Community banks also help after hours | Sunday Stories
Third in a series
By Debra McCown
Local community banks play an important role in community building by providing business and personal loans, but they also play an important role after hours: by providing targeted donations and offering their financial expertise to help manage the loans. resources of nonprofit organizations throughout the community.
That, says Will Barrett, president and CEO of the Bank of Tennessee, is one of the things that differentiates community banks from large banks, whose larger size and reach takes their attention outside the communities where they are. operate.
“If you look at the sponsorship of the East Tennessee State University stadium, we have helped make this facility a reality in this region while supporting the ETSU and its athletic programs, and have created the opportunity to host different types of events on the site. Our founder and majority owner, Bill Greene, supports him on a personal level, and he’s an example of how Bill is a big supporter of the area, ”Barrett said.
“Not only does the bank support large-scale projects, but our ownership base which is located here as well, and it also personally reinvests in the community. So if you look at a lot of major projects, whether it’s a park in Kingsport or a park in Johnson City or something like that, our name is often attached as a financial contributor.
At Bank of Tennessee, this culture of community engagement has been history from the start, says Barrett. And this goes far beyond simple donations.
“Where you put your time is often even more valuable than money,” he says, “so whether it’s economic development advice, nonprofit advice, church advice or advisory boards, we are very involved in the community. “
Beyond his leadership, Barrett says the Bank of Tennessee also encourages its approximately 275 employees, the overwhelming majority in the Tri-Cities, to volunteer in the community and has granted paid time off specifically to volunteer. during United Way Solidarity Day, which the bank also helps sponsor.
Although a community bank is not as large as a national bank, the concentration of its employees in their local communities is on a scale large enough to have a disproportionate positive impact in the region.
Bank of Tennessee’s name is certainly visible in the Tri-Cities community, from its sponsorship of the “Railroad Rumble” football game between Elizabethton and Science Hill to United Way events at the Boys & Girls Club and countless other organizations in nonprofit in the region.
“Bank of Tennessee has responded to the financial and banking needs of the Small Miracles Therapeutic Equestrian Center in a number of ways, making wise investments through its expert financial advice, corporate accounts and, most importantly, in 2020 during the year. COVID-19 pandemic by helping Small Miracles with the payroll protection plan application and the resolution of the ‘forgiveness of the loan’ aspect, ”says Sherri Russell, executive director of Small Miracles, one of the many organizations that the bank helped.
The Kingsport-based nonprofit, which works with children and veterans with special needs and who have experienced trauma, is also championed by Bank of Tennessee Senior Vice President Jenny Dugger, who helps lead the organization in various capacities. “His time, energy and expertise are greatly appreciated,” says Russell.
“The Bank of Tennessee has also generously sponsored Small Miracles fundraising events,” said Russell, “most recently our Hooves and Heart 2021 online auction.”
Greene, who founded the bank in Kingsport with his father in 1974, says his investments in the area – from college to animal shelters and social service organizations in Northeast Tennessee’s nine counties – are also making part of a larger effort.
Looking to the future, he says the bank will play a role in promoting the region and its unique local identity to the world.
Barrett says many of the people who work at the Bank of Tennessee get involved in the community because they live here and, like Greene, feel invested in the future of the area.
To develop a strong community that attracts the next generation to stay in the area, come back or relocate from elsewhere, he says, requires a thriving business sector, strong nonprofits and the network of stores, restaurants and experiences that young people want to have available to them. them.
For him, he says, investing in the Northeastern Tennessee community is personal.
“I live here, I work here, I play here and I raise my family here, and I want my daughter to grow up here and have a great experience growing up,” Barrett said. “I want her to want to come back someday if she goes to school, and we have to have these opportunities in the community and the culture that are appealing.”