Giving Back, Giving Together
North central Pennsylvania is a geographically rugged region, with picturesque small towns and farms dotting the rolling landscape—clearly not a cityscape. But the problems of big cities are problems everywhere: children go hungry, we face an opioid epidemic, and resources are often scarce. But here, in the face of adversity, when we are in pain, our neighbors hear us and extend a hand to help.
Citizens & Northern Bank, based in Wellsboro, is a great example. C&N has been serving the banking needs of its neighbors for more than 100 years, but has also been a steward of other local community needs. Some time ago, employees began a tradition of “dress down” Fridays, soliciting a donation for the privilege of dressing casually at work, with proceeds going to local charities. Encouraged by their visible progress, the employees decided to make a larger contribution by selecting one cause and donating for “blue jeans Friday” one Friday per month. These funds collected monthly were used to help a different charity or non-profit annually. The concentrated, focused impact of their “Blue Jeans for Babies” campaign has resulted in an even more extensive organizational giving structure that now extends to all the regional bank branches. This grassroots campaign, created and funded by the generosity of employees, continues today.
Always wanting to do more, employees strived to have a bigger positive impact on the needs of the community. It was this desire that motivated the Giving Back, Giving Together community fundraising campaign, spearheaded by Charity Frantz (above, second from right), the director of marketing for the bank. This campaign began in March 2015 and has raised $175,000 for local charities and non-profit organizations since then. Each year, employees vote to select a local charity or non-profit organization, and then each bank branch forms a team. Each team’s members decides the activities they will engage in to raise money or collect goods and services, and then competes with the other teams. The first campaign under Giving Back, Giving Together targeted hunger, one of the many challenges facing families in local communities across the Twin Tiers, and the issue has become more widely felt as food prices have risen sharply all around the country. By working together in 2015, C&N employees supported the Feeding the Hungry campaign, raising an astounding $50,000 to reduce hunger. This was substantially more than their initial goal of $10,000, and the amazing effort resulted in donations to twenty food pantries across nine counties in our region of Pennsylvania and New York.
In 2016, Citizens & Northern employees elected to support local emergency services and first responders, with a campaign resulting in more than $60,000 raised to support those fire and ambulance services. The bank’s branches started competing in more creative ways this time around. Some branches, for instance, invited fire and emergency services to their locations for a children’s event, during which donations of supplies were collected. The kids got to learn about fire engines and emergency service work, and the volunteer first responders got a financial boost.
The most recent Giving Back, Giving Together campaign was a unique event to help local disadvantaged children. Employees raised $72,000 to remodel the Children’s House in Bradford County, with local contractors and volunteers pitching in to do the work. The Children’s House is a child and family advocacy center that gives the victims of child abuse a safe and comforting place to interact with law enforcement and child advocacy personnel. In addition to the local competition between bank branches, 2017 saw larger contributions from the corporate level of Citizens & Northern. A corporate golf tournament was just one event organized to help the Children’s House, raising over $20,000.
Another tournament is planned for June 25 for this year’s theme of supporting local libraries. The 2018 campaign will address literacy and local library resources (or lack thereof), two often overlooked needs in many communities.
For many of our neighbors, the library is the only access for Internet, and for children who need that access for research and schoolwork outside the classroom, the lack is particularly problematic. Regardless of the reasons—economic, geographic, technical, or some combination of those—lack of Internet access limits many children from advancement in a variety of educational activities and communications. Supporting the libraries that fill such a huge void, in turn, supports some of the unmet educational needs those children have.
So, local bank branches are planning everything from book readings to book drives. Community members can get involved by visiting their local Citizens and Northern branch and asking about Giving Back, Giving Together or by going to the bank’s Facebook page. Every “like” earned on the Facebook Giving Back, Giving Together hashtag results in one dollar toward the campaign.