Stories & Insights

Corporate Spotlight: Centreville Bank

Centreville Bank is a committed partner of Crossroads. We spoke with Senior Vice President, Community Development Officer, Paola Fernandez, along with Meg Apostolou, to learn about why supporting Crossroads helps them fulfill their goal of supporting the needs of our underserved populations.

September 09, 2023

Tell us why housing is an important philanthropic focus for Centreville Bank.

PF: As a community bank that has been around for 195 years, deeply committed to Rhode Island, we understand that housing is a key success factor for families and individuals – having a safe, affordable place to live matters. Our ability to support our community through housing means we can play a role in changing lives and impacting lives in a positive way. Partnering with community organizations who are focused on housing really allows us the opportunity to be involved, to make commitments to use our financial resources, and to understand internally for our products and services and the business how we support the communities with housing opportunities and other opportunities. Financial empowerment is another priority for us and we know that before you get to home ownership you need to have access to resources and opportunities to understand the landscape or how you can potentially get to home ownership. Financial empowerment is another priority that speaks into and supports the housing landscape as well, so we are very much committed to that. We hear about housing affordability everywhere we go, but we also pair that with the financial empowerment piece – and while somebody may not be ready today, we want to be a partner and we want to be a resource for how we get them there. Creating that potential path is also important to us.
MA: With the shift in the market and the scarcity of properties right now, it's an important time for the bank to have housing as a central focus. With increased community development work, we're seeing a shift in our mortgage origination, our residential just had a record-breaking month, etc. so we're seeing the connection back to the business itself. Community work is allowing us to grow and expand this space.

What impact do you hope your support will have in the community?

PF: There are so many things that we're doing and at the end of the day I'm hopeful that the community sees Centreville Bank as an active participant in the community. Whether it be with financial resources, programming, or resources and products, we understand what the community needs and we're responding to those community needs. As it relates to housing, investing in housing programs, whether it be around financial literacy that people can use, working with first-time home buyers, or anything else, they'll come back and say, I met someone at a Financial Literacy Fair, or I met someone on our residential team, and I really want to work with them on housing or anything else that folks have a need for in the community. In addition, while we’re exploding, what remains constant is that we want to continue to be a community bank. We're not necessarily going to be a large national institution, we want to remain local – we're a mutual bank so it's local decision-making right in our headquarters. That feeling of approachability and access to the internal staff here will remain because we're available and we're in the communities. We're going where people are even though we may not have physical locations everywhere. We want to make sure that we're impacting the communities across the state – we are a statewide institution – but that sense of community and community banking is what we pride ourselves on and will continue.
MA: We want to be seen as a resource and help people move forward from the past three years. Everyone took a hit, and marginalized groups took a larger hit. The more we can be seen and position ourselves as a resource, and as a historical institution that wants to help get us to that next step is important. We really want to be there to help and support people.

How long has Centreville Bank been partnering with Crossroads?

PF: We've been partnering with Crossroads for about 2½ years now, and really intentionally recently because of the work through the capital campaign project for the new buildings. It is amazing in that you take an individual from where they are and allow them to access programs and services that they need to get on that path to self-sufficiency. The project and the vision for the future and that programmatic concept that you have for how to address and bring in an individual, however, they're showing up, whatever is happening in their lives, that you have programs and staffing available is a huge undertaking. You've been an organization that has a great track record for success. To see what you're doing in the community and really making the investment to provide better services and opportunities for your clients is very meaningful. You’re really expanding your reach and we want to be a partner with that – and to find more ways to partner together. Financial literacy and workforce development are two additional areas that we’re thinking about and talking about a lot as well. The initial grant a few years ago was just the first opportunity to partner, there's just so much more that we can do.

What do you wish people knew about homelessness?

PF: We need a better safety net to address the challenges of homelessness and to debunk the myths about homeless individuals and families. Homelessness should be temporary, and we should have a safety net that catches people in their situations and helps them get back and out of the safety net systems and programs that the state has. We need to do a better job of addressing the needs of the homeless population. We are a state that is small enough that can actually end homelessness, and if we work together, we should be able to do that. There's a stigma with homelessness and the many situations that individuals are in, and we need to do a better job of creating a safety net that really supports individuals and helps them get on the path to self-sufficiency.
MA: It can happen to anyone. Someone recently said to me that the difference between the haves and the have-nots is the safety net. Homelessness is a lot closer to people than they think it is – it’s either close to them, someone in their family, or someone in their life that they care about, and they're just not aware of it because there is a stigma to it. There is embarrassment around it and the more we make it an open conversation, and put the support and safety nets in place, the more it will help. We need to change that it’s an unseen population.

Tell us why partnering with Crossroads is valuable to Centreville Bank.

PF: Crossroads is an organization that is doing this work and doing it very well. You've got a proven track record of impact in the community, and we want to use the resources we have with organizations like Crossroads which are making a difference and really changing lives. Your dedication, your commitment, and your ability to understand how you need to pivot and shift so that you can reach more individuals, so that you can have more impact, allows us to also understand what's happening in the community. We don't have the bandwidth to have all of the data and information that you all have from the community lens, and the ability to look at what we're doing internally as a business and then identify and prioritize resources with those organizations that are really making a difference, that's the priority. Doing more than grant-making and really exploring the opportunities beyond that is important. Because we are a community bank we're very flexible, and we can absolutely think through things that make sense for us and be able to support and partner in a meaningful way. We have a leadership that really approaches this work as a community-first approach – we say the word community all the time every day constantly in this building. When the leadership is supportive and prioritizes the community, it's very easy to identify organizations like Crossroads to really help us do what we want to do. And we want to do more. I think we’ve just scratched the surface.

MA: We are expanding our footprint but there are still certain areas we have not reached yet, and it’s where your clients are. We need to make sure we're helping even areas that we don't currently have branches in. We have online resources to help support them get out of their situation and into their next steps. The more we can help people who we aren't directly connected to, the more we can actually establish a community.

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