When Bob Gillis walks down the street in his hometown of Gloucester, cars beep and pedestrians wave, according to John Brennan, a vice president and senior trust officer at Cape Ann Savings Bank.
“I’ve walked a few blocks with Bob and usually about a half-dozen people will honk at him, will wave to him. He’s one of these guys who knows everyone in the city,” said Brennan.
Robert J. Gillis Jr., a vice president who oversees all lending at Cape Ann Savings Bank, has worked at the bank for 37 years. Over that time he’s worn many hats, starting as a teller, working in the loan servicing department, acting as the bank’s CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) officer, and working to grow the bank’s commercial lending department.
“I really enjoyed them all because they all involve working with people and that’s what I like best about my job,” said Gillis.
But longevity isn’t the reason Gillis is being honored with Banker & Tradesman’s Community Bank Hero Award. Gillis is someone who appreciates his good fortune and honors it by giving back.
Over the years, he has served as president of the Rockport Rotary Club, president of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce and has served on the board of directors for the local food pantry “The Open Door,” and the Cape Ann YMCA. He is currently vice president of the board of directors of Harborlight Community Partners, a non-profit affordable housing agency based in Beverly that provides housing for low-income seniors and families in Gloucester, Rockport, Peabody, Beverly, Hamilton and Ipswich.
For his vacation in February, Gillis travelled to Nicaragua to install water purifiers in residential homes. He said he started traveling there with a friend who founded an organization called “El Porvenir,” which is dedicated to improving life in rural villages that lack access to most basis services.
“He was the ringleader. I was just one of his soldiers,” Gillis said. “I’ve been down there twice … that’s been gratifying to see how other people live and to meet people from other cultures.”
Brennan says Gillis is humble about his accomplishments. “I don’t know where he finds the time. He’s a very selfless guy.”
Gillis credits the bank with allowing him to help others. “First and foremost my bank is very community-oriented and they’ve allowed me to get involved in these things. They’ve been very supportive of me,” Gillis said. “I consider myself very fortunate in general. I feel as though if you have this kind of good fortune that I’ve had most of my life then you try to pass it on.”
Brennan points out that Gillis’ goodwill has been mutually beneficial for the bank.
“Bob exemplifies the spirit of community banking. People identify Bob with our bank. You will go to Timbuktu and you’ll say, ‘I work for Cape Ann Savings Bank,’ and they’ll say, ‘Bob Gillis.’”