When asked why Anna Kulakowski’s name leapt to mind when he first heard about the Community Bank Hero awards, James Burke, a Peabody attorney and one of Kulakowski’s nominators, said, jokingly, that “she’s always bugging me for bottles of wine.”
Not, of course, for her own use – Kulakowski, Burke said, is involved in so many local organizations and helping with so many fundraisers that there’s nearly always a charity auction coming up on her calendar. Burke and Kulakowski serve on several boards together, and he’s had plenty of opportunity to see her drive to give back in action.
“I do not think anyone could devote more volunteer time than Anna does, simply because there are no more hours in the day that she could possibly put in,” he wrote in his nomination. “I can’t say enough about Anna and the time and effort she puts in to help make Peabody a better place to live, work and play.”
A former education major (and educator) herself, Kulakowski has especially devoted her time to such organizations as the Peabody Education Foundation and the Peabody Learning Academy, as well as her eight-year long commitment to helping to launch the Essex Agriculture and Technical High School, all of whose boards she sits on. In addition, she’s a member of the Peabody Rotary Club and the Peabody Chamber of Commerce. All this despite only having worked in Peabody for the past few years – a Revere resident, Kulakowski took up her current role at the Peabody headquarters of East Boston Savings Bank less than two years ago.
But the lifelong North Shore resident and 39-year veteran of the community banking world knows a lot about making herself at home in her community.
“As I’ve gone from one thing to another, my clients and commitments have followed with me. I’ve invested a lot of time with each one of them, doing fundraising, anything that needed to be done,” said Kulakowski.
When it came to making her mark in Peabody, she said, “It’s a large city, but it’s small in a way, because many of the same people are involved in the different events,” she said. “It’s just really been enjoyable, getting to know each other and figuring out what we could do that would most benefit the community.”
That level of enthusiasm and commitment has helped keep community banking compelling to Kulakowski throughout a long and distinguished career, and despite some hair-raising incidents. Branches she was managing were robbed three separate times back in the ’70s, she said, and “back then they used to be not as nice. They didn’t pass notes, it was the old-fashioned way,” with masks and pistols.
But even facing down gunman couldn’t scare off Kulakowski. “My husband and my kids said [after the third stick-up], ‘Do you still want to stay to stay in banking?’ But I still enjoy my job. And I take all the rest with it. I absolutely love representing the bank and doing all the community work that I do. I make a lot of new friends.”