Main Street Focus

A Maryland community bank expands holiday cheer

By Carol Patton

Five-hundred-fifty-nine may be Diane Deskins Hicks’ favorite number.

That’s the record number of brand new toys her community bank collected last year for the Toys for Tots Foundation during a three-week charity drive during the holiday season. As the marketing manager at Community Bank of the Chesapeake in Waldorf, Md., Hicks has overseen how the $1 billion-asset community bank—like many other community banks across the country—collects toys for the holiday charity for children for approximately the past six years. Then the bank tried something new. In addition to collecting toys, it also decided to also simultaneously accept food donations for the Southern Maryland and the King George County, Va., food banks. The outcome was so fruitful that the bank is combining both charity drives again this year.

“We saw a need in our community,” Hicks says of the combined efforts.

Each of Community Bank of the Chesapeake’s 160 employees at its 11 branches in Maryland and Virginia is involved on some level in the holiday cheer efforts, Hicks says. They personally donate groceries or toys and actively promote the collection efforts to customers, friends and family between Thanksgiving and mid-December. “The generosity of our communities is always something we’re always pleased to see.”

Hicks says one concern over combining the collection efforts was whether the change might reduce rather than increase the number of donations made to the charity programs. Fortunately, that worry never materialized. Last year, the bank collected 750 pounds of groceries for the food banks while donations to the holiday toy program achieved yet another record level of donations as well.

Surprisingly, minimal publicity has been needed to generate the outpouring of support from the communities Community Bank of the Chesapeake serves. Although the bank distributes a press release to local media outlets, it promotes the charity drives mainly through word-of-mouth through staff, online community boards and signage at each branch, including internal banners and outside messaging on its electronic marquee system.

As part of coordinating the donation drives, Hicks and other staff at Community Bank of the Chesapeake work with representatives from both food banks and the Toy for Tots Foundation. The foundation drops off branded collection boxes that are placed in the lobby of each branch. When a box is filled with toys, it remains in the lobby, showcasing the community’s generosity, and Hicks simply places another collection box next to it. At the end of the charity drive, each organization picks up its donated toys or food from each branch.

Although these are Community Bank of the Chesapeake’s main holiday charity events, it also contributes to dozens of other local nonprofit programs throughout the year. But Hicks says the holiday charity drives seem to draw the greatest response from its communities. “We’re definitely making an impact,” she says. “For us, it’s giving back to the communities that we live and work in.”

Hicks adds that Community Bank of the Chesapeake’s only goal is to do better each year. And with more hard work and a little bit of luck, maybe 560 will become her new favorite number.

Carol Patton is a writer in Nevada.