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By Webster Bank
The Employee Volunteer Recognition Grant Program gives bankers an opportunity to nominate their favorite nonprofits and community organizations to receive modest grants to pursue their missions. For many bankers, volunteering is not only a way to make a difference, but also a passion project that adds up to over 130,000 hours a year to nonprofit and community organizations across our footprint.
Read more about how whatÕs important to our bankers is important to Webster.
Helping youth learn teamwork, accountability and community pride.
For Kendra Tripp, Senior Universal Banker, The Berkeley Knights Drill Team and Drum Corps has been a family mission and community connection throughout her life. Based in downtown Waterbury, The Berkeley Knights started in the Long Hill projects in 1964 and gave the kids there a positive activity that taught them teamwork, accountability and community pride. Kendra remembers being a Pompom girl for the corps and raised her two sons to be part of the drum corps.
Led by her uncle, Waterbury Police Officer Michael Tripp, The Berkeley Knight Drill Team and Drum Corps, made up of youth age 8 to 18, performs all over the country at parades and community events. They are an award-winning competitive drum corps and most recently defended their title of Best Overall Drill Team in the Albert “Pete” Edwards Drill Competition in Jacksonville, FL. They practice, perform and compete together and develop lifelong friendships in the process.
Kendra is proud of her uncle who has dedicated himself to the Berkeley Knights for the past 27 years. “He does so much for the community and has had an incredible impact on the lives of these young men” shared Kendra.
Kendra stays involved with the Berkeley Knights even now, helping with fundraising and preparing the kids for events. “ItÕs helped so many kids move their lives forward” said Kendra, “my sons and so many other alumni come back to help out because they know the value of being part of this group.” Kendra was named Volunteer of the Year at Children Community School in Waterbury and has a lifelong reputation of community service.
Providing real-life skills to low-income women
Bridgeport, CT-based Mercy Learning Center (MLC) provides basic literacy and life skills training to low-income women within a compassionate, supportive environment. ItÕs a place that encourages and empowers women without regard for race, religion, color, creed, sexual orientation or national origin to improve themselves personally and professionally. This is why Jami Dohoney, VP Business Banking, became involved with Mercy Learning Center.
About six years ago, Jami started volunteering with MLC students conducting mock job interviews and coaching on their resumes. Before long, Jami encouraged her husband, fellow banker Steve Dohoney, VP, Relationship Manager, to get involved. “It was helpful to have a man conduct the mock interview” Steve shared, “it provides a different perspective and a more authentic experience of attempting to enter the workforce.”
For so many of the women who come to MLC, English is not their primary language. They are often seeking a general equivalency diploma and some professional skills to get a job to support their children. Some women start at MLC to help their children learn, and their personal and professional development is a result of being involved in the program. “It gives these women choices they didnÕt have” Jami said, “we see such improvement in the womenÕs skills and confidence and itÕs so rewarding for us to be involved in that transformation.”
For the DohoneyÕs, Mercy Learning Center gets to the core of what America was founded on: giving people a chance to really become a productive member of society. They look forward to the next class of students and the possibilities that will shape their futures.
Providing hygiene products is a team effort
ThereÕs a unique and meaningful volunteer outreach in the Boston area and Webster bankers, introduced to the charity by Kathleen Kelly, SVP, SBA Relationship Manager, are making a very personal difference to kids in need.
Kathleen first learned about Hope and Comfort through a board member she met at a networking event. Hope & ComfortÕs mission is to provide essential hygiene products to support and improve the health, self-esteem, and hygiene education of school-aged children and young adults in need within Greater Boston.
When Kathleen learned that so many Junior High and High School-aged children do not have access to essential personal hygiene products, she knew this was a project she wanted to support. “I did not realize that hygiene products were not covered by food stamps and I thought how awful it must be for a teenager amidst the bullying that goes on to not be able to have good hygiene, how that must affect self-esteem”, Kathleen shared.
Hope and Comfort began in May 2010 when founders Jeff and Loren Feingold wanted to teach their child about helping others. For their daughterÕs birthday party, instead of gifts, they asked guests to bring donations, which they donated to a local nonprofit. In speaking with the social worker, they learned that there was a real unmet need for hygiene products and they began the charity out of their garage, achieving 501(c)3 status in June 2011. According to Hope & ComfortÕs website, 58% of low income individuals report cutting back on food to afford hygiene products and 40% report skipping or delaying rent payments to obtain products.
Kathleen shared this opportunity to help with the Boston Business Banking team who got involved packing hygiene kits with donated personal care items for the youth in need and even adding inspirational notes to encourage the kids. Together with Kathleen, Webster bankers Frank Call, Khanh Huynh, Sean Jasie, Charlotte Mattei, Rory McCain, Ed Radzinsky, Lance Reagan, Alex Rosin, Patricia Schiapelli, and Scott Vickery have been part of this quarterly team volunteer outreach.
Charlotte Mattei, SVP, Business Banking shared “This is an awesome grass roots organization. They have made huge strides in getting these basic health care items to teens that do not have access. Hope & Comfort shared success stories where these teens have been able to increase their self-esteem by just being able to be clean and smell fresh. Many of these teens were bullied or were on the road to becoming bullies to protect themselves just because they had bad teeth or bad breath or couldnÕt wash their clothes or their bodies. I couldnÕt help but become a part and a supporter of the organization”.
By 2019, Hope & Comfort hit 800,000 items distributed and they expect to hit 1 million items in 2020. Their focus during COVID-19 is providing much needed soap for handwashing. Hope & ComfortÕs vision is that one day everyone living in the United States will have access to essential hygiene products to feel clean, confident, and healthy.
Supporting WalkMS is a family activity
Amanda Smith, Associate HR Business Partner, became involved with Walk MS at an early age when her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Their family was introduced to the Connecticut chapter of the MS Society which provided resources and education on the disease and Amanda and her sister participated in the community walk events that raise awareness and funds for MS research. As they got older, they got more involved and assembled Team Laurie and Friends to participate in area walks. “We participate as a family, and my mom, in her wheelchair, always has a blast. Mom always keeps a positive attitude and encourages others who are living with MS.” Amanda shared.
As the team captain, Amanda leads fundraising activities throughout the year including, bake sales and concerts all while educating people about MS. Having an early experience with MS, Amanda and her sister also offer support through the MS Society to children who are learning to live with this in their families.
The Walk MS events engage the community to support the good work the MS Society does. Providing care and services for MS patients and support to the families, the MS Society makes life easier for those living with MS. Amanda is proud to be part of the outreach the society does for people impacted by the disease.
Providing expertise to grow Rhode Island
Since 2015, Xay Khamsyvoravong, Senior Vice President and Head of Government Lending, has been a board member of Providence, RI-based Grow Smart RI. Grow Smart is a not-for-profit that promotes sustainable and equitable economic growth by advocating for compact development in revitalized urban, town, and village centers balanced with responsible stewardship of our regionÕs natural assets Ð farmland, forests, the coastline, and Narragansett Bay.
“I started my career in public service and there is an incredibly steep learning curve. The stakes are high in government because entire communities count on you to make the right decisions.” Xay shared, “Grow Smart provided critical education and information that helped me be a better civic leader and it continues to be a robust resource.”
Grow Smart provides critical education and support to policy makers whose decisions impact the quality of our communities. Intelligent planning and effective implementation of government regulations and programs are at the core of the economic viability of our region. Grow Smart is on the front lines of providing the training and guidance public officials need to make decisions on everything from zoning, to public transit, to historic tax credits. As bankers, particularly in Public Sector Finance, we see the impact of these decisions on the financial health of our customers, Xay said.
Xay lends his expertise and perspective to Grow Smart to help foster conversations to find new ways to innovate, grow and sustain organizations into the future.
A cancer survivor gives back
Deb Drapalla, Boston Regional President, has been a volunteer at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for over 20 years and has served as Co-Chair of the Dana-Farber Leadership Council for the past seven years. Since 1947, Dana-Farber’s sole focus has been to provide expert cancer care and groundbreaking treatments for adult and pediatric patients. The Dana-Farber Leadership Council works to support the Institute by raising funds through various activities including the Jimmy Find Walk and the Pan-Mass Challenge, a bike-a-thon where 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar goes to Dana-Farber.
The Dana-Farber Leadership Council is comprised of about 125 business members from the community who, in the last 15 years, have raised close to $10 million dollars. Deb always knew of the good work being done at Dana-Farber but 10 years ago, when she received a cancer diagnosis and became a patient at the Institute, she experienced firsthand the care that Dana-Farber provides to patients and their families. Deb shared, “Thanks to the care I received at Dana-Farber, IÕm a cancer survivor. Dana-Farber was there for me when I needed them most, so serving as Co-Chair of the Leadership Council is my way of giving back to this great organization.”
Boston-based Dana-Farber Institute has been the top ranked cancer hospital in New England by U.S. News and World Report for 19 consecutive years, and is ranked in the top 5 nationally for both adult and pediatric cancer programs. Being Co-Chair of the Dana-Farber Leadership Council, Deb is able to share her personal story with the business community and inspire engagement to support this vital facility.
Bringing the night sky to young and old alike
The Sheboygan Astronomical Society, a group of amateur astronomical enthusiasts, was formed in 1973. Diane Van Minsel, HSA Onboarding QA Specialist, became involved in 1993 and has been President of the non-profit since 1994. The 20 or so members come from diverse backgrounds; one had worked on the Hubble telescope and one had a late-in-life career change to astrophysics but all have a shared interest in the night sky.
In addition to monthly opportunities for the public to observe the night sky, the group also supports STEM education through the local library; helps scouts earn meet their astronomy badge requirements; and is involved in the Rockets for School educational program in Sheboygan. The society uses a borrowed portable planetarium to project the constellations and night sky to students. “We are fundraising to buy our own portable planetarium” shared Diane, “there is so much to learn and we want to be able to share this experience with others.”
Fundraising efforts and astronomy presentations are paused right now but will resume later this year. Until then, the group will continue looking up!
Empowering young Latinas to embrace their culture
Reidville Drive Banking Center Manager, Ivelisse Vazquez De Vega, devotes her time to Waterbury-based Madre Latina, a non-profit dedicated to helping the Latino community access a variety of resources to support their families, careers and their personal growth.
Founded in 2012, Madre Latina connects young Latina mothers to local opportunities for employment, education, parenting resources, healthcare, financial programs and personal growth. The founder and Executive Director, Yoellie Iglesias, realized that while there were many local opportunities for these young women to utilize, they were unaware of how to access the available resources. Madre Latina helps bridge the gap by providing the network they can tap into.
“Madre Latina encourages these young women to assess their current situation and strive to create a better life for themselves and their children” shared Ivelisse. She added, “The programs empower women to embrace their culture and be proud of who they are and what they contribute to the community.”
Madre Latina conducts life skills workshops for families and a youth leadership and civic engagement program for future leaders. They hold community events several times a year to promote cultural awareness, encourage community engagement and provide local agencies and businesses a forum to network with young families in need of resources.
Ivelisse has represented Webster Bank at several of these events and remains involved with the good work Madre Latina is doing in the Waterbury community.
Webster Bank (“Webster”) is a leading commercial bank in the Northeast that provides a wide range of digital and traditional financial solutions across three differentiated lines of business: Commercial Banking, Consumer Banking and its HSA Bank division, one of the country’s largest providers of employee benefits solutions. Headquartered in Stamford, CT, Webster is a values-driven organization with more than $70 billion in assets. Its core footprint spans the northeastern U.S. from New York to Massachusetts, with certain businesses operating in extended geographies. Webster Bank is a member of the FDIC and an equal housing lender. For more information about Webster, including our latest annual report, please visit our About page. To find our latest press releases, visit the Webster Newsroom.