A gift that will keep on giving

L to R, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, FNB president/CEO Sam T. Sicard and Fort Smith, Ark., mayor George McGill.

L to R, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, FNB president/CEO Sam T. Sicard and Fort Smith, Ark., mayor George McGill.

It may be celebrating its 150th anniversary, but First National Bank of Fort Smith didn’t want presents this year. Instead, it gifted $500,000 to its local Boys & Girls Club for an ambitious renovation.

By Paul Sisolak


Just as much a part of western Arkansas history as its hometown, $1.84 billion-asset The First National Bank of Fort Smith (FNB) was founded on Feb. 29, 1872—just 55 years after the incorporation of Fort Smith, Ark.

But instead of touting its own accomplishments during its 150th anniversary, FNB turned the spotlight onto another cherished community institution: the Fort Smith Boys & Girls Club. The clubhouse at the Jeffrey location, a community gathering place since 1978, was in dire need of improvements. So, in March, FNB announced it would donate $500,000 to the extensive renovation effort.

FNB president and CEO Sam T. Sicard says the motivation for the donation was simple.

“We wanted to celebrate by announcing a gift [for] our community to show our gratitude [for being able to] serve this community over 150 years and give back some of the profits we’ve accumulated over the years,” he says.

Sicard’s family has a long history in Fort Smith and at the bank, having held leadership positions since 1907. A fifth-generation leader, Sicard succeeded his late father, Samuel M. Sicard, who was FNB’s president for 34 years.

Sicard, who became president and CEO in 2011, says the half-million-dollar gift was made possible because of the lack of loan provisions due to PPP forgiveness, minimal past-due loans, the sale of a few bank assets, and their loyal customers and dedicated bankers. All in all, 2021 was a record year for profits.

“Several things helped the stars align for a record year,” he says. “We wanted to celebrate that. We try to make contributions and give back a portion of our profits, particularly when we have good years.”

A lasting connection

This is not the first time FNB has supported the Fort Smith Boys & Girls Club. In 2019, the community bank was a partial sponsor of the $2.25 million renovation of the organization’s Hunts Park Sports Facility. In return, the facility was renamed First National Bank Field, according to Jerry Glidewell, Fort Smith Boys & Girls Club executive director.

“Our relationship with the bank goes back several years,” he says. “Sam has served on our board of directors, and he’s our current board president. FNB has been very supportive of nonprofits in our city and different community events. They’re very involved.”

“We think it’s going to be a great learning and education center and give kids primarily from low-income households a chance to explore the arts, science and tech, with a STEM focus, that they might not have an opportunity to do otherwise.”
—Sam T. Sicard, The First National Bank of Fort Smith

Glidewell says that the Boys & Girls Club explored the possibility of renovating the Jeffrey location a few years ago, but the Hunts Park project took precedence. Last year, talks resumed.

“When our campaign for our Jeffrey renovation and expansion came about again, First National donated the half a million dollars to get a jumpstart,” Glidewell says.

Proposed renovations to the clubhouse include expansions to program space and the innovation lab (including STEM activities and robotics); art and music rooms and a dance studio; and new futsal courts with LED lighting to accommodate pickleball and basketball.

“We think it’s going to be a great learning and education center and give kids primarily from low-income households a chance to explore the arts, science and tech, with a STEM focus, that they might not have an opportunity to do otherwise,” says Sicard.

Glidewell estimates that the construction will begin by the end of 2022, once the club reaches its $3 million renovation campaign goal. So far, FNB and other donors have raised $2.3 million.

Putting community first

At FNB’s sesquicentennial celebration in March, Sicard and FNB announced the donation to the Boys & Girls Club. The ceremony was attended by Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson and Fort Smith mayor George McGill.

“It means so much to us,” Glidewell says. “It’s rewarding, as a nonprofit director, to see local businesses give back to the community. [FNB] truly is a local bank.”

Today, FNB’s reach extends to a dozen locations spanning the Arkansas River Valley, six in northwest Arkansas and nine Oklahoma branches, with its headquarters still in the eight-story white-brick building built in 1910. It’s evidence that, like the Boys & Girls Club, Fort Smith’s community legacy is alive and well.

“Being a community bank means community comes first,” says Sicard. “Ultimately, the community decides where they bank. That’s our plan: to continue to serve this region.”

His perspective is influenced by his father, who was frequently asked in the 1990s when he would sell FNB. “He said we’ll continue to be a community bank,” Sicard recalls today, “as long as the community wants one.”


Paul Sisolak is deputy editor of Independent Banker.