. Conference spaces with names like ‘Integrity Room’ and ‘Prosperity Room,’ reflecting the bank’s values. The occasional beach ball.

Wait, what?

“Someone said to me, ‘what’s the deal with the beach balls?’” bank President Paul Scully said. “Well, we had them at a company event, and they ended up in the hallway. And when you’re walking down the hall and someone’s coming toward you and there’s a beach ball there, what do you do? You kick it.”

It can be an icebreaker of sorts, he went on, as the roughly 110 employees who work in the former mill building on South Street — almost half of the entire Country Bank organization — don’t necessarily all know each other. But it’s also, well, kind of fun.

“For people who visit, it’s unexpected,” said Shelley Regin, the bank’s senior vice president of Marketing, who estimated about 40 such balls reside somewhere in the building. “Normally, the hallway’s full of beach balls, but they make their ways into the offices, too.”

While fun to kick around, Scully said, the balls also promote interaction, a concept which was, frankly, the driving force in a recent, multi-year renovation of Country Bank’s main office. It’s the reason cubicles were lowered, solid walls were replaced by glass, and some of the gathering spaces feature couches rather than traditional chairs.

“When we moved in here 13 years ago, everyone had a cubicle as tall as me, and you couldn’t see one another,” he told BusinessWest. “That didn’t foster good collaboration. And there was no daylight because the work stations were so tall, they blocked the daylight.”

Scully had a catchy description of what the renovation aimed to reflect — “Google comes to Ware” — and explained why that type of culture is important.

One of the casual meeting spaces at Country Bank

One of the casual meeting spaces at Country Bank, is meant to spur creative thinking in an informal setting.

“We love the fact that we are in a mill town and that we’re a flourishing business here. But how can we attract the talent we need? We’re a $1.6 billion bank with 14 locations and growing — and we need to have Millennial talent to help move it forward. And they’re not going to want to hide in a cubicle and come out twice a day, for lunch and to leave. We said, ‘let’s really look at what is happening in workspaces that’s breeding collaboration and fun, and people just working together as a whole unit.’”

Like the low cubicles, the glass promotes more openness as well, Regin said.

“They put me behind glass walls so they can keep an eye on me,” Scully joked, before noting that his office used to be tucked away in a corner, as opposed to its current spot at the end of that main hallway. “You never went there unless you had to. It didn’t do anything for collaboration, nor did it allow me really to be a part of things. Now, right here, at my desk, this is the hub.

“We’re a $1.6 billion bank with 14 locations and growing — and we need to have Millennial talent to help move it forward. And they’re not going to want to hide in a cubicle and come out twice a day, for lunch and to leave.”

“The glass just opens everything up,” he went on, “and it supports the philosophy that we’re all equal components of the organization, and it’s not like you have to be behind a closed wall to do important things. We do have shades that come down. But if you put the shades down, everyone’s going to want to know what’s going on in Paul’s office, so you might as well just have them up and let them see.”

For this issue’s focus on banking and finance, BusinessWest paid a visit to Ware to learn how Country Bank is using its thoroughly 21st-century space — and several touches of fun that go well beyond the stray beach ball — to better position itself as an employer of choice at a time when competition is high for young talent.

Milling About

When Country Bank moved its headquarters in 2005 from Main Street to 44,000 square feet of former mill space on nearby South Street, it had options to relocate in another town, but the bank’s leaders felt it important to remain an economic engine in the community it had called home for more than 150 years.

“We looked at adding onto the main office, which was a Band-Aid approach, and then this fell in our lap,” Scully said of the former American Athletic Shoe plant, famous for its ice skates. “It was a very large employer, and had maintained the building meticulously. We have a lot of space here. You could easily say we could use half of it, but it works well for us; it allows us to have a big area for innovation and technology, and we have a whole education facility as well.”

The first renovation, to make the space suitable for bank operations, took place 13 years ago, and included those high cubicles and some decidedly unattractive color schemes and décor.

“Everything was kind of a pale yellow,” Scully said. “I started to walk around one Saturday and said, ‘this is awful. The color tones aren’t energizing. You can’t see anything. Let’s bulldoze it down and make it something where people are going to come in and say it’s is a really cool space.’

“It’s a great company, too, which is more important than being a cool space,” he was quick to add. “But you have to have those two together in order to really have it become a destination.”

As opposed to 2005, however, the latest renovation, which began around 2015, took place while people were working in the building — and often shifting around to accommodate the changes. “I moved five times in a year,” Regin said.

One of the casual meeting spaces at Country Bank

One of the casual meeting spaces at Country Bank, is meant to spur creative thinking in an informal setting.

“Really, the key piece was that group that moved into the first section that was done,” Scully recalled. “They were going to make it or break it for us, because if they said, ‘oh, it’s awful,’ we were doomed. Like anything else, when you say you’re going to change something, people immediately think of 1,000 reasons why it’s not going to work. It’s like Who Moved My Cheese? — ‘you’re throwing me off, you didn’t ask my input.’

But when that first group of employees settled in, they were more than satisfied. “Within the first week, they invited everybody in the building for brunch on a Friday because they were so excited about their space. We didn’t pay them for that. I think it spoke to just how much they loved it.”

The renovation stretched over two years because of the need to work around each department. In addition to the collaborative elements, the building also features a conference center with state-of-the-art multi-media equipment, an expansive IT space, and a number of small activity rooms. A gym was considered at one point, but Scully worried that it might turn into wasted space if interest waned, and besides, there’s a gym around the corner that Country didn’t want to siphon business from.

He had reservations about the central café as well, but that has proven to be a big hit. The fridge is stocked with fresh fruit all week, and Fridays feature a brunch with pastries or a yogurt bar. Then there are the Friday-morning games, like Hangman or Pictionary, that began with a few employees sneaking away from the brunch.

“We would all be hanging in the café, and one of the departments would go in a conference room and close the doors every Friday, and that wasn’t really working with me,” Scully recalled. When he found out they were using the short morning break to play games, however, “I said, ‘how about if you do that for everybody?’ They said, ‘really? We can do that?’”

bank based in an old mill building.

Paul Scully says visitors are often surprised to see a bank based in an old mill building.

So now, employees get an e-mail telling them what that Friday’s game is, and anyone is welcome to join in. It’s as much a way to get people talking and collaborating as are the small meeting spaces decked out with couches.

“When you go into a conference room, so often people think there’s a protocol of behavior, in the way you interact with one another,” Scully said. “It’s different when you’re sitting on a couch, bouncing ideas around. That’s what we really wanted to do — have it so people can think in an innovative fashion and look at things totally differently.”

Have a Ball

If visitors and new employees are surprised by the culture being fostered inside the building, he added, the exterior can be unexpected, too.

“I had a gentleman come in last week, and I explained, ‘OK, we’re in a mill building. And you’re going to think, this can’t be it. But you’re in the right place.’ And he said to me, ‘Scully, you’ve explained to us your building before, but this is not the typical bank,’ and I said, ‘at many levels, we’re not the typical bank.’ And that’s fine with us.”

He recalled speaking with someone who had also renovated a mill some years ago. “When I explained about the beach balls, he said, ‘beach balls?’ I couldn’t decide at that time whether we had just lost his confidence in us as a bank or not. But that wasn’t the case at all. The next day, I Federal Expressed him a bunch of beach balls and got a text from him the following day saying, ‘where’s the pump?’ I have every reason to believe those beach balls are flying through the air at his office as well.”

Banking, admittedly, has a staid reputation, and it’s not necessarily a field young people get excited about, he noted. But it is an industry where the culture is changing, and banks with an ear toward what Millennials prefer — when it comes to collaboration, flexibility, and even fun — will have an edge in attracting them.

“We would all be hanging in the café, and one of the departments would go in a conference room and close the doors every Friday, and that wasn’t really working with me.”

“This isn’t about a space,” he said. “It’s about the present and the future. Clearly, my generation is the minority this building, which is great. The Scully generation can’t be the generation that dictates how we’re going to do business. We want to be able to attract young talent and then unleash them, and let them think about how to do things differently.”

In that sense, the physical space is critical, Regin said. And it’s working. “A few years ago, most of our people who worked here were very local — 20 minutes to a half-hour away — and now they’re coming an hour. When they come to this space and realize what Country Bank has to offer, they’re willing to travel that hour, or even longer.”

In a job market where banks have to compete for talent, she added, Country Bank has plenty to offer when it comes to culture. “When people walk in here and see there’s a collaborative atmosphere, that’s important. That’s what people are looking for, especially the Millennial segment — they want to be at a place where they feel valued and there’s room for growth. It’s a destination, not just a job, where they sit in their cube all day and don’t see anyone.”

Scully agreed. “It’s important to have a place where, if someone is comparing their options, hopefully they say, ‘hey we like the option of coming here.’”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

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