“It is better to build children than to repair broken adults,” says Royce Cumbest, CEO of Merchants & Marine Bank in Pascagoula, one of about 50 banks in Mississippi that are part of the Banks of Promise program aimed at providing volunteer services to America’s children.
“It is critical that young people get off to a good start,” Cumbest said. “It makes a world of difference. Children need to be around positive people, and their first experience in school is very important. Helping and encouraging young people is the best investment a person could make.”
Cumbest said the mission of the Banks of Promise program is to mobilize people from every sector of American life to build the character and confidence of America’s youth by fulfilling five promises: Providing caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, marketable skills and an opportunity to serve. Colin Powell, the U.S. Secretary of State and former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the founding chairman of America’s Promise, which encourages youth programs, mentoring and community service. Corporations across the country have gotten involved, with Banks of Progress one of the partners in the program.
Cumbest said Merchants & Marine Bank was involved for years in youth programs such as Little League before joining Banks of Progress. Now the bank does even more with programs such as the “It Pays To Study” campaign at Jackson Elementary School. Children receive cash rewards for reading books perfect attendance and improving their grades.
The bank also supports the Boys and Girls Clubs, and has a summer program providing work experience to youths.
“We have always tried to hire youth here for a summer work experience,” Cumbest said. “It is character building. The first job means a lot.”
First State Bank in Waynesboro targets its volunteer programs to hit all five areas of promise. Last year, First State Bank employees volunteered more than 4,000 man-hours. Alisha Lewis, marketing and public relations representative for First State Bank, said after the bank received a grant to help fund the BLAST after-school program, 25 volunteers immediately came forward.
“We were really surprised at the level of interest our staff took,” Lewis said. “We had to divide the scheduling plan to accommodate staff within the same department because so many of our staff wanted to volunteer. During that program, almost 600 students were reached with volunteers from the bank teaching math and money concepts.”
Lewis said college freshmen receive an average of eight credit card applications per week on campus. “We feel a real sense of urgency that our college students are prepared for that,” she said.
Kosciusko-based M&F Bank also is involved with teaching children about how to make wise financial decisions as part of the Banks of Promise program.
“By being part of the Banks of Promise, we can help children with many decisions, both financial and otherwise, that will affect their lives for years to come,” said Gina Develin, marketing and lifestyles coordinator for M&F Bank. “Our adopt-a-school program teaches children the importance of savings, as well as encourages them to excel in school. M&F Bank strongly encourages their associates who donate their time to this and other community driven events.”
Trustmark Bank supported the Teach Children to Save Day at their three Adopt-A-Schools in Jackson as part of their commitment to the Banks of Promise program.
“Our coordinator, Vickie Mason, lined up 35 volunteers to go to Boyd Elementary, McWillie Elementary and Callaway High Schools,” said Gray Wiggers, senior vice president of Trustmark Bank. “We provided a very simple book, ‘Dollars and Sense.’ This book served as a lesson planner. In addition, we read from the chapters to give illustrations of how to save for various events. We also took a small piggy bank to leave with each student.”
Trustmark sponsors 42 Adopt-A- Schools in the markets the bank serves.
“We sponsor three in Jackson and are the largest supporter in the state,” Wiggers said. “We also sponsor many and varied youth activities that range from chamber of commerce youth leadership programs to sports activities such as youth soccer and wheelchair basketball. We believe that sponsoring team building youth activities are important in building leadership.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.