The Spirit of America Bank in Milford donated $71,000 to local community support groups last week as part of its annual community reinvestment plan. A full participant in the Community Reinvestment Act, Spirit of America annually donates a portion of its profits to various groups in the area which seek to reinvest money into struggling neighborhoods in need of a boost.
“The Community Reinvestment Act was enacted by the federal government in 1977, and with that act, the government sanctioned all financial institutions to give back to the communities they serve,” said India Davis, CRA officer for Spirit of America Bank. “I am happy to tell you that Spirit of America fully complies. As the CRA officer, part of my responsibility is to go out into the community and work with our community leaders, partners and people to seek out partnerships for the bank. These organizations assist the bank in our community in these goals.”
Presentations included checks to a number of groups from Clermont and Hamilton counties which reinvest in local communities, including Clermont 20/20 and Habitat for Humanity. Mary Hurlburt, executive director of Consumer Credit Counseling Services, said that the partnership had been beneficial in many ways.
“The impact that Spirit has had on this community is phenomenal,” said Hurlburt. “This is a marvelous partnership.”
"I live in Over the Rhine, and I've raised two children," said Jones. "I have a 22-year-old who is graduating from Wright State University, and I'm very proud of that. She said she is going to come back home to work because that's where we live."
Willie Hill III, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative, said that his organization is dedicated to helping depressed areas build businesses through counseling and small business loans.
"We are a small non-profit to work with businesses in low income areas," said Hill. "We work with anyone interested in starting a business. Our primary focus is to develop these neighborhoods and bring income and jobs back to them. We had a woman start a childcare business, and started paying back that loan slowly. She got her business in order, came back to us, paid us off, and asked for a loan to expand to a full center instead of being a home provider."
Because of that small loan, said Hill, several jobs were created, with the expectation of several more. In addition, a vital community need is now being met.
"She borrowed the money and has now doubled her revenue, and is thinking about opening another center in another low income neighborhood," said Hill. "The impact of even a small loan has resulted in five jobs in the current center, and possibly more in a new center."
A donation made to Habitat for Humanity tipped the scales at $100,000 donated by Spirit of America to the organization, which is continuing work to replace housing in New Richmond.
"This will be our ninth flood plain house," said representative O'Neal Johnston. "Ten years ago, New Richmond flooded. We had three homes there with habitat families. They all left their homes and returned to dry beds and strong foundations. There were over 100 homes lost in New Richmond, and they're still struggling."
Johnston said that the donation would go farther than its size would suggest, noting that the nature of the Habitat for Humanity loan system recycles money to be used in future efforts.
"The funds which pay for the costs, they pay back Habitat that money, so it's recycled," said Johnston. "This isn't just a one-time donation, it exists in perpetuity and will continue to give. We have 32 house in Clermont County."
Over the Rhine Community Housing director Mary Burke accepted her donation, explaining that many homeowners earn less than what it takes to own and maintain a home and purchase other necessities, such as food or medication. Chris Owens, director of development for People Working Cooperatively, said that work is needed to help citizens, especially older citizens or injured or sickly individuals, who need help to maintain their homes.
"We're a 32-year-old organization that helps provide home repairs," said Owens. "We provide extension energy conservation services to low-income home owners. We call those we serve the 'invisible poor.' There is a misconception that if you own your own home, you can't be poor, and that's not true."
"Some people are a paycheck, if they even earn a paycheck, away from losing their home," added Owens. "Our goal is to keep people in their homes, in their neighborhoods, keep that property viable and not just do cosmetic repairs. We want the house to be safe and ready for the next generation. Just because you own your own home doesn't mean you don't need help."
Spirit of America National Bank is owned by Charming Shoppes, which was founded in the 1940s by two brothers who sold women's clothing from the trunk of their car. Now, Charming Shoppes operates over 2,400 stores nation wide, including the lines Fashion Bug, Lane Bryant, Catherine's Plus Sizes and Petite Sophistocate. Spirit of America was formed in 1991.