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NerdWallet’s Community Bank “Community Awards” of 2012

Nov. 9, 2012
Personal Finance
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

The next time you need a checking account or a loan, why not invest your money in a bank that gives back? We’ve said it before: collectively, community banks lend the largest percentage of their assets to local businesses, more than any other type of financial institution in America. Here’s what you might not know: community banks give back to their communities in a variety of other ways too. They might volunteer with local nonprofits, offer networking opportunities for budding entrepreneurs, donate large amounts of money to innovative organizations, or even organize travel clubs.

Small bank, big heart

We’re not saying that big banks never give back, but we guarantee they don’t have the fabulous, homegrown programs that community banks have. With NerdWallet’s Community Bank “Community Awards” program, we’re here to pay tribute to the unsung community heroes of community banking. We painstakingly searched through press releases, industry publications and blogs to finally pick this list of community banks with some of the most unique and helpful community programs we’ve ever seen. We think you’ll be just as impressed as we are.

Best Violence Prevention – Jeff Bank (Jeffersonville, NY)

Jeff Bank and its employees have made big donations to non-profit organizations that specialize in supporting victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Rape Intervention Services & Education of Harris provides a 24/7 crisis hotline, counseling, support groups, advocacy and education programs. Safe Passage of Sullivan County provides similar services for domestic violence survivors and their families. They also provide safe housing and facilitate children’s programs. With Jeff Bank’s support, these organizations and others like them can continue to help people in dire need of a safe support network. Jeff Bank has branches in Bloomingburg, Callicoon, Eldred, Jeffersonville, Liberty, Livingston Manor, Loch Sheldrake, Monticello, Narrowsburg, White Lake and Wurtsboro in New York.

Best “Angel Investor” – PEOPLES BANK of Alabama (Cullman, AL)

PEOPLES BANK of Alabama recently invested $250,000 in ZeroRPM, Inc., a clean energy start-up based locally in Cullman County. ZeroRPM is developing technology to reduce fuel consumption in vehicles, especially ones that spend a lot of time idling, like police cars. By their estimates, their idle mitigation system could potentially save police departments thousands of dollars per year in fuel costs and reduce tons of CO2 emissions for each vehicle equipped with the system. NerdWallet is a start-up too, so we know first-hand how much of an honor it is to have an investor believe in your business model. And, of course, we’re also fans of ZeroRPM’s eco-friendly business plan. Thank you PEOPLES BANK of Alabama for supporting smart and sustainable businesses. The bank has branches in 6 north central counties in Alabama.

Best Grant Program – South Shore Savings Bank (South Weymouth, MA)

All community banks support their communities with small business loans. A few take that community support initiative a step further by supporting nonprofits. However, South Shore Savings Bank actually has their own charitable foundation that provides grants to non-profit organizations in communities where the bank has a major presence. The money can be used for program support, special projects or start-up endeavors. If your organization is interesting in applying, all the application materials are online for your convenience. South Shore Savings Bank has branches in Braintree, East Bridgewater, Norwell, Pembroke, Quincy, Stoughton and Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Best Pet Program – Kentucky Bank (Paris, KY)

With one glance at Kentucky Bank’s press page, it’s pretty clear to see that they’ve gone to the dogs (and cats). They provided the credit card processing services at this year’s Paris Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) fundraiser dinner and auction, MARDI PAWS! They also helped by promoting the event and sponsoring a table. The event was held at Siena Farm, a beautiful thoroughbred training and breeding facility. Earlier in the year, Kentucky Bank also hosted an “Adopt a Pet” event to benefit Friends of the Animals of Jessamine County. We’re always excited to see a bank support our four-legged community members. Kentucky Bank has branches in Paris, Winchester, Sandy Hook, Cynthiana, Nicholasville, Wilmore, Morehead, Georgetown and Versailles in Kentucky.

Best Sports Partnership – Seattle Bank (Seattle, WA)

Seattle Bank teams up with the Seattle Sounders, a professional soccer team, to support their community through an initiative called United We Serve. Together, they host a variety of community service events throughout the year. Most recently (October 4th), they cooked and served a meal for patrons of the Union Gospel Mission, an emergency care and long-term recovery service center for the homeless. As far as community banks go, we think Seattle Bank is a true team player. Seattle Bank has 3 branches in Seattle, plus addition branches in Bellevue and Tacoma, Washington.

Best Senior Travel Club – Athens Federal Community Bank (Athens, TN)

When was the last time your bank took you to New York City, Ireland or even a Charles Dickens Christmas Fair? If you’re 50 or better and open a Seniority Checking account, your membership in Athens Federal Community Bank’s Senior Travel Club is free. It’s the perfect way to enjoy great rates on tour packages, explore with world, and get to know your neighbors all at the same time. Did we mention that the Seniority Checking account is truly free and offers perks like free notary service and interest on you balance of $1,500 or more? It’s a great deal all around. Athens Federal Community Bank has branches in Athens, Etowah, Madisonville, Sweetwater and Cleveland, Tennessee.

Best Women’s Business Resources – Panhandle State Bank (Sandpoint, ID)

Panhandle State Bank’s Powered by Community program provides free training and networking services to support women in finance and business. Past seminar topics include accessing capital, balancing work and health, leveraging markets and empowerment in the workplace. Panhandle State Bank also offers a Women and Money Solutions Package the includes free business internet banking, 6 months of fees waived on any personal checking account, a 0.10% APY increase on any CD or IRA, special promotions and more. Learn more about female business owners who’ve been helped by their program in their newsroom’s Women and Money series. Panhandle State Bank had branches in Bonners Fairy, Ponderay, Sandpoint, Priest River, Rathdrum, Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Kellogg in Idaho.

Live local, bank local

Remember, you can choose where your money goes, so why not keep it local? If you don’t see a bank close to you on this list, but you’re interested in supporting great community programs, visit your local community bank and ask about the ways they improve the quality of life for your friends and neighbors.