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Florence Savings Bank distributes $75K to local nonprofits


April 3, 2014
FLORENCE – For 10 weeks this summer, 600 children across the county, into the Hilltowns, will have nutritional food provided to them by the Northampton Survival Center to replace the reduced-cost lunches they will not get in school.

The Cancer Connection will soon begin training 35 people who have been waiting for more than a year to learn how to volunteer to counsel and befriend patients newly diagnosed with cancer.

And this spring and fall, Grow Food Northampton Inc., will take as many as 20 classrooms of elementary children to the Northampton Community Farm so they can see how their food is planted and later harvested.

These are some of the services area nonprofits are able to give to the community at large, thanks to Florence Savings Bank.

The Northampton Survival Center, Cancer Connection and Grow Food Northampton are among the 25 nonprofits that learned recently that they are the recipients of a grant through Florence Savings Bank’s Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program as a result of customers’ voting throughout 2013. The announcements were made at a celebratory event at the Northampton Council on Aging & Senior Center.

“Florence Savings Bank is allowing us to create a foundational program from which we can respond to families, and their vote of confidence means so much to us,” said Heidi Nortonsmith, executive director of the Northampton Survival Center, as she mingled with other nonprofit leaders and bank officials at the spirited gathering.

Moments before she approached Bank President John Heaps to tell him herself, Lilly Lombard, executive director of Grow Food Northampton, said, “We are incredibly grateful for the bank’s generosity and all the customers who demonstrate their loyalty. Florence Savings Bank is a model for other banks in the community.”

A total of $75,059 was distributed, including a $500 surprise award received by the Granby Booster Club through a random drawing at the event. Community members who benefit from these awards include school students, seniors and those who access services from area social service agencies.

Heaps also announced to the more than 130 nonprofit representatives and bank leaders who gathered for the event that the bank will raise its contributions to $100,000 for the next round of grants to be awarded in 2015.

“We started out at $50,000, and a couple of years ago grew it to $75,000,” Heaps said, adding with a playful smile, “But $75,000 just doesn’t seem like the right number.” A large, faux check payable by Florence Savings Bank in the amount of $100,000 was then unveiled to an enthusiastic crowd that cheered and clapped.

Grants are currently capped at $5,000, and this year for the first time, three nonprofits – Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and Northampton High School’s Parent Teacher Organization – each received enough votes for a grant in that amount.

Voting by bank customers for this year’s awards took place in 2013 and a record 11,567 customers cast votes, up 21 percent over last year’s 9,574 votes. In order to qualify for a grant, nonprofits need to receive a minimum of 1 percent of the total votes cast – 115 votes this year; Heaps noted that there were 436 nonprofits that received at least one vote.

“After tonight, we will have given away $650,000 through this program,” Heaps said, noting that over the past 12 years the program has been offered, a total of 89,567 votes have been cast by customers.

To date 98 organizations have received a grant since 2002.

“I look back on all of the past celebrations for this program, and it’s one of the best nights of the year for me,” Heaps said. “It’s an opportunity to look around and see a lot of people who are committed to doing good in the community.”

The following is a list of the recipients and the amount of funding they received: Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society of Springfield, $5,000; Food Bank of Western Massachusetts of Hatfield, $5,000; Northampton High School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), $5,000; Cooley Dickinson Hospital, $4,625; Northampton Survival Center, $4,567; Amherst Survival Center, $4,552; Friends of Forbes Library, $3,859; Cancer Connection, $3,555; Friends of the Williamsburg Libraries, $3,310; Center for Human Development, $3,093; Lilly Library, $3,078; Northampton Council on Aging/Elder Vision Inc., $2,804; Grow Food Northampton Inc., $2,370; Jackson Street School PTO, $2,226; Granby Free Public Library, $2,211; New Hingham Regional Elementary School PTO, $2,182; Granby Music Parents Association, $2,154; Hartsbrook School, $2,038; Chesterfield Fire Department, $1,996; Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, $1,978; Easthampton Dollars for Scholars, $1,850; ServiceNet Inc., $1,836; Granby Preschool, $1,821; Easthampton Elementary Schools PTO, $1,792; Bridge Street School PTO, $1,662.



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