WARRANDYTE Community Bank Branch has celebrated its 15-year anniversary at a special event held on Friday March 23.
Over 140 shareholders, community group representatives, directors, staff members and dignitaries gathered in The Grand Hotel’s Riverview Room to acknowledge the ongoing community service of the bank, which since its inception in 2003, has donated $2.8 million in community grants and sponsorships.
Community liaison officer Dee Dickson, who organised the celebration, said the event was so meaningful because it was not just about giving money, but about building a sense of community.
“The number of people that came to me and said we value your partnership and the relationships that the bank creates and fosters, that was really lovely to hear,” she said.
Branch chairman Aaron Farr said in his speech, that ordinary customers helped provide valuable community resources and facilities just by banking with the local branch.
“We are giving money back, and that’s our way of contributing but, we couldn’t do that without our customers,” he said.
“Thank-you to everyone in this room, because you are the reason we can do that.”
According to the bank’s 2017/18 financial reports, the branch returned over $400,000 in charitable donations to local schools, sporting clubs, emergency services and community groups in that financial year alone, which was nearly 80 per cent of its operating profit.
Mr Farr said in his speech, that the bank aims to grow that effort in the years to come.
“How nice would it be in another 15 years to be giving back $1 million a year,” he said.
“Just think of what we could actually achieve.”
Guests heard about the positive impact the bank’s various donations and contributions have had upon the local community, including a $30,000 grant awarded to the Burch Memorial Preschool, which allowed for much needed renovations and provided a second educational space for the preschool’s limited three-year-old program.
Burch Memorial Preschool President Sharmini Philp said in her speech, that the funding helped create a crucial support network for young families that was previously missing in Wonga Park.
“We don’t really have the words to describe the impact the Warrandyte Community Bank grant has had in our community,” she said.
“I still get goosebumps when I think about it.”
Ms Philp also said the preschool community did not just value the funding, but also the support, encouragement and guidance they received from the bank.
“They were actively involved and shared the journey with us,” she said.
“We really had no idea about the process at the time and the guidance from the Warrandyte Community Bank staff was amazing.”
Ms Dickson said the project was among those she was most passionate about, because the funding did not just provide infrastructure, but gave the preschool a space where young families could come together and meet.
“It ticks every box and exemplifies everything we hold dear to us,”
“Those sorts of projects really bring people in the community together.”
The branch also offers a scholarship program for first-time tertiary students whose circumstances might make a university degree otherwise unattainable, with funding of $10,000 delivered over the first two years of study.
Alex Ward, a nursing and paramedicine student at the Australian Catholic University in Ballarat, is currently in her second year of scholarship funding.
Alex, who has had to move to Ballarat, said the scholarship helped her pay for expenses such as, food, rent, petrol, textbooks and placement uniforms.
“If it was not for the scholarship, I would never have been able to study this degree,” she said.
“It’s the entire reason I can study in Ballarat.”
The branch, which is a franchise of the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank group, was created thanks to funding from locals, following the closure of the last of the big banks in Warrandyte.
John Provan, a founding director and shareholder, said in his speech that a volunteer steering committee of local business owners and club representatives made an enormous contribution in establishing the branch.
“We attended the local markets and the festival, selling shares to raise the necessary $600,000 plus, from approximately 360 shareholders, to commence the branch,” he said.
“It’s been a long haul and we didn’t dream we’d get to this stage.”
After the formalities, guests were able to socialise, relax, have a drink and enjoy the live music by Nick Charles and Mick Pealing.