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MIDDLETOWN, CT — Liberty Bank is again teaming up with Save-A-Suit, a Connecticut-based nonprofit dedicated to helping veterans transition back to civilian life and achieve job security. The initiative supports local military men and women as they go through the job interview process and seek long-term employment.

Through July 15, the bank is collecting professional clothing for men and women, basically anything veterans can wear to a job interview and at work. Following the drive, Save-A-Suit staff and volunteers will sort the donations and distribute clothing at a quarterly event where veterans are also provided with wellness resources.

Liberty Bank has worked with Save-A-Suit since 2016. All Liberty Bank branches are currently accepting donations as drop-off sites for Save-A-Suit. Since inception in 2010, the nonprofit has helped ‘suit up’ and support over 5,000 veterans.

“Partnering with Save-a-Suit is one of the most rewarding experiences and sound investments we can make in a community organization that does so much year after year to help our veterans succeed after service,” said David Glidden, Liberty Bank president and CEO. “Our continued partnership with Save-A-Suit and other organizations allows us to show our deepest gratitude for the selfless service and sacrifice of our veterans who deserve only the best. Collectively, by giving back and spreading kindness, we are helping to ensure our veterans are fully prepared for the next chapter in their lives.”

Anyone can support local veterans through Save-A-Suit by dropping off new and gently used suits, blazers, dress shirts, dress pants, tops, shoes, and other business attire for men and women at the nearest Liberty Bank branch. Dirty, damaged or ripped items will not be distributed to veterans. Monetary donations for Save-A-Suit are also being accepted. For locations and branch hours, refer to www.liberty-bank.com and learn more about Save-A-Suit at: www.saveasuit.org

Banking and Financial Services Special Coverage

Landmark Decision

Country Bank

Country Bank

The property on Main Street

The property on Main Street has always played an important role in the economic vibrancy of the town, and this is expected to continue with its new function as a police station.

Country Bank recently introduced a new marketing slogan — ‘Made to Make a Difference.’ There have been myriad examples of that mindset over the bank’s 172-year history, but perhaps none bigger than the recent announcement that the bank would gift its former headquarters property on Main Street, valued at more than $3 million, to the town, with the intention of it becoming the site of a new police station and perhaps home to other town offices.

 

Paul Scully says that, over the past few years, or since Country Bank started ramping up discussions about what to do with its vacant former headquarters building on Main Street in Ware, there had been talks with various real estate developers about the property.

But they didn’t go very far, said Scully, the bank’s president, noting that those making inquiries were “more speculators than investors,” as he put it.

“And we didn’t want to sell it on a speculative basis and then not have it maintained,” he explained. “Or have someone say ‘we bought this with the intention of having some office move in but it never came to fruition’ and now the property is abandoned.

“Yes, we were approached by some people,” he went on. “But we really weren’t interested. We really were driven by a desire to use this property to make a difference for the town; that was our guiding compass.”

With that, Scully poignantly described the mindset that ultimately led to the announcement on June 1 that the bank was donating the property at 75-79 Main St. to the town with the intention of it becoming the site of its new police station and perhaps other municipal uses.

Elaborating, he said there were multiple objectives in mind as the bank considered what to do with the property that had been its home until it moved its headquarters into renovated mill space on South Street in 2005.

These included a desire to help the police department find larger, better quarters — something it desperately needs — while also “energizing Main Street,” as Scully put it, noting that the town’s central business district has been hit hard by COVID and other factors and needs a spark. He believes that having the police department and perhaps some other town offices in that complex will provide one.

The decision to gift the property to the town comes, coincidentally, as the bank introduced a marketing tagline: ‘Made to Make a Difference.’

This tagline evolved from a series of focus groups with customers, team members, board members, and non-customers who had gathered to discuss their experiences with the bank and their knowledge of its impact on the people and communities it serves, said Scully, adding that the donation of the Main Street building is the latest example of this mindset at work.

“Yes, we were approached by some people. But we really weren’t interested. We really were driven by a desire to use this property to make a difference for the town; that was our guiding compass.”

“It’s what we’ve been doing for 172 years — we’re made to make a difference; make a difference in your loan, make a difference in the community, make a difference in your financial planning,” he said, adding that this mission has been carried out in countless ways over the years, including a recent project in Worcester to build 55 beds for children in conjunction with the Mass. Coalition for the Homeless, at which the new slogan was formally introduced to the bank’s staff.

“That was the first time they’d heard the slogan, and in the previous two hours, they had just made a difference in a child’s life, someone who did have a bed of their own,” he explained, adding that the donation of the Main Street property adds a new and an intriguing chapter to that long-running story of giving back.

 

Building Momentum

As he talked about the decision to gift the property to the community, a donation he described as rare for a private institution, Scully first set the stage in an effort to explain how this came about, why it makes sense for the town, and how it meets the bank’s ongoing commitment to the community embedded in its new marketing slogan.

He started by discussing Main Street and, more specifically, what was largely missing from it — vitality, or energy. Elaborating, he said that many retail businesses had moved over the past several years from Main Street to the new commercial hub on Route 32, near a Wal-mart. And in recent years, several fires, including one at the bank’s Main Street property, prompted more moves by businesses. Meanwhile, COVID and lengthy and very involved reconstruction of Main Street brought additional challenges to that part of downtown.

These forces coincided with Main Street property going quiet, as a result of the pandemic and forces resulting from it.

That property, valued at approximately $3 million, includes the former banking office located on the corner of Main and Bank Street along with the E2E building located at 79 Main St., the rear parking lot and bunker style garage, and rooftop parking situated behind the 65-71 Main Street location that was also donated by Country Bank to the Quaboag Valley Community Development Corporation back in 2016.

Country Bank president Paul Scully

Country Bank president Paul Scully

It has been vacant since the start of the pandemic, when the bank closed its branch there due to staff and customer safety concerns.

“Not maintaining a presence on Main Street was a tough decision that required months of consideration while assessing how this location might be best utilized to support the community,” said Scully. “The effects of the pandemic combined with a significant decrease in customer foot traffic over the years and a shift in banking habits to more customers adopting electronic delivery channels were all a considerable part of the decision. It is a massive building to be sitting empty. The decision to donate the building became evident as we weighed the usage of this location and discussed the opportunities it could provide to the town.”

Elaborating, Scully said that while there have been ongoing discussions about the fate of the building over the years, they took on new urgency with the pandemic and the bank’s decision not to have on presence on Main Street.

However, that urgency coincided with the large-scale construction work undertaken on Main Street, he went on, adding that nothing could really be done while that work was going on.

“Over the past year, and with more earnest, we’ve been saying ‘let’s figure out what we can do with this building a make a difference,” said Scully. “And it somewhat coincided with hearing about the need for a new police station.”

The pricetag for such a facility was pegged at $7 million to $9 million, he said, adding that a new station is clearly needed, with the department having outgrown its current quarters, the town’s former post office.

By gifting the town its former headquarters, the bank can help save the town much of that expense — it will still need to renovate the property for that new use, said Scully — while also helping to bring some new life to a downtown that is poised for a resurgence given the recent roadwork and an easing of the pandemic.

“We knew that now that the roads had been repaved and new sidewalks installed, there was more of an opportunity for a resurgence on Main Street than there had been during that construction process,” said Scully. “And we didn’t want to circumvent that by having someone buy the building who wasn’t going to be able to maintain it or have the financial resources to take care of it.

“We wanted it to be right formula for the town and for the other merchants on Main Street to allow them to get some foot traffic back,” he went on, adding that a police station, and other town offices that might eventually move into that space, will help accomplish many of those goals.

Although there is no specific timeline for the transfer of ownership, which needs approval from the town at a scheduled town meeting, the bank intends to work on a smooth transition with all parties involved and expects the transfer of the location to happen in 2023, said Scully.

 

The Bottom Line

Reflecting on the long history of the Main Street property, Scully said it has housed different banks, including Country, the Ware Trust Company, and Ware Savings, since before World War I.

It has long played a role in the economic vibrancy of the town, he said, adding that even though its function will change, it will continue to do so. This was that guiding compass the bank used as it went about determining a new use for the property.

“We look at this as a great investment in community — this is what community banking is all about,” he said. “We say that we exist for our customers, our community, and our staff, and this really is the community basis of it. We’re really excited that we can help make a difference downtown and help make a difference to the taxpayers.

“We met internally as a board and a senior management team, and our driving focus was to what’s right for the town,” Scully explained. “We’ve been in town since 1850, and we believed we’ve made a difference over all those years and wanted to continue making a difference.

Daily News

MONSON — In the spirit of its 150th Anniversary, Monson Savings Bank announced earlier this year that it will be launching its 150 Build-a-Bike campaign. The community bank has purchased more than $20,000 worth of bikes to donate to local children and they have partnered with various non-profits in the area to host Build-a-Bike events throughout the year. Most recently, Monson Savings delivered 10 bikes and 10 helmets to YWCA of Western Mass. 

Elizabeth Dineen, executive director of YWCA of Western Massachusetts Executive Director, and her team, welcomed Monson Savings Bank members to the YWCA campus. She expressed gratitude for the bank’s generosity and commented on the impact they are making in Western Massachusetts. 

“We are so happy Monson Savings Bank reached out to invite us to be a part of this wonderful campaign,” she said. “We are so thankful that Monson Savings is giving us bikes for our YWCA campus, allowing children using our services to enjoy some carefree time riding a bicycle. The continued support that the bank provides to Springfield and the surrounding communities is truly amazing.” 

Members of the Monson Savings team delivered the bikes that they helped to assemble with Ray Plouffe, owner of Family Bike Shop in East Longmeadow. Many members of the team expressed feelings of gratitude and a sense of fulfillment after building and delivering the bikes. 

“All of us were very excited to come together for the YWCA Build-a-Bike event. Our team had a great time getting to know the YWCA team and confirming our knowledge about all of the incredible ways they help those in need,” said Dan Moriarty, President and CEO of Monson Savings Bank. “Plus, it was wonderful to deliver the bikes and hear how the YWCA plans to make a safe, designated area for children to enjoy the bikes as they receive support from the organization.” 

Throughout the summer, Monson Savings Bank will also partner with I Found Light Against All Odds and the Springfield Housing Authority, South End Community Center, and Educare Springfield to host more 150 Build-a-Bike events, continuing to spread happiness to children and families throughout the area. 

To learn more about Monson Savings Bank’s 150th anniversary, the bank’s historical timeline, and to view a full schedule of events visit www.monsonsavings.bank/anniversary 

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Thunderbirds President Nathan Costa announced recently that through combined efforts at two recent Thunderbird games, the team, the Springfield Fire Department, and the Springfield Association of Firefighters Local 648 were able to raise $8,030 in donations to the family of fallen Worcester Fire Lieutenant Jason Menard.

Menard, 39, died Nov. 13 after being trapped in a four-alarm fire on Stockholm Street in Worcester. According to officials, Menard’s death came moments after he was able to bring two of his other crew members to safety as the group searched for a baby and resident still in the building. Menard left behind a wife of 16 years and three children.

“We were humbled and overwhelmed with the support shown by Thunderbirds fans,” said Costa. “We were glad be able to provide an outlet for the Springfield Fire Department and the Springfield Association of Firefighters Local 648 to honor their fallen brother in Worcester and assist his family in their time of tremendous grief.”

Of the total donation, more than $5,000 was generated via donations directly to Springfield Fire Department officials or Springfield Association of Firefighters Local 648, who encouraged fans to “fill the boot” on games played Friday and Saturday. The remaining funds were generated via sales of 50-50 raffle tickets both online and in-arena.

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