Maria Pinarreta was surprised to hear she’d been named a Community Bank Hero. “I just do what I need to do,” Pinarreta said.

Her resume suggests otherwise.

For starters, there’s her commitment to the industry. Pinarreta’s career in community banking spans 45 years. Beginning as a teller at Luzo Community Bank while in high school, she worked her way up to president of the bank before it was purchased by BankFive in 2007. She is currently vice president of retail administration and regional branch manager at BankFive.

Then there’s her lengthy list of community involvements. She is board member of the Immigrants Assistance Center, the Greater New Bedford Workforce and the YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts, where she has also served as treasurer since 2014. She is a chamber ambassador for the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce, a member of the United Way of Greater New Bedford’s Cabinet Committee, and part of the finance committee for Our Sister School, a tuition-free school for girls from low-income families.

And, of course, there’s her character. “Maria is someone I love and look up to … She really does all she can to help not just her customers but her community,” said Andrea Amaral Rodrigues, vice president, marketing manager at BankFive. “One important thing to her success is [that] she’s always been open to new things … She has all this great experience; she could easily just say, ‘I already have the experience and knowledge I need,’ but she’s always willing to learn.”

To the humble Pinarreta, the motivation behind her work is about as straightforward as it gets: “I like helping,” she said. “I love the fact that I can come to work and, in such a small way, help someone who needs it. And to you or me, it might seem so insignificant, but to them it’s such a big deal.”

Pinarreta knows firsthand the impact a helping hand can have. An Anzorean immigrant, Pinarreta came to the United States with her family when she was just 12 years old. She remembers being a young girl and visiting the bank with her father, who did not speak English. “There was this beautiful woman [Brenda Lopes] who was bilingual, and she was so kind to my father,” Pinarreta recalled. “I used to tell her, ‘It’s your fault that I became a banker, because I wanted to be like you.’”

Pinarreta is also thankful to the teachers who helped her succeed in school after she’d learned English. “One teacher said to me, ‘You are like a diamond in the rough,’ and I look at it as, if she saw that in me at that young age, then I have an obligation to shine every single day,” Pinarreta said. “So every single day I try to be a little bit better, to help someone and be positive about what I do.” n

Maria Pinarreta

by Anna Sims time to read: 2 min