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A Century of Giving Back

The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod celebrates it’s 100th birthday by providing gifts to Cape nonprofits.

When relating the story of how her grandfather, Cummaquid resident Bernie Wilber, secured his first mortgage, The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod’s First Vice President and Controller Katie Hartley is a little fuzzy on the details. Like most stories shared between the generations, the details aren’t as important as the lessons that the tale imparts.

“As a student, I used to spend summers working on the Cape because I was very close with my grandfather, who was a builder,” says Hartley, a native of Rhode Island. “One day I asked him why he didn’t bank with the Bank of America like I did.”

As Hartley recalls, Wilber’s response went something like this: “We don’t need big banks here. We have small banks on the Cape, and I bank at The Coop. When I went to get my first mortgage at another bank, they denied me. So I went to the bank next door, which was the Cape Cod Cooperative Bank. I told them what I did for a living, how much I earned and how hard I work, and they gave me a mortgage.”

While the bank’s name has changed slightly in the ensuing decades, The Coop’s collegial, customer-centric and supportive spirit remain the same as the bank celebrates its 100th anniversary this summer. 

Yarmouth Port Original: The Yarmouth Port branch, 121 Route 6A, is shown in the 1990s.

In fact, The Coop’s generous culture is encoded in the bank’s DNA, as outlined in the bank’s mission statement, which reads, in part, “We are fully committed to the communities where we live and work and support them with resources–human and financial–to help them flourish.”

As a result, The Coop is flourishing like never before. “I don’t think that a community bank like ours could survive–and be as strong and as vibrant as we’ve ever been – without a culture that’s primarily focused on helping our customers and potential clients to solve their problems and achieve their financial goals,” says Lisa Oliver, President, Chair and CEO. “Our purpose is to help people buy homes, start and grow businesses and build stronger communities.”

As Oliver and Hartley point out, the fact that The Coop is a mutual bank–not a shareholder-owned, publicly traded institution–enables it to focus solely upon its customers and community. By definition, anyone who opens an account with a mutual bank is an “owner” of the bank–and is treated as a shareholder. So when The Coop generates a profit, the “dividends,” so to speak, go right back to the community, whether it’s in the form of new loans, financial support for community events or charitable donations to nonprofit organizations that benefit Cape Codders.    

“Where we don’t have shareholders, we don’t have to worry about our share price or pay a dividend,” notes Lee Ann Hesse, Senior Vice President and Chief Engagement Officer for the bank. “As a mutual bank, we have this wonderful opportunity to take the money that we make and reinvest it in the Cape Cod community, whether it’s in the form of providing great careers for our employees or supporting our customers and communities.”

Yarmouth Port Now: The Bank’s oldest full-service branch is at 121 Route 6A in Yarmouth Port. It was remodeled in 2012.

$100K in 100 Days

To commemorate its 100th, The Coop will be celebrating in a way that might seem a bit unorthodox, especially for a bank. In the 100 days leading up to its July 19 birthday, The Coop will donate $100,000 to local nonprofit organizations.  

“It’s wonderful to have a celebration and give other people gifts,” says Hesse. “When we were thinking about how to celebrate our 100th anniversary, we didn’t want to simply say how great we are. We wanted to take this opportunity to reinforce who we are by showing how much we love and support the communities that we serve.”

To be eligible for an award, a non-profit organization must be based in Barnstable County, serve Cape Cod residents and address the needs of one of the Coop’s four philanthropic focus areas for 2021:

  • Financial literacy
  • Covid-19 health support
  • Housing initiatives
  • Social justice and equity

The bank has formed a committee to oversee distribution of the funds. In addition, bank leadership has earmarked $10,000 that will be distributed to nonprofits based upon a company-wide vote. The giving decisions will be announced on July 19th.

While philanthropy has long been a bank hallmark, The Coop cemented its status as one of the region’s most generous institutions when it launched The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod Charitable Foundation Trust in 2018. The Coop Foundation serves to enhance and expand upon–not replace–The Coop’s existing community giving program.

“We’ve always given to the community, but we gave out of our bank’s income statement,” says Oliver, the bank’s fifth–and first female–leader. “Now, if we do a good job of running The Coop Foundation, we’ll be able to make an even greater impact by helping local organizations address the region’s most pressing social needs.”

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