Bank teams with Greek community

Jeff Clark
Jeff Clark

Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — In 1996, when knocking on doors in their effort to raise $12 million to capitalize Southern Community Bank and Trust, its organizers recruited investors from Winston-Salem’s Greek community.

Now, with $1.7 billion in assets and 22 branches in nine counties employing 350 people, the bank has teamed up with Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church to build a house for Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County.

“We tapped into the Greek community and they were very supportive,” Jeff Clark, the bank’s president, says of the initial effort to capitalize the bank. “We use this build as a way to give back to the community.”

Support for the Habitat house, the fourth the bank has helped build, represents part of its annual corporate giving.

When the bank was organized, Clark says, its mission statement included a commitment to give at least three percent of its net income back to the communities in which it does business.

In 2008, when its net income totaled over $5.8 million, it gave over $200,000, or more than three percent.

After building its first Habitat house in 1998, the bank decided to build a Habitat house in Winston-Salem every three years.

The bank also has contributed funds and loaned money to other Habitat affiliates in the region it serves to help them build houses, Clark says.

In 2007, for its third Habitat house, the bank teamed up with Greater Cleveland Avenue Church, Winston-Salem’s largest African-American church, after it approached the bank.

That collaboration, in turn, prompted Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church to ask the bank if it would partner with the church on a Habitat house, the first the church will
have helped build, Clark says.

The bank and the church are splitting the $55,000 cost of the house, with several hundred bank employees and church members pitching in on the construction work.

“It’s just a fabulous way for our employees to give their time and effort and blood, sweat and tears to build a house,” Clark says, “while the bank gives its financial
resources to make it all happen.”

And by coincidence, Clark says, the family that is buying the house are customers of the bank.

The bank has developed a strong customer base in the Greek community, Clark says, and two Greek business leaders serve on its 11-member board of directors, including
Jimmy Chrysson, co-owner and vice president of C.B. Development Co., and Matthew Gallins, president of Gallins Foods.

Chrysson, who also serves as president of the church’s foundation and helped the bank build its first Habitat house, with his company assisting in the project, says charitable giving has strong roots in the Greek community.

His church, for example, has contributed roughly $50,000 in the past year to help church members and others facing problems meet their needs.

And the bank’s partnership with the Greek community made sense, he says.

Many Greeks work in the restaurant business, for example, a market the bank understands and has been able to develop as a customer base, Chyrsson says.

Clark says doing good is good for business.

“We believe that to be a long-term player in all the communities, we have to give back to the communities that have made us who we are,” he says.

“We want to be here for a long time,” he says. “These communities need businesses that will give back to the communities they are in so the communities continue to grow and prosper so it will help us grow and prosper. If we support our communities, then they’ll support us.”

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