On March 15, Montecito Bank & Trust (MB&T) celebrated its 43rd anniversary at its main office in its customary and generous way: by giving away money to area nonprofits. During its annual Anniversary Grants celebration, 10 nonprofits chosen by bank associates each received a $2,000 grant from the bank and a promotional video produced by Cox Communications.
After a reception, Chair and CEO Janet Garufis warmly welcomed the more than 100 guests and explained how in 1993, MB&T founder and chairman Michael Towbes “created Anniversary Grants to celebrate the philanthropic work of our associates and the communities that we serve” and to give each associate “a voice in the direction of the bank’s corporate giving.” She related how this day is one that she and the associates treasure, because giving back is “in the DNA of the organization.” Garufis made references to the beloved Towbes, which elicited significant emotion from the audience. “We miss him every day but we are committed to his mission of making the communities we serve better places to live and work.”
She explained how MB&T’s support for the community has traditionally been through philanthropy, but in the recent disasters, the bank has also been a community resource by making emergency loans for rebuilding and for meeting payroll, as well as by delivering water, donuts, and N-95 masks. She also noted that two of the grant recipients were on the scene, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue.
For the Anniversary Grants, employees nominate area nonprofits, then each employee casts five votes and rallies colleagues to support their cause. Since inception, more than $300,000 has been granted. Organizations also receive a high quality video produced by Cox Communications to use in their marketing efforts.
During the program, each associate whose organization received a grant shared why they nominated the organization, then guests got to view the video and hear touching remarks by an organization representative. The enthusiasm the associates have for their organizations was palpable and the appreciation from the organizations was heartfelt.
Wilderness Youth Project (WYP) Development Director Michelle Howard got lots of laughs when she quipped that entering a MB&T branch feels like entering “Cheers,” a reference to the old sitcom where “everybody knows your name.” She shared how WYP has benefited in so many ways from the bank’s generosity, starting with a personal meeting she had with Towbes to learn how to become a successful nonprofit in this town. Solvang Theaterfest, Inc. Board Chair Chris Nielsen shared how the word “community” “describes the entire ethos of MB&T” and thanked the bank not just for the grant, but “for who you are in our community.”
This year’s recipients were
Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Barbara County (CASA)
Dog Adoption & Welfare Group (DAWG)
Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy
Many Mansions (Thousand Oaks)
Mothers Helpers, Inc.
National Disaster Search Dog Foundation
Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue
Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center
Solvang Theaterfest, Inc.
Wilderness Youth Project
Garufis shared a quick history of the bank starting with its opening in 1975 in a couple of trailers on Coast Village Road. In 2003, the bank started Community Dividends, an annual program in which the bank awards $1 million to nonprofits from Santa Ynez to Westlake Village. Last year, the funds were given to approximately 180 organizations, bringing the cumulative grant amount to $15 million, “not bad for a little community bank” remarked Garufis. In addition, associates generously donate their time to nonprofits. Last year, more than 5,200 volunteer hours were logged by the bank’s 220 employees.
MB&T now has about $1.4 billion in assets and 11 branches. It is the oldest and largest locally-owned community bank in the area and serves both businesses and consumers. Its Wealth Management Division provides comprehensive trust services and full investment management. While philanthropy surely is good for its business, at MB&T the giving clearly comes from the heart.
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