FLORENCE—Since the start of the new year, Florence Bank has donated $40,000 to organizations in the region that support food insecurity, bringing its total giving in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to $140,000.
As restrictions are starting to lift, President and CEO Kevin R. Day also reiterated the bank’s commitment to the cause, saying a return to pre-pandemic economics in the region is likely not imminent.
“People have been impacted significantly. Their jobs haven’t returned. They’re not making ends meet, and they need food,” Day said. “There’s still a need. We’re here to support the needs, and they’re continuing.”
So far in 2021, Florence Bank has granted $5,000 to the Chesterfield Community Cupboard, its second donation to that organization since the pandemic began; $20,000 to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to support its Brown Bag: Food for Elders Program; $10,000 to Grow Food Northampton, also a second gift, to support the Community Food Distribution Project created last year for emergency food distribution. Most recently, the Florence Bank Board of Directors approved a $5,000 gift for Manna Community Kitchen.
Day said the consideration of gifts to support food insecurity is an ongoing item on the Florence Bank Board of Director’s meeting agenda.
John Ebbets, chair of the 11-member board and a member for nearly a decade, said the bank aptly prioritized supporting access to food as a basic human need.
“There was no hesitation whatsoever,” said Ebbets. “Florence Bank has consistently been a major player in supporting the community. It has always been incredibly supportive.”
As the former executive director of United Way of Hampshire County from 2015 to 2019, Ebbets knows about community need, and he said he feels grateful to be able to sit on the bank board and indirectly provide assistance. “It feels good,” he said.
Day said Florence Bank began responding to the problem of hunger soon after COVID-19 forced closures and caused wide-scale job loss. “We said, ‘We need to be here and help these nonprofits get food out,” he said.
In 2020, the bank donated nearly $100,000 to the Community Food Distribution Project, Grow Food Northampton, the Northampton Survival Center, and Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry in Chicopee.
“There was an outpouring of need,” Day said. “The shutdowns hit every city and town. We made an effort to ensure our assistance covered the breadth of our whole service area, with gifts to date made in Hampden and Hampshire counties.”
Ebbets said the board is also looking ahead. “Not everybody will emerge from the pandemic at the same time. The projection was that there could be continued significant need. Food insecurity does not go away,” he said. “It’s a continuing cycle and a continuing challenge.”
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About Florence Bank
Florence Bank is a mutually-owned savings bank chartered in 1873. Currently, the Bank serves the Pioneer Valley through 12 full-service branch locations in Florence, Northampton, Easthampton, Williamsburg, Amherst, Hadley, Belchertown, Granby, Chicopee, West Springfield, and Springfield. Additionally, it offers 25 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.