$150,000 Awarded to Local Nonprofits at 21st Annual Customers’ Choice Community Grants Event

In the 21st year of our Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program, we awarded $150,000 to 46 area nonprofits in honor of Florence Bank’s 150th anniversary.

“I know the total we announced we would award this year was $125,000, but I feel like $150,000 would be a more appropriate amount to celebrate the 150 years that Florence Bank has been in existence,” said President and CEO Matt Garrity in leading his first Customers’ Choice celebration Tuesday, May 16. 

“It’s amazing to see so many community organizations being recognized, and the fact that the recognition comes from Florence Bank customers in the form of votes is really special,” he added. “So, let’s all raise our glasses and toast the good things that have been around for a long time.” 

Matt handed checks to 46 nonprofit leaders across the region, awarding 13 with $5,000 gifts—the most ever granted in 21 years—and presenting $500 surprise awards to 10 organizations that fell just short of the required 50-vote count.

These organizations received $5,000 grants: Dakin Humane Society, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Amherst Survival Center, Friends of the Williamsburg Library, Northampton Survival Center, Goshen Firefighter’s Association, Inc., Cancer Connection, Manna Soup Kitchen, It Takes a Village, Friends of Forbes Library, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Our Lady of the Hills Parish, and Friends of Lilly Library.

And these organizations received unexpected $500 awards: the Children's Advocacy Center of Hampshire County, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke, Gray House, Holyoke Community College Foundation, Mental Health Association, Inc., Springfield Rescue Mission, The Parish Cupboard, and Thomas J. O’Connor Animal Control & Adoption Center.

As always, the festivities at Look Park were celebratory as nonprofit leaders expressed their gratitude for Florence Bank as a community partner.

“This grant will do us a world of good,” said Kevin McKinney, president of the Northampton Football League, which received an award for the first time in the amount of $2,545. “We will likely use the funds for new shoulder pads or other safety equipment. The money will help us keep kids safe and healthy. That’s our main focus at Northampton Football.”

Kevin added that he believes Florence Bank is the local bank that’s most involved in the community. 

Kristin DeBoer, executive director of Kestrel Land Trust, an organization based in Amherst that has a mission to conserve, care for, and connect to the forest land and river ways of the Connecticut River of Massachusetts, also expressed appreciation.

We’re grateful for engagement by local business leaders such as Florence Bank,” she said. “Conservation matters to everyone. It makes sense to have local businesses engaged in the mission of local land conservation.”

Kestrel has received a Florence Bank grant eight times and accepted $3,427 this year. Kristin said in the past, the funds have been used for programming that allows urban youth to access conservation land and make it relevant and real to them as a place they can enjoy. 

This year, the grant money will be used to help in gathering community input on how to revitalize an urban forest park in Holyoke, called Anniversary Hill. The natural park has a significant trail network that could be improved and enjoyed by nearby residents and families in Holyoke.

Florence Bank’s community grants program is an annual offering founded in 2002 and, through it, Florence Bank customers are invited to vote for their favorite local nonprofit in hopes it will receive a share of grant funding.

Voting takes place all year long, online at www.florencebank.com/vote and in bank branches, and each customer has only one vote. To qualify for a community grant, organizations must receive at least 50 votes. In 2022, roughly 7,000 votes were cast, making 36 nonprofits eligible for a grant; the other 10 funded organizations were invited to attend the event and were surprised with their $500 award.

Over the past 21 years, Florence Bank has donated a total of $1.5 million to 165 organizations.

At the 21st annual event, Northampton Youth Football was the only organization to receive funds for the first time, and four awards went to organizations in Hampden County, where Florence Bank now has three branches and has established a presence as a good neighbor. 

Organizations receiving awards range from police, fire, library, and school groups to nonprofits that provide food, shelter or support to people living with a serious illness or disability. These other organizations received an award: 

Williamsburg Firefighter Association, $4,701; Bernese Auction Rescue Coalition / BARC, Inc., $4,652; Easthampton Community Center, $4,309; Friends of M.N. Spear Memorial Library, $4,064; Northampton Neighbors, $4,064; Springfield Shriners Hospitals for Children, $3,917; Grow Food Northampton, Inc., $3,819; Amherst Neighbors, $3,721; Smith Vocational High School PTO, $3,721; Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, $3,624; Performing Arts Charter School, $3,575; Therapeutic Equestrian Center, $3,575; Edward Hopkins Educational Foundation, $3,330; Northampton Community Music Center, $3,232; Safe Passage, $3,134; Empty Arms Bereavement Support, $2,987; New Hingham Elementary School PTO, $2,987; R.K. Finn Ryan Road School, $2,889; Whole Children, $2,693; Belchertown K-9, $2,595; and Tapestry $2,448.

Visit florencebank.com/winners-list to download the complete list of grant recipients.