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Commerce-Bank-Spotlight-photoIn 2012, the Commerce Bancshares Foundation invested more than $1.46 million in community and charitable programs throughout the country, with a total of 786 grants awarded to 647 organizations.   Commerce Bank has developed a long-term commitment to serve the communities where its clients live and work. More than 1,250 employees of Commerce Bank serve the St. Louis metro area. Officers and staff in each of the bank’s branches dedicate their time and energies to local causes.
   “At Commerce Bank, we believe it’s important to stay in tune with the needs of all the communities we serve,” said Harlan “Skip” Ferry, president of Commerce Bank Metro East. “We support a number of organizations that are committed to strengthening our region. Our bankers volunteer each year and extend their support to organizations committed to building our communities and helping youth succeed.”
   Through the Commerce Bancshares Foundation, grants are directed to nonprofit organizations in each of the bank’s markets. In 2012, the foundation invested more than $1.46 million in community and charitable programs throughout the country, with a total of 786 grants awarded to 647 organizations.
   Two of the local organizations that received funding from the Commerce Bancshares Foundation in 2012 were The Children’s Museum of Edwardsville and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois. The Children’s Museum’s goal is to stimulate curiosity and motivate learning in young children by providing interactive exhibits and programs. Big Brothers Big Sisters is the nation’s largest donor and volunteer-supported mentoring network. Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers and children.
   In all of Commerce Bank’s markets, active involvement of its employees in supporting community needs is the norm; volunteer projects serve as team-building activities for Commerce employees as well.
   “In addition to the financial support that Commerce provides, our employees sponsor several events during the year to raise extra money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois,” said Ferry. “An annual employee bowling tournament, held in February, is highly successful in terms of employee turnout and raising additional dollars for this wonderful organization. Bake sales are also held in our branch lobbies several times a year to generate support. In 2012, our staff raised over $7,900 through these efforts.”
   Besides encouraging community involvement among its employees, Commerce recognizes outstanding volunteerism by individuals outside of the bank.
   “The Commerce Bank Community Service Award program celebrates individuals in our community who exhibit an extraordinary commitment to community betterment and to making a difference in the lives of area residents,” Ferry said.
   The bank awards a grant in the name of each honoree to the nonprofit organization of his or her choice. Recent honorees and grant recipients in the Metro East include Bob McClellan with a grant to the Lewis & Clark Community College Foundation and Patty Gregory with a grant to Belleville District 118 Education Foundation.
   The Community Reinvestment Act encourages all banks to look for innovative ways to ensure that financial opportunities are available to everyone. For the fifth year, Commerce employees joined volunteers from other financial institutions to present “Teach Children to Save Day.” Bankers visited 2nd grade classrooms to show children the value of setting goals and saving for the future with an age-appropriate, literacy-based lesson and activity. Commerce bankers taught the program to more than 600 students in 28 classrooms throughout the metropolitan area.
   Another way to ensure the success of local youth, says Ferry, is through the Commerce Bank Scholarship Program. The purpose of the bank’s scholarship program is to encourage graduating high school seniors in continuing their education beyond high school at a university, college, trade or vocational school. Each year, three graduating seniors are chosen to receive a four-year scholarship in the amount of $8,000 each ($2,000 each year for up to four years of full-time enrollment). Students are selected for this scholarship by their school based on academics, leadership, character and community involvement. Nearly $2 million is earmarked to be awarded to students in the three participating high schools - Althoff, Belleville East and Belleville West - over a 30-year period.