When the past winter’s historic snowfall caused a partial roof collapse and closure of Bridgewater’s Mitchell Elementary School, James Lively was ready to help.
Pupils were relocated to other schools in the district, but a Bridgewater Savings Bank employee whose son is a kindergartner pointed out that many school supplies were left behind.
“She brought it to our attention that a lot of the kids had lost their crayons and markers because of the roof collapse. We decided to donate $1,000 to the school system and we were the largest donor to that effort,” said Lively, the bank’s CEO since 1995.
Lively has long made a priority of aiding community groups and responding quickly to appeals for aid. In 2003, he founded the bank’s charitable foundation. The board meets on the first Wednesday of the month to review the latest applications, and notifies recipients immediately afterward.
“We try to award them fairly quickly,” Lively said. “It’s a pretty quick turnaround.”
The foundation raises nearly $38,000 a year, all of which is returned to the community through contributions and grants. The bank donates up to 10 percent of its after-tax profits, for an annual charitable distribution that ranges from $150,000 to $170,000 a year. Bridgewater Savings also awards over $20,000 annually in scholarships to high school seniors.
The bank limits most donations to $2,500 to reach as many organizations as possible in the eight communities where it operates branches. Recent recipients range from energy and fuel assistance programs for low-income households to new furniture for a computer lounge at the Bridgewater Senior Center.
Lively said his receipt of the Community Banking Heroes award reflects a team approach by the bank’s 106 employees, who are encouraged to take part in community and philanthropic activities. Employees regularly volunteer for organizations such as the local Habitat for Humanity chapter, Old Colony YMCA and the Special Olympics at Bridgewater State University. In May, Bridgewater Savings employees participated in a fundraiser for the Taunton-based Homes for Our Troops charity, which builds mortgage-free, accessible homes for severely injured veterans.
Branch managers are urged to form connections with their communities as well. Kelly Le, manager of the newest branch which opened in 2012 in Pembroke, is treasurer of the Kiwanis Club of Pembroke and vice president of the Pembroke Chamber of Commerce, Lively noted. “She’s a very outgoing, engaging person and that’s the type of person we look for,” he said.
The bank has stepped up its leadership role in Bridgewater’s Operation Santa holiday charity for needy children following the death last year of Town Clerk Ron Adams, the charity’s longtime chairman. In the summer, it supports the town’s Fourth of July celebration as a sponsor of musical acts. Bank employees who attend the event are given an extra vacation day.
“We try to make it a family event, and we’ve had good participation over the years,” Lively said.