PNC Bank is breathing new life into the old adage, charity begins at home. “Giving back to the community is the best investment a bank can make,” says PNC regional president Rick Sems. “A business can’t succeed if the community around it isn’t positioned for future growth and success. That’s why PNC devotes resources to seed ideas, foster development and support nonprofits. What benefits our community benefits our employees, which results in better customer service, which in turn benefits our shareholders.”

    Since entering St. Louis as National City Bank six years ago, PNC has donated more than $5 million to a wide range of local nonprofits. The bank also encourages company-wide involvement by giving employees 40 hours a year of paid time off to volunteer for area charitable organizations, Sems adds. And this year, PNC is sponsoring the annual Ladue News Charity Awards, contributing a monetary award to all six runners-up. “These agencies are a lifeline for St. Louisans in need, and each is worthy of recognition and support,” he says.

    Recently, PNC decided to concentrate its philanthropic efforts on early childhood education. “As part of this focus, we’ve begun to introduce our Grow Up Great program locally,” Sems says. Grow Up Great, he explains, is a nationwide, 10-year, $100 million investment in school readiness that helps prepare underserved children under age 5 for success in school and life. “PNC provides a wide range of resources to assist parents, caregivers and communities in their efforts to develop smarter, healthier children and stronger families,” Sems says. The initiative includes the creation and testing of curricula in social development, literacy, math, science and the arts, he adds. 

    In partnership with the education department at Maryville University, PNC just completed the first phase of Grow Up Great in St. Louis. “We ran a pilot project with the Head Start programs at Grace Hill Settlement House,” Sems says. “The Saint Louis Art Museum, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Louis Science Center and Missouri Botanical Garden supervised classroom activities and experiments for the kids, as well as educational outings for kids and parents. It was an amazing experience for everyone involved.” Activities included an exhibit of student work at the museum and a concert at Powell Symphony Hall.

    Studies show that every dollar invested in early childhood education results in a $16 to $22 benefit to society, Sems points out. “Statistics prove that kids who experience educational enrichment during those all-important years are more likely to graduate from high school and go to college, and less likely to go to jail,” he says. “Studies also show that kids from underserved neighborhoods are 18 months behind other kids when they get to kindergarten—and they never make it up. These kids grow up to be our future employees and customers, so contributing to their success is a win-win for everyone.”

    Little kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from PNC’s community focus. The PNC Fellows Program at Cardinal Ritter High School provides full tuition for selected students in need of financial help. And PNC’s Dollars Making a Difference campaign contributes a total of $25,000 to area nonprofits that have a life-changing impact on St. Louis—this year’s finalists are Angel’s Arms, Operation Food Search and Ready Readers. “But investing in young children is the most worthwhile investment we can make—and the one that pays off the most,” Sems says. “Improving their intellectual and social development is vital to their future success—and can make a major, long-term difference to our economic future for generations to come.”

On the Cover: PNC Bank, sponsor of this year’s Ladue News Charity Awards, has launched Grow Up Great, a national school readiness initiative for St. Louis children under age 5.  For more information, call 898-1400 or visit