Commerce Bank team members find ways to give back during the COVID-19 crisis
Almost every aspect of daily life has changed since the first cases of COVID-19 appeared in the U.S. At Commerce Bank, one thing that hasn’t changed is our team members’ level of involvement in their communities. As the crisis has continued, the people of Commerce have sprung into action and are doing what they can to help.
Training Specialist Angela Reed, for example, has been spending time in the evenings and on weekends making face masks with her daughter. In addition to donating them to a Kansas City-area hospital, she is also making them for friends and family. “We’re using fabric that I’ve had from when my mother passed away,” she says. “She would be so proud to know her fabric has gone to a great cause.”
Reed isn’t alone in her mask-making efforts; Senior Intelligent Marketing Automation Product Manager Lily Pankratz has been doing the same thing for retirement homes, hospitals and individuals in Kansas City as well as her native Wichita. She makes them in batches of 20, noting that her first batch took two full days to make.
Pankratz was motivated by her mother and aunt, who have also been making masks for hospitals. “I’ve been invigorated by their efforts,” she says. “They’re role models for me. My mom owns a fabric store, and I grew up sewing, so it came naturally. I want to help people be as prepared as possible.”
Others at Commerce are doing what they can to keep small businesses afloat. Vice President and Payments Product Manager Angela Waters and her neighbors are supporting local restaurants by ordering dinner as a group and enjoying it “together” on their driveways. The first week, more than 40 homes participated. “We’ve continued to order locally each week,” she says, “and we’ve inspired other neighborhoods to do the same.”
Community Relations Vice President Jenny Hoelzer is one of many team members volunteering her time to help nonprofits that have had to radically alter the way they work due to coronavirus. Hoelzer and a fellow team member spent an afternoon at KidSmart, a St. Louis-area nonprofit that provides children with free school supplies. They assembled packets of school supplies to be distributed to kids alongside the free lunches school districts are providing.
“I’m hoping to have the opportunity to do it again soon,” Hoelzer says. “This organization could have shut their doors during this time, but instead, they’re distributing hundreds of thousands of packets of supplies. I wanted to help.”
A number of team members are organizing donation drives to collect money for food banks in their local markets. Chris Sweet, a senior vice president with Commerce Trust in Springfield, Mo., organized a donation drive to support Ozarks Food Harvest.
“They’re an incredible organization in that with each dollar donated, they can provide four meals,” Sweet says. “Our team wanted to focus on people in need, and this was a great way do that.” At last word, the team had raised more than $1,600, which would provide more than 6,000 meals.
Some of Sweet’s peers in other markets followed suit. Brennan Hampton, a private banking relationship manager for Commerce Trust, set a goal for his Kansas City colleagues to raise $2,500 for Harvesters, a local food bank. Area team members exceeded that goal in the first 24 hours and went on to raise nearly $3,800. A similar effort is now underway to raise funds for the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
There are many other examples of Commerce team members pitching in to help out. Database administration manager Chad Boline donated platelets. Talent management director Shawna Wright is organizing a team to participate in a virtual walk to support Junior Achievement. Personal banker Chad Abernathy organized a livestream concert to benefit musicians whose livelihoods have been greatly impacted by COVID-19. The list goes on.
For Charlotte Kemper, director of charitable trusts and foundations at Commerce, this level of community involvement during a time of crisis is no surprise. “Our team members are good, bright people who really do care,” she says. “There’s so much volunteering happening all the time, and right now it’s happening at an even higher level.”
Kemper notes that Commerce has always been dedicated to helping the communities the bank serves. “We’re a part of the communities we live and work in, and we want to look after neighbors who need help,” she says. “If we’re able to lift up people who are struggling right now, it makes us all stronger. Doing the right thing is always the right choice.”