Florence Bank Offers Grants to 61 Nonprofit Leaders
Roughly $1.1 million donated through annual Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program over 17 years
FLORENCE—Farm shares for people with low-incomes. A thermal imager the Williamsburg Firefighters Association will use to detect hot spots after a fire. Art classes for seniors. Shelter and counseling for those who’ve experienced domestic abuse.
And even a bicycle that Emily Williston Memorial Library will use to deliver books to Easthampton residents.
These are some of the programs and services that will benefit area residents thanks to the Florence Bank Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program, through which $102,500 was presented to 61 area nonprofits at an awards celebration March 5 at the Garden House at Look Memorial Park.
During the event, Florence Bank president and CEO John Heaps Jr. handed out 55 checks to nonprofits that received at least 50 votes from bank customers in 2018, topping the $1.1 million mark in terms of grants made to community nonprofits over almost two decades.
Heaps also gave an additional $500 to six organizations that received between 40 and 49 votes and were vying for one $500 bonus award.
Cooley Dickinson VNA was chosen in that drawing, but after the applause died down, Heaps said with a mischievous smile, “There are six organizations,” and after yet another pause, “Do you see what I’m thinking?”
Board members and corporators in the audience called out their support to Heaps, who then announced Florence Bank would offer a $500 grant to all six organizations. “It’s a beautiful thing to help all of you,” Heaps said. “We want you to work extra hard this year to get 50 votes!”
The Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program is an annual offering founded in 2002, through which Florence Bank customers are invited to vote for their favorite local nonprofit in hopes it will receive a share of grant funding. Heaps told nonprofit leaders gathered this year that the idea that customers would vote to disperse the funds came during a dinner 18 years ago with his late wife, Jane, and friends.
Heaps said Florence Bank employees also contribute in the community through various volunteer efforts. And he noted that in addition to the funds granted through Customers’ Choice, the bank donates an additional $450,000 to nonprofit organizations each year.
As he shook hands and posed for photos with executive directors, PTO leaders, board leaders and other nonprofit heads, Heaps also said, “Thank you for the work you do. This is our special event, but it’s your evening. Your good work makes our community great.”
He added, “Our customers voted for you. Our customers care about the community as much as we do.”
Monica Curhan, senior vice president / marketing director at the bank, announced each individual award and invited nonprofit leaders to the podium. She noted that each vote for each organization amounted to roughly $16 per.
Heaps said that Florence Bank is able to be generous in the community because it is a mutually-held bank, which means that quarterly dividends are not paid out to stockholders. That money, instead, is invested into the community and into bank services and programs. “It’s a great opportunity for us,” Heaps said.
The six organizations that unexpectedly received a bonus $500 grant were: Granby Athletic Association, Granby Preservation Society, Bridge Street School Parent Teacher Organization in Northampton, Belchertown Band Boosters, Cooley Dickinson VNA & Hospice, and the Granby Music Parents Association.
The following organizations received more than 50 customer votes and received these awards at the event: Dakin Humane Society, $5,000; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, $4,853; Friends of Forbes Library, $3,767; Friends of Lilly Library, $3,546; Cancer Connection, $3,546; Northampton Survival Center, $3,360; Amherst Survival Center, $3,342; Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, $3,308; Friends of the Williamsburg Library, $3,071; Our Lady of the Hills Parish, $2,783; New Hingham Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization, $2,698; Northampton High School Parent Teacher Organization, $2,409; Edward Hopkins Educational Foundation, $2,239; Easthampton Elementary Schools Parent Teacher Organization, $2,222; BARC, Inc., $2,155; Belchertown K-9, $1,833; Friends of Hilltown Cooperative Charter School, $1,798; Granby Senior Center, $1,680; Grow Food Northampton, $1,612; Safe Passage, $1,595; Belchertown Firefighters Association, $1,561; Friends of Clapp Library, $1,561; Jackson Street School Parent Teacher Organization, $1,527; Northampton Senior Center, $1,476; R.K. Finn Ryan Road School, $1,476; Williamsburg Firefighter Association, $1,442; Leeds Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization, $1,442; Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, $1,408; Bright Spot Therapy Dogs, $1,408; Northampton Community Music Center, $1,391; Easthampton Dollars for Scholars, $1,374; Friends of Northampton Legion, $1,324; Tapestry Health Systems, $1,256; Children First Enterprises, Inc., $1,239; Whole Children, $1,222; Friends of M.N. Spear Memorial Library, $1,222; Riverside Industries, Inc., $1,170; Kestrel Land Trust, $1,170; Friends of Amherst Senior Center, $1,170; Smith Vocational High School Parent Teacher Organization, $1,153; Hitchcock Center for the Environment, $1,136; Cooley Dickinson Hospital, $1,136; Easthampton Community Center, $1,136; Belchertown Public Schools, $1,136; Historic Northampton, $1,086; It Takes A Village, $1,086; Northampton Neighbors, $1,069; Pelham Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization, $1,069; John F. Kennedy Middle School, $1,052; Hospice of the Fisher Home, $1,052; Cub Scout Pack 705 of Chesterfield, $1,001; Emily Williston Library, $967; Granby Free Public Library, $933; Amherst Regional Public Schools, $933; and Manna Soup Kitchen, $899.
The Customers’ Choice Community Grants program is a year-long initiative. Customers’ of the bank can vote via paper ballots at each bank branch location or online at https://www.florencebank.com/vote.
Florence Bank has branches in Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Granby, Hadley, Northampton, Williamsburg, West Springfield, and Springfield, and it is headquartered in Florence.
Florence Bank is a mutually-owned savings bank chartered in 1873. Currently, the bank serves the Pioneer Valley through 11 full-service branch locations in Florence, Northampton, Easthampton, Williamsburg, Amherst, Hadley, Belchertown, Granby, West Springfield and a new branch located on Allen Street in Springfield. Additionally, they offer 28 ATMs and a wide range of financial services including investment management through FSB Financial Group (FSBFG) to consumers and businesses. Florence Bank is consistently voted best local bank by the readers of the Valley Advocate and the Daily Hampshire Gazette.