It’s been a little over a year since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. More than 200,000 people left the island, a U.S. territory, for this country. Some of those individuals and families came to Lorain County — at least temporarily — to make a new home among family and friends who were already here.
“We have a very high population of Hispanics in Lorain County. We are a very diverse community,” says Kevin Nelson, Northwest Bank's Ohio Region president. “The people arriving were our new neighbors. We wanted to take care of them the best we could and to take some of the burden off Executive Director Victor Leandry and his team at El Centro de Servicios Sociales.”
El Centro is a nonprofit organization that serves Hispanics and others from underserved populations with support services, as well as with employment and educational opportunities.
“We had a branch right next door to El Centro, and I befriended Victor. I would stop by and we would chat about how we could make things better in the community,” recalls Nelson. “Puerto Rico is a tropical country, and these families were coming here without coats or winter clothing.”
Northwest Bank spearheaded a winter clothing drive that was coordinated by Denise Harmych, regional administrative support, and the bank’s management team. Because the clothing was new or only gently used, no doubt those thick warm coats will be used again by their new owners this cold Ohio winter or passed down to younger siblings.
“We set up a site in the basement of our building where families could look through the donated clothing,” says Victor Leandry. “We served close to 300 families this past year. Most of the clothing is gone, and we are not collecting any more at this point. But the winter clothing collection by Northwest Bank was a blessing. They were very well organized and always called us to keep us informed about how the drive was going.”
Nelson says the drive was “very successful,” helping school kids to be dressed for the winter, as well as adults who needed appropriate clothing when looking for employment.
Northwest Bank has aided El Centro in additional ways. Nelson says the financial institution is “a continual donor of funds from an operating standpoint,” and has also donated excess furniture to the center.
“Donating things like desks and cubicles to their offices means it is money they don’t have to spend, and which can be spent in different ways to help others,” explains Nelson. “Victor is selfless and very involved in the community. He’s a visionary. We want to do whatever we can to take a burden off his and El Centro’s plate.”
Northwest Bank also cares about the communities in which it operates, according to Nelson, and calls clients “neighbors and friends.”
“It’s not just about doing business, but if we can support a healthy environment, everyone wins,” says Nelson. (Northwest Bank is a full-service financial institution with 19 offices throughout Lorain, Cuyahoga and Summit counties. Northwest.com)