Mechanics Bank Office Manager Honored As "Community Partner" Of The YearRecognition during National Volunteer Week
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RICHMOND, CA, April 25, 2013 — Jason Alabanza, Vice President at Mechanics Bank, likes to be involved with his community. In college, he planned to be a teacher, but a part-time job in banking turned into a fulltime career with Mechanics Bank. That didn’t stop him, however, from contributing to education in other ways. Mr. Alabanza, the Office Manager of Mechanics Bank’s Albany Office, currently sits on the board of the Albany Education Foundation, an independent community-based nonprofit dedicated to maintaining and improving the quality of Albany’s schools. Last year the foundation raised and distributed over $65,000 to fund activities ranging from class field trips to art and science supplies. That’s just one of the organizations to which Mr. Alabanza has contributed more than 400 hours of community service this past year.
On Wednesday, April 24, he was honored as the Mechanics Bank “Community Partner of the Year” at the E.M. Downer, Jr. Employee Recognition event. The award comes just in time for National Volunteer Week (April 21-27).
“As a community bank, one of the most important things we can do is support local nonprofits,” says Michael Downer, vice chairman of the board at Mechanics Bank and a great grandson of the Bank’s founder. “We’ve considered that to be part of our mission since the bank was founded more than107 years ago, and we do it not only with financial contributions, but by encouraging and rewarding our employees for their work in helping build and maintain prosperous communities where we operate. It is a virtuous cycle that ultimately rewards our shareholders by ensuring that our customers and employees thrive.”
Although many Bay Area organizations make generous cash contributions to local nonprofits, Mechanics Bank takes it a step further. A year ago this month, the bank launched a new, specially designed online platform to help employees find more and better opportunities to volunteer with local nonprofit organizations. Working with VolunteerMatch, a popular online service that is used as a recruiting tool by more than 81,000 nonprofit organizations nationwide, it created a customized platform to give employees access to a wider range of opportunities and help track the hours they contribute.
“It’s been said that if you don’t measure it, you don’t value it,” says Mr. Downer. “We wanted to emphasize the value we place on community involvement.”
The platform allows nonprofits to enter a request for both one-time and ongoing volunteer assistance. For example, they can request help staffing a special event, or detail the need for a skilled carpenter who can help repair or rehabilitate affordable housing. Organizations also can ask for volunteers to serve on their boards or in their gift shops. The volunteer recruitment system is open to any nonprofit, Mechanics Bank client or not.
When Mechanics Bank employees use the system to search for volunteer opportunities, they can look for requests that match their unique talents and interests in any geographic location, as well as respond to requests from Bank colleagues looking for help for a particular organization.
To further encourage employees to volunteer, the bank provides each employee with one and half days of paid time off to volunteer. And for some employees, participation in community organizations is one aspect of their performance evaluation.
Dozens of the bank’s employees recorded at least 50 hours of volunteer time this past year, even though many are still learning how to use the system. They give their time to support hundreds of organizations, ranging from Boys and Girls Clubs and Y’s to arts and education organizations, foster youth programs, family services organizations, affordable housing programs, child and youth advocacy groups, and financial literacy initiatives. They serve on the boards of community colleges, major performing arts organizations, chambers of commerce and other business-oriented groups.
For Jason Alabanza, being on the board of the Albany Education Foundation is just one of many community activities. He’s also an active Rotarian and volunteers each year for “Solano Stroll” via the Solano Avenue Merchants Association, the oldest and largest annual street fair in the East Bay. He donates time to classroom activities for Junior Achievement, too. In all, he spends nearly 40 hours per month on such activities.
“By far the best part of my volunteer work is handing out checks,” says Mr. Alabanza. “For the education foundation, each board member brings a stack of checks to one of the schools, and visits the classrooms to hand them out. Watching teachers’ and kids’ faces light up when they realize they’ll be getting that field trip to Lawrence Hall of Science or new art supplies—there’s nothing better than that.”
Maybe that’s the banker in him.
About Mechanics Bank For more than a century, Mechanics Bank has been committed to helping people build prosperous communities as a trusted financial partner, forging lasting relationships through teamwork, respect and integrity. The bank has consistently been recognized as one of the Top 100 Corporate Philanthropists in the Bay Area and one of the Best Places to Work in the Bay Area. The $3 billion independent bank, headquartered in Richmond, California, offers personal banking, business banking, trust and wealth management services across Northern California. For more information, please visit Mechanics Bank.