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FLORENCE — Florence Bank announced that it recently donated $50,000 to the Easthampton Community Center through its Florence Savings Easthampton Branch Charitable Foundation, Inc.

“We are honored to receive such a large donation,” said Robin Bialecki, executive director of the Easthampton Community Center, who was recently named the 2022 Person of the Year by United Way of the Hampshire & Franklin Region. “This is a testament to how much the people at Florence Bank and the Easthampton Branch Charitable Foundation value our work, and it will allow us to touch many lives in the community.”

The Florence Savings Easthampton Branch Charitable Foundation was formed in 1999, following the merger of the former Easthampton Cooperative Bank into Florence Bank, the first and only acquisition for Florence Bank.
That investment brought Florence Bank into Easthampton for the first time. Before the merger, Easthampton Cooperative Bank operated the branch near the city rotary, which Florence Bank assumed and continues to run today.

“This foundation helps reinforce the longstanding giving philosophy of Florence Bank,” said President and CEO Kevin Day. “There is a synergy there. The foundation allows the bank to serve its overall mission as a supporter and sustainer in the communities we serve.”

The check for $50,000 was presented by three original members of the foundation: Nancy J. LaBombard, Virginia L. Smith and Anita Sedlak.

Daily News Education News

EASTHAMPTON — Matthew Sosik, president and CEO of bankESB, announced that the bank has pledged $30,000 over three years to Girls Inc. of the Valley.

The money will be used to help support the organization’s Her Future, Our Future campaign, a $5 million fundraising effort designed to help the organization better meet the needs of girls from under-resourced communities in Hampden County and beyond. Through this campaign Girls Inc. seeks to triple the number of elementary and teen girls served, reaching more than 1,000 girls annually. Efforts include renovating a new dynamic, state-of-the-art headquarters and program center in Holyoke, expanding geographic reach in public schools in Springfield, Chicopee, and beyond, and supporting their innovative Eureka! STEM program that prepares girls for college and career.

“This incredible gift from bankESB to support the Her Future, Our Future campaign shows their impactful commitment to community,” said Suzanne Parker, executive director at Girls Inc. of the Valley. “We are proud to have bankESB’s support as we aim to deliver our research-based, engaging programs to more youth across the Valley — and in our new headquarters.”

The donation was made as part of the bank’s charitable giving program, The Giving Tree, which reflects the roots the bank has in its communities, its commitment to making a real difference in the neighborhoods it serves, and the belief that everyone’s quality of life is enhanced when we work together to solve our communities’ biggest problems.

“Children are our future, and Girls Inc. of the Valley is helping to build that future for young girls with innovative, supportive, and life-changing programs that inspire them to be strong, smart, and bold,” said Sosik. “bankESB is pleased to do its part in supporting Girls Inc. and its efforts to provide a high-quality environment and programs that help elementary school-age and teenage girls unlock their full potential.”

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

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