LN Charity Awards: Lead Story: National City Bank

National City employees, assisted by Rams linebacker Chris Draft, after completing a ‘Day of Caring’ project at Soldan High School.

'To whom much is given, much will be required.’ National City, now part of PNC Financial Services Group, has taken that to heart since entering the St. Louis banking scene five years ago, donating nearly $5 million to local causes ranging from health and human services to education and the arts.

    “At National City, we believe it’s really important that we’re actively involved in all of the issues concerning our local markets,” says Rick Sems, president and CEO, Missouri Banking, National City. “What’s good for the community is good for us, so we strive to strengthen the area where we live and work.”

    The culture of giving back extends throughout the company. Many of National City’s 600-plus employees are community volunteers, giving time and money to a variety of local charitable organizations. Last year, employees donated a total of 5,000 hours to local charities; this year, Sems has upped the ante to 8,000 hours. “We also set aside a half day a year for ‘National City Day of Caring,’ when area branch offices close early so employees can participate in community service projects,” Sems explains.

    New this year is National City’s ‘Dollars Making a Difference’ campaign. “We asked area nonprofits for ideas that would have a life-changing impact on the community,” Sems says. “We got more than 250 submissions, selected three, and contributed more than $20,000 to those organizations.” The top three winners were Circle of Concern, which provides long-term and emergency assistance to low-income families; Discovering Options, an after-school program for at-risk kids; and Good Samaritan Ministries, an outreach program in Washington Park, Ill. 

    Supporting education is a top priority, he adds, especially in St. Louis City. “Offering educational opportunities to young people strengthens our community and works to our advantage by expanding our future employment pool,” he says. Sems is currently working on bringing PNC’s ‘Grow Up Great’ program to St. Louis. “The goal is to raise $100 million nationally over 10 years to help underprivileged kids from birth to age 5 be better prepared for kindergarten. Going forward, early childhood education and creating opportunities for underserved kids is going to be our major focus.” Building strong neighborhoods is the goal of National City’s Community Development Corporation, another company initiative. “We want to encourage an atmosphere that promotes home ownership, so we help developers in underserved markets,” Sems explains. “Our outreach efforts into areas such as downtown, the West End, North St. Louis and Metro East have resulted in nearly 300 green, mixed-income housing units, meaning that more low- and middle-income families will have safer, more affordable neighborhoods to live in. Once people own a home, they feel like they have a stake in their neighborhood. The community starts to rebuild, and it becomes contagious.” NCCDC also invests in the Micro Enterprise Development Fund, operated by an affiliate of the International Institute of St. Louis. “The MED Fund provides micro loans for immigrants, to help encourage business development,” Sems says. “They’re a wonderful asset to our region, and we want to aid their transition by providing lifelong tools.”

    It’s all in a day’s work for National City, Sems says. “The need is great, and we’re going to bring all of our people and all of our dollars to bear on making this the best possible place to live. We’re the fifth-largest bank in the country, so there are lots of opportunities for us to lead the way. If we can’t help out, we’re not doing our job as a bank.”