Community Bank is celebrating its twentieth year serving the communities of Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park, and since the very beginning, its founders knew they were able to offer something that just couldn't be found in big, corporate-owned banks. With a focus on community values and local ties and a strong commitment to supporting local not-for-profits, Community Bank continues to make a difference in Oak Park and River Forest.
In the mid-nineties, the banking community in Oak Park was in upheaval. Walter Healy, President and CEO of Community Bank, recalls that he was hired by one bank and eventually had three different employers as the bank changed hands rapidly. Claude L'Heureux, Senior Vice President, Residential Lending and CRA Officer, also worked locally for big corporate banks that failed and changed ownership. Along with Marty Noll, Chairman of the Board of Directors, and Ruth McLaren, Senior Vice President, Operations, who also worked in various banks during their early careers in Oak Park, they all saw the need for a different approach to banking.
"At that point there were no locally owned banks in Oak Park and River Forest. There was clearly a strong desire to have a community bank," recalls Healy.
Community Bank opened its doors on Lake Street on November 4, 1996 with $5 million in capital and a completely local board. Twenty years later, Healy sees their role in the community as more important than ever.
"It still rings true today. This community needs a community bank. I think everyone here believes that we make a difference every day with the decisions we make and the people we meet."
L'Heureux notes that one of the keys to success is Community Bank's ability to see customers one person at a time. "If you have a problem or a need, you can call us and talk to a person. We're helping solve those problems in a way that is very meaningful to people."
Alongside an ability to serve each customer on a personal level, Community Bank also makes a point of giving back to the community.
"When we opened the doors, we looked around and said, what can we do in the community? How can we help? Today, we have nearly 1,000 not-for-profits who bank with us. We volunteer for those organizations. We serve on their boards. We help promote their events, and we put on our own community events. We are a part of the fabric of the community," McLaren states.
Community Bank lends its sponsorship to countless community events every year. Through three annual events, the bank gives back to the Oak Park and River Forest communities on a large scale. The Community Bank-sponsored annual July 4th firework show in Oak Park is a favorite summer celebration for everyone in the Village. In addition, Community Bank is the underwriter of the Makin' Tracks 5k at Concordia University in River Forest and supports the Oak Park Area Arts Council Best in Class Awards.
For Healy, giving back is all a part of doing business in the community. "We're obviously very grounded in this community and care deeply about the community. We are also very excited to introduce a new 'state of the art' branch in River Forest opening in less than a month."