Chris Caldwell certainly understands the concept of return on investment. He sees it every day. As a 26-year veteran of the banking industry, he finds it in the partnerships he forges in business. As a 26-year volunteer with United Way, he sees the ROI it produces in the community equally rewarding.
“I have been involved with United Way since I started my banking career,” says Caldwell, a senior vice president in charge of commercial lending at Mutual Bank. “I personally have been a campaign chair in two different communities. I have been part of leadership giving efforts and been involved in numerous other ways for many past campaigns. I’ve joined the Days in Action volunteer projects. It is a great way to both help hands on in the community and work side-by-side with my MutualBank colleagues.”
“What appeals to me most is the way United Way works to actively target specific needs in our community after doing extensive analysis to determine where funds can best make an impact for our homes. Here in Delaware County, United Way has conducted ‘listening sessions’ across our community to determine how to best help address reading issues for children. The result was a partnership with several other agencies to help our community create better readers in a child’s formative years.”
“United Way’s work in funding programs that support education, income and health are a perfect fit with our corporate values,” echoes Pat Botts, president and COO at MutualBank. He has been on the board of directors, worked on the campaign in various capacities and served on the finance committee. “As the individuals in our communities prosper and benefit from United Way funded programs, all of our stakeholders benefit as well. On a personal level, I feel good about supporting those who need us and providing them with hope for a better future.
“I’ve been involved in some way or another since I started at the bank. United Way’s broad reach and ability to see community needs has made supporting them ingrained our bank culture since long before I arrived.”
MutualBank has its home office in Muncie and has continuously cultivated a partnership with the United Way and its affiliated agencies. As the bank’s footprint extended through Allen, Elkhart, Grant, Kosciusko, Randolph, St. Joseph and Wabash counties, the partnership with United Way has followed along. Staff members in each of those communities invest in the local UW as well.
In Elkhart County, one of the most important new United Way initiatives has been ALICE, an acronym for residents who are asset limited, income constrained and employed. In other words, people who often struggle to make ends meet today and see little hope in tomorrow, despite working full time. Vince Turner is a member of the ALICE task force.
“It has been an eye opening experience.” confesses Turner, who serves as MutualBank’s regional manager for Elkhart and Kosciusko counties. “So many times we shrug our shoulders and assume many of those who need assistance are just not working hard enough or not doing enough of the ‘right things’ to better themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth!
“The task force heard story after story about hard working people who were, indeed, trying to make things better for themselves and their families. One story that especially struck me involved a single mother who was working two and sometimes three part time jobs and trying to get back into school. Yet every time she seemed to be making progress, she would face other hurdle. Where can she find adequate child care? What happens when her less-than-reliable transportation breaks downs?
“Then it hit me that this young woman was more than a faceless member of our community. She could very well be one of our customers. Chances are her children play in the park with my grandchildren. It will certainly make me a bit more engaged as we begin this year’s campaign.”
The return on investment is clear. In the recently released 2015 annual report, United Way of Elkhart County highlights some very impactful numbers. UW programs have helped 94 families earn the keys to their first house, 79 families save enough to enroll in college and 59 families improve their credit scores by 30 points or more. The agency’s reading initiatives brought together 374 volunteers who donated more than 2,800 hours to impact the lives of 3,700 young people. The Medical Assistance Network helped thousands of local residents obtain prescriptions they otherwise would not have been able to afford, turning every dollar of donated funds into $38 in medication secured.
Those numbers, matched with the faces of our friends, neighbors and coworkers who are touched by these initiatives, will be the spark that will soon ignite giving campaigns in hundreds of businesses across the MutualBank footprint. Bill Rieth, his staff and hundreds of volunteers will be very, very engaged. It is a win/win proposition.
“Companies that participate in the community reap many benefits,” notes Rieth, who serves as executive director for the United Way of Elkhart County. “Research indicates that customers are more loyal and employees are happier when they are involved in a company that gives back. The company also benefits as they gain new perspectives on their community. This helps companies better connect.
“Businesses also benefit when they advance the ‘common good.’ When we see people’s lives improve, we see a positive ripple effect in the community with stronger families, better neighborhoods, safer communities and happier workers.”
“I cannot begin to accurately put into words the power of the United Way and the power of investing in their efforts,” Caldwell says. “What can do, what it is already doing in our communities is simply awesome. It is truly helping people live better lives.
MutualFirst Financial, Inc. is the parent company of MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution since 1889. MutualBank has thirty two full-service retail financial centers, including three in Elkhart County and five in Kosciusko County. MutualBank provides a full range of financial services including commercial and business banking, personal banking, wealth management, trust services, investments and internet banking services. The Company's stock is traded on the NASDAQ National Market under the symbol "MFSF". Additional information can be found online at www.bankwithmutual.com.