Banks are known for services like checking and savings accounts, car loans, home mortgages and things financial. But Horizon Bank is making a mark in the region with a commitment to outreach.
“It’s about building relationships,” Chris Buchs, AVP manager of Horizon Bank’s Lima Road branch, explains.
“The philosophy here is to get out into the community and help people.”
Horizon Bank, headquartered in Michigan City, Indiana, purchased Indianapolis-based Salin Bank in late April. Horizon continues the philosophy of encouraging diversity and community involvement, Buchs says.
So, it’s not unusual to find Buchs having macaroni and cheese in the school cafeteria with his Big Brothers Big Sisters lunch buddy, or reading books to a group of elementary age students with Real Men Read, or cleaning gutters and doing small painting projects with the community outreach program at Upstate Alliance of Realtors.
“I like the fact that it’s a mindset here; a part of the culture to do service in the community,” he adds.
Buchs, who has been in banking for 14 years, says that his banking career is secondary to the good that he and his colleagues can do in the community.
“We’re not out there wearing Horizon Bank shirts or handing out pens. We’re out there helping people in real ways.”
In 1977, the federal government passed the Community Reinvestment Act that encourages banks and savings associations to assist low- and moderate-income borrowers achieve home ownership. Buchs says the Horizon culture of serving those people goes well beyond that.
“There’s a certain part of the population that is ‘unbanked’ you might say. They may need a second chance at achieving their goals. By being out in the community, people are getting to know us.”
He adds that in the culture of diversity and service at Horizon, the Fort Wayne area can see that a bank is not something only for upper-income people to use.
Jerrell Holman, who also works at Horizon Bank’s Lima Road branch, is newer to banking than Buchs, but brings a big heart for the charitable nonprofit that he and five of his friends started in college. Bigger Than Us Inc. (BTU) has a simple goal of “helping each other out,” Holman says.
Recently, BTU provided youngsters with 772 backpacks stocked with supplies to help get them ready for school. The distribution was wrapped into a neighborhood party that included music and food.
“We partnered with the Adam Blakey Holiday Foundation, The Profit$ and the Dream Factory for that,” Holman says.
Sajatta Wright, a customer service representative at the bank’s downtown Fort Wayne branch says that not only does Horizon encourage community involvement, but she has found it is flexible in allowing employees time to do the service.
“I feel very supported by Horizon,” she says of her work with The Bloom Project.
Started in Indianapolis, the nonprofit organization was founded by Arnetta Scruggs, one of Wright’s friends from middle school. The Bloom Project provides mentoring, service projects, college preparation, character building and career exploration opportunities to young men between the ages of 12 and 18.
Wright, a single mother of two, learned about the program when her son was in high school. “He went to one of their events and was deeply moved. That’s how I got involved.”
The all-volunteer organization “surrounds boys with men who are businessmen, professionals and entrepreneurs.” Wright said that most of the youngsters in the program come from minority backgrounds.
“A lot of them feel defeated before they even have a chance.” The opportunities for showing them success have made her passionate about being involved,” Wright says. “We even try to take them on college visits, and we look at the trades if college is not for them.”
Wright says Horizon has not only encouraged her involvement with The Bloom Project but has been a sponsor for various events.
She adds that as a woman of color, she is pleased to see how supportive Horizon is of a community as diverse as Fort Wayne.
Buchs says that he believes service to the community is as important as teaching financial literacy. “We can be a catalyst for good.”
9835 Lima Road
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46818
110 W. Main St.
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802