“Knowledgeable” is one word that comes to mind after speaking to Esther Schlorholtz, director of community investment and senior vice president at Boston Private Bank.
But maybe “one of a kind” is better. In fact, it’s probably best not to stamp any one label on Schlorholtz.
Schlorholtz has served on numerous boards with a wide variety of missions, including the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC), Massachusetts Community & Banking Council (MCBC), Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP), and Citizens Housing And Planning Association (CHAPA).
She was also recently appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to serve on the Massachusetts Small Business Assistance Advisory Council. She previously served on the Asset Development Commission, seeking ways to build wealth in low-income communities.
Through it all, what truly stands out is her impressive record in helping the impoverished flourish.
Schloholtz’ commitment to helping the under-privileged began with her birth and early years in the ancient Pakistani city of Lahore.
“When you live in Pakistan you are always struck by the difference between those in poverty and those in wealth,” Schlorholtz told Banker & Tradesman.
She took this lesson to heart and ended up volunteering with women and children when she was in high school – a passion she has pursued ever since.
One of her most recent projects involved securing funding for the Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury, a building vacant since the 1970s. The center was created to provide health services for those unable to afford health care themselves – an unusual pursuit for most traditional bankers.
“She’s unique as a banker. Meeting her the first day – I have a finance background – I haven’t seen a person work so quickly to respond to a competitive proposal,” said Frederica Williams, president and CEO of Whittier Street Health Center. “She understands how poverty impacts health. Ensuring that we were stable and viable only enables us to serve the community better.”
The 79,000 square-foot building not only created temporary construction jobs, but also 50 permanent jobs in the area. But securing funding for such the project was no simple task.
“Community development projects are very complex. They require a lot of different funding sources, both public and private to make them work,” said Schlorholtz. “The reason for that is that people of low income cannot support the cost of an expensive development.”
Not that Schlorholtz would be deterred by that.
“The way she really helped was by responding to the request right away. Boston Private offered us a very good package for the health center. We knew she was doing it to help, Williams said. “Esther came in, looked at us, and took the risk knowing we were a worthwhile investment.”
Schlorholtz said helping the city grow and change since she entered the profession in the mid-1980s has been among the most gratifying experiences in her career.
The transformation that I’ve seen over all these years is simply amazing,” she said. “You would find large swathes of vacant land. It was a terrible thing.”