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Updated: October 21, 2019

Webster Bank goes the extra mile for nonprofits

Photos | Contributed A group of Webster Bank employees last year volunteered to build playhouses for Habitat for Humanity at its ReStore facility in Bloomfield. The group of 15 bankers built two playhouses for Habitat clients and the nonprofit organization Interval House. Pictured are the two themed playhouses — a superhero theme, which was donated to Interval House, and the princess-themed playhouse, which went to the home of a young Habitat client.


Webster Bank

As the CEO of CCARC, an established New Britain nonprofit for those with intellectual disabilities, Anne Ruwet is used to working with volunteers from local businesses.

But she was pleasantly surprised to get this question from some Webster Bank employees who had been regularly helping with projects and fundraising: “What more can we do? We want to begin to get a little more active.”

Since that question was asked in 2015, six or seven Webster employees have been making the trip to CCARC's headquarters monthly to engage directly with disabled adults. That’s in addition to the bank’s steadfast support for the nonprofit’s fundraising events and giving toward CCARC’s recent capital campaign to refurbish its group homes.

Even in retirement, Webster Bank executives turn out to support fundraisers, Ruwet said.

“It’s the partnership overall with Webster, but it’s also the people with Webster,” Ruwet said.

For Waterbury-based Webster Bank, its own employees are key to the bank’s giving, driving a strategy that focuses on meeting basic community needs.

“When we talk about Webster’s philosophy around philanthropy, it’s about the people who are part of the Webster family, the people who work here,” said Kathryn Luria, the bank’s senior vice president of philanthropy and community affairs. “They’re focused on making sure that our communities are strong in whatever way that they can.”

That philanthropy centers on $5 million in yearly gifts to nonprofits in five states, with $1.2 million of that going directly to the Hartford region. Employees across the bank’s 157 branches also volunteer an estimated 130,000 hours of their time each year and are each eligible for up to 16 hours of paid time annually for community service.

“When you join the Webster family, you are a part of what we can do to help make a difference in our communities. It’s not only about the grant-making … it’s about building partnerships,” Luria said.

Those partnerships focus on nonprofits that work on issues around human services, meeting basic needs like food and shelter, and financial literacy. One longtime beneficiary has been Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, which organizes youth programs on workreadiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.

“When we think about organizations like Junior Achievement, they are very structured, they are very focused on results,” Luria said.

For Interval House, the state’s largest domestic-violence nonprofit, Webster’s support comes in a variety of forms, said Mary-Jane Foster, president and CEO.

“It’s a long-term relationship and it’s been a really thoughtful, comprehensive relationship,” Foster said. Two Webster Bank executives currently serve on Interval House’s board, and the bank recently organized a collaboration with Habitat for Humanity to build a new playhouse at the nonprofit’s main shelter.

“These are highly engaged people who work very, very hard on our behalf,” Foster said. “They are there for us on so many levels.”

Webster is also increasingly looking at environmental sustainability, having signed on as the presenting sponsor of the first-ever RiMaConn Relay, a race that promotes the region’s trail systems and eco-friendly practices.

Going forward, Webster Bank is looking for more collaborative projects that arise from community members and involve a range of stakeholders from the very beginning. That model of giving reflects nationwide trends in corporate philanthropy as exemplified by the Working Cities Challenge program, which Webster has championed in the state.

In the Working Cities Challenge, communities compete to win $450,000 grants to improve the lives of low-income residents and are judged on their ability to collaborate across sectors, engage community members and measure outcomes.

“It’s all about finding new ways to work together,” Luria said.

For CCARC's Ruwet, Webster Bank is one of the companies she can rely on every year when she needs funding, volunteers or support for an event. The bank helped fund the nonprofit’s main facility on Slater Road, taking a leadership role when the organization’s first capital campaign was launched in 2002.

“As a nonprofit you really need those partners in the community,” Ruwet said of Webster Bank. “Honestly, it’s hard to find in this day and age — corporate partners that really step up like Webster has.”

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