Umpqua’s ‘random acts of kindness’ help community at a moment’s notice

By May O'Mahoney   Tue, Mar 28, 2017

While the bank's participation in Random Acts of Kindness Week highlighted the positive impact simple acts of kindness can have on a community within the span of a few days, it also highlighted the importance of participating in random acts of giving throughout the year.

Earlier this year, Umpqua Bank, Roseburg, Ore., participated in the nationally recognized Random Acts of Kindness Week. From February 12-18, associates of the bank visited various local businesses to offer up items such as free cups of coffee “just because.”

While the weeklong event highlighted the positive impact that a multitude of simple acts of kindness can have on a community within the span of a few days, it also highlighted the importance of participating in random acts of giving throughout the year — in particular, those which are performed spontaneously in response to a real need or crisis.

Case in point: Earlier this month, a man named Daniel was hit by a car while riding his bike through an intersection outside one of Umpqua’s stores in Modesto, Calif.

An Umpqua associate saw the incident and reached out to the cyclist to make sure he was okay. Aside from being shaken up, Daniel was physically fine. What wasn’t fine, however, was his bike. It was un-rideable after the accident, and it was his only mode of transportation to get to classes at a local college. The Umpqua associate offered Daniel a ride to class as well as offering to keep the bike at the bank’s store until he could pick it up.

After the incident, the Umpqua store team wanted to do something more for Daniel, so they decided right then and there to get him a new bike.

When Daniel came back to get his wrecked bike, the entire Umpqua team gathered to tell him that they hoped he was okay and hoped the new bike they purchased for him would help him out.

“Daniel was speechless,” the Umpqua team in Modesto reported. “He asked us if the bike was really for him, staring at it in disbelief. He was overcome with emotion and started to cry. Of course, this prompted many of us to shed a tear or two. Daniel expressed his gratitude, saying we were the greatest and gave us hugs. He had a huge smile on his face.”

The reason the bank’s associates were able to act so quickly on the purchase of a bike is due to a special line item that is built into every Umpqua Bank store budget for acts such as this. With this budget set aside, associates are then able to immediately help people like Daniel without having to jump through a lot of hoops or wait for permission from the bank.

The ‘Acts of Kindness’ line item has also been used for things such as helping a bank customer move and hosting a wedding in one of the bank’s stores when a couples’ wedding site burned down right before the ceremony. It is also used for everyday occurrences such as pulling out jumper cables to help customers get their cars up and running.

“Random Acts of Kindness have been a part of our culture for many years,” said Eve Callahan, executive vice president of corporate communications for Umpqua Bank. “It emerged organically over the years as we shared stories of how associates have surprised and delighted customers. Umpqua associates have funds available to deliver random acts of kindness and come up with incredibly creative ways of doing so, from buying coffee or lunch for the next few people in line or buying out a car wash. It’s about looking for small ways to surprise someone with a gesture that makes them stop and smile, and, we hope, pass that feeling on to someone else.”



By May O'Mahoney   Tue, Jan 26, 2016

Allison Grebe Lee has recently joined Allen Trust Company, Portland, Ore., as a financial planner to develop and manage all aspects of the firm’s financial planning services. With extensive experience in the financial world in her native Oregon as well as overseas, Grebe Lee spoke with the Northwest Weekly about the experience she’ll be bringing to her new role.

Q: Tell me a little bit about your background. What drew you to a career in financial planning?

Allison Grebe Lee: I am a fourth-generation Oregonian and proud University of Portland alumnus. I was a communications major at the UP and earned a history minor. Business and finance were not on my radar at the time; I thought I would either go to law school or become a sportscaster. However, working as the marketing director for a group of radio stations taught me that I didn’t know nearly enough about accounting, economics and finance.

I studied in London during my time at the University of Portland and always knew I wanted to live overseas again. The time seemed right to pursue an MBA degree, and there are many terrific programs in Europe. Trinity College, Dublin was my first choice due to class size (they only admitted 30 students per year at the time); number of international students (my classmates were from Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, and the U.S.); professor quality and their intensive business project curriculum.

 I always had an interest in my own personal finance goals and enjoyed helping friends and family with budgeting projects. I have continually been drawn to help people with their finances, and when I had the opportunity to pursue my Executive Certificate in Financial Planning from the University of Portland, I jumped at it. Making the career change to financial planning has been a dream come true; I get to work with people and help them achieve their goals and dreams.

Q: What kind of perspective did going to school and working in the financial industry in Ireland and England give you once you returned to the Pacific Northwest?

AGL: Getting my MBA in Ireland widened my horizons in so many ways. It gave me a clearer perspective on what it is like to learn about complicated social and taxation programs from the ground up. In the U.S., I had a tremendous family and friend network to turn to when I had questions about filing my own taxes or setting up a retirement plan. When I moved to Dublin, I had to teach myself everything – from the most basic, such as how to set up a foreign checking account, to the much more complex, such as how to get a work permit in the European Union. I came to truly appreciate the beauty of simple explanations for complex topics, and I strive every day to make complicated financial problems accessible to even the most novice of users.

Q: You have a strong background in communications. How does this enhance your current position?

AGL: Financial planning is mainly about communication. Most people have the ability to do many financial tasks for themselves, but it can involve extensive research and staying current with a wide variety of subjects. My goal is to work with my clients to understand what their needs and goals are and then translate them into an accessible financial strategy. If my clients don’t understand what I’m saying to them, how are they going to make their financial plan a success? I can’t, nor do I want to, watch every financial move they make. What I can do is help them understand the how and why of what they are doing and act as a support in helping them achieve their financial goals. 

Q: Tell me a little bit about your prior business development and marketing services background over the past ten years. Did you face any challenges in this field through the recession? What insights does this prior experience bring to your new position?

AGL: When I moved back to Portland from England, I was hired by an investment consulting firm to lead their business development efforts. Over my nearly nine years there, I answered hundreds of requests for proposal and spearheaded their marketing efforts.

The recession brought new business development and marketing challenges with it, including much more complicated RFP questions and more stringent vetting programs from prospective clients. Transparency became paramount. Cutting through “fluff” and ensuring every sentence has a purpose is the biggest takeaway I gained from the experience.

Financial planning shouldn’t be just for those who understand buzzwords and complicated equations; it should be readily understandable and explainable for everyone, from the least financially savvy investor to the CFA charterholder with 20 years of experience.



By May O'Mahoney   Tue, Jan 12, 2016

Financial Beginnings, a Portland-based nonprofit that has provided no-cost financial education to more than 80,000 youth and adults in the Pacific Northwest, is expanding its series of free financial education forums in the new year. It also has launched a new partnership with Albina Community Bank, Portland.

Starting this week, the nonprofit is offering their new forum “Financing College” in both English and Spanish. The English-language session will be held Tuesday, Jan. 12 and the Spanish-language session will be held Wednesday, Jan. 13.

“The ability to finance and pursue college is essential to bridging the professional and social gaps between low- and high-income youth,” said Kristen Grauer, marketing and developmental specialist for Financial Beginnings. “Today, college is inaccessible to low-income youth at an incredibly disproportionate rate to their high-income counterparts. Only 10 percent of individuals from low-income families complete an undergraduate degree, compared to 50 percent of high-income individuals (Pew, 2014). Financial Beginnings makes a concerted effort to reach low-income and at-risk populations, opening up college and career pathways for young people that are critical to their long-term economic success and overall quality of life.”

Last year, Financial Beginnings launched Pathways, a program geared specifically towards helping students transition from high school to college — and beyond — to make informed choices about their finances. Since it launched, Financial Beginnings has experienced an increasingly high demand for the Pathways program among schools and community groups that predominately serve Spanish-speakers.

“In response to these program requests, we have sought to increase opportunities for [Spanish-speaking] individuals and families to learn about financing college,” Grauer said. “Last year we developed a formal partnership with the Hillsboro School District to better reach Spanish-speaking parents and their children. We provided two free public events at Hillsboro High School to educate families about financing college, accessing student aid, and other relevant information about education-related finances. About 80 adults attended the standing-room-only event.”

“Barriers to post-secondary education affect Hispanic individuals at a disproportionate rate,” Grauer added. “The FDIC estimates that twenty percent of Hispanic households remain ‘unbanked’ with many more classified as ‘underbanked.' This, along with cultural and language barriers, can make it difficult for an individual to access important services such as higher education.”

Starting in March, Financial Beginnings will also offer two forums that are part of the nonprofit’s “Unraveling the Mysteries of Your Money” series. Free and open to the general public, “What to Brace for in the Ever-Evolving Economy” will be held on Wednesday, March 2, with “Life After College, Debt…Debt…Debt” to be held at a later date in partnership with Portland State University.

Along with its expansion of education forums, Financial Beginnings has also developed a new partnership with Albina Community Bank, Portland.

“We’ve been familiar with Financial Beginnings and the work they do for some time,” said Cheryl Cebula, president and chief executive officer of Albina Community Bank. “Our market manager, [Mary Edmeades], met the program manager for Financial Beginnings at the Neighborhood Partnerships Conference in October. Through conversation, they found we had a similar interest and focus in certain communities and determined that working together would indeed be a good partnership. Many of the schools and communities they support are communities that Albina is interested in working with as well.”

“Access to financial education is a key area of focus for Albina,” Cebula added. “Formal financial education programs are not frequently offered, and unless fiscal responsibility conversations are happening at home, it is rare that young people have access to correct information to make wise decisions about their financial futures. We are excited to have a partnership developing with this organization.”

“[Albina Community Bank] has expressed great enthusiasm for engaging with Financial Beginnings' students and community members,” Grauer said. “Thanks to their support, we will be able to award one lucky attendee of our January 12th forum with a gift card to support college-related expenses. We look forward to continued partnership with Albina in the future.”



Washington bank offers aid following storm

By May O'Mahoney   Tue, Nov 24, 2015

In wake of a destructive windstorm, Washington Trust Bank offers hot meals to first responders and residents without power.

Last week’s fierce Pacific Northwest windstorm cut across a large swath of Washington state, causing massive power outages, widespread structural damage, and three fatalities.

Hundreds of thousands of customers in Spokane County alone were without power at the peak of the storm, with many roads closed due to downed trees and power lines. 

As of today, Spokane schools remain closed, and approximately 25,000 customers remain without power. Crews have been working around-the-clock to restore power before inclement weather slows them down.

Since last week, Washington Trust Bank, Spokane, has been updating customers via social media on branch closures and reopenings in the wake of the power outages that have affected the $5 billion bank and its customers.

“Our Manito and Deer Park locations had power restored and were reopened for regular business hours,” said Katy Wagnon, bank event and social media strategist for Washington Trust Bank. “The WTB locations at both Five Mile and Indiana remain closed as crews continue to restore power. We are continually updating Facebook and Twitter.”

Realizing that the widespread power outages would make it difficult for those left in the dark and cold to get a hot meal, the bank also began offering a free barbecue last Wednesday to those affected by the powerful storm.

“We knew a lot of people – about 400,000 at that point – were without power,” Wagnon said. “We thought through how we could make the biggest impact for the most of people. We knew we could invite the community to our branches and feed them. Our barbecue  doesn’t need power and it is huge so we can cook a lot of food for a lot of people in a short amount of time. We invited those without power, first responders, police and fire crews, and anyone on the front lines helping to restore power. It was amazing to see the community come together. People were so grateful for something as simple as a hamburger and a warm place to charge their phone. We're happy to offer that.”

Much like the bank did during the Carlton Complex fire of 2014, the bank quickly transitioned its mobile marketing bus to relief efforts. The bus — which serves as command central for numerous community activities — is equipped with an ATM and power sources for those in need of charging cell phones, as well as a large barbecue.

Since the bank’s first barbecue last week at its Lincoln Heights Branch, their mobile marketing bus and barbecue has traveled to other branches in the area to offer services and food to those affected by the storm.

This past Saturday, the bank also offered $1 admissions for 400 people for the Snowlander Expo at the Spokane Convention Center.

“We invited the community to join us,” Wagnon said. “We were a big sponsor, so it was a great way for those without power to get inside and enjoy a fun show.”

The show featured a ski and snowboard mega sale, a brew festival with over twenty breweries and cideries, and the bank’s own Rail Jam, where ski and snowboard athletes from around the region competed on a custom rail course complete with snow.

“We are headquartered in Spokane,” Wagnon said. “This is home to the majority of our employee population and their families. We are deeply rooted and connected here.”



Evergreen Federal Bank to host large holiday festival

By May O'Mahoney   Wed, Nov 11, 2015

From December 3-7, Evergreen Federal Bank, Grants Pass, Ore., will host Rogue Winterfest, Josephine County’s largest annual holiday festival, which includes a gala dinner and auction of trees decorated by local artisans and businesses.

Proceeds from the five-day event benefit three mental health agencies: Options for Southern Oregon, Kairos, and Family Solutions. Last year, Rogue Winterfest raised over $80,000 for these agencies which make up the area’s mental health services community.

“Over 125 passionate volunteers, creative designers, musicians, and exceptional artists work diligently throughout the year to present this one-of-a-kind festival,” said Sue Price, Rogue Winterfest’s event planner. “Top entertainment, superb culinary artisans, and award-winning wineries are all present throughout the events to offer tantalizing examples of their artistry. Over 30 holiday trees and heirloom art pieces will be on display throughout.”

Originally known as the Festival of Trees, Rogue Winterfest was created by Options of Southern Oregon in 2002. In 2005, the name was changed and Kairos and Family Solutions joined the event as beneficiaries. In 2006, Evergreen Federal Bank became the title sponsor and began hosting the event at the bank’s Bear Hotel.

“Evergreen is also a $1,000 Bronze Sponsor, which helps fund the event. In addition, Evergreen will bid on trees at the Gala Auction,” said Jeff Hyde, president of Evergreen Federal Bank. “Evergreen then donates the trees to nonprofit organizations. Through these contributions, Evergreen donates over $3,000 towards the fundraising efforts.”

Along with the gala dinner and auction, the festival hosts events for the public to enjoy, including the Golden Social, a holiday tree viewing that gives the senior community a personalized experience of Rogue Winterfest.

“The festival brings our community together to enjoy a positive holiday event,” Hyde said. “The Golden Social is a special day for seniors living in our community, and Santa visits during the public weekend event where families can enjoy a variety of activities. This year all visitors will be able to see Evergreen's interactive display called ‘The Southern Oregon Adventure’ which has been newly designed inside Evergreen’s Bear Hotel.”

Built as part of the $392 million bank’s community reinvestment plan, the Bear Hotel is a 23,000 square-foot facility that got its name from local artists who utilize the space as a workshop for the annual Grants Pass BearFest. Rogue Winterfest is just one of many events that the bank hosts at its popular venue throughout the year which benefits the area’s social services community.

“As a community bank it is very important for Evergreen to be able to make a positive difference in the communities we serve,” Hyde said. “It is part of our business plan to actively engage in our community. By working with nonprofits that provide mental health services, we can help those in need, offer resources, and provide solutions. This type of community investment has a lasting effect that can change lives.”

The event closes with the popular Culinary Christmas Classic, which features gourmet food and drink from Southern Oregon’s restaurants, caterers, wineries, and breweries.

“Each year I sit at our table and am impressed with the incredible job that the artists have done,” Hyde said. “As I look around the room, I see members of our community with their family and friends; I am pleased to see our community enjoy it.”


Albina Community Bank supports #GivingTuesday

By May O'Mahoney   Tue, Oct 06, 2015

On December 1, communities across the Pacific Northwest will participate in Giving Tuesday, a one-day event that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy.

On December 1, communities across the Pacific Northwest will participate in Giving Tuesday, a one-day event that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy.

A globally recognized event driven by the power of social media, Giving Tuesday’s tagline is “Black Friday. Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday” and has, to-date, successfully put the focus on giving back during the busiest shopping days of the year.

Since its inception in 2012, Giving Tuesday counts 30,000+ partners in 68 countries with an estimated 470 percent increase in online donations reported on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It has also tracked 32.7 million Twitter impressions and more than 750,000 hashtag mentions, according to Giving Tuesday’s website. 

A subset of #GivingTuesday, #OregoniansGive is spearheaded by the Willamette Valley Development Officers. Focusing on bringing together people from every city, town, and rural community in a statewide initiative, it reinforces #GivingTuesday’s importance while highlighting the generous giving spirit of Oregonians.

This year, Albina Community Bank, Portland, will be supporting #GivingTuesday and #OregoniansGive through their LOOP Visa program.

“Our LOOP Visa program is an ongoing program and focus for Albina – and one that we are specifically highlighting this year as part of Giving Tuesday,” said Cheryl Cebula, Albina’s president and chief executive officer.

Albina’s LOOP Visa program is based on their innovative consumer credit card that generates financial donations for a select number of nonprofits that bank with Albina.

Upon approval, LOOP Visa cardholders can choose from a number of causes they’d like to support, including education, health and social services, and economic development. Albina will then give back a percentage of the total annual purchases made on LOOP Visa Credit Cards to the selected organizations at no cost to the cardholder.

To coincide with Giving Tuesday, Albina is taking applications through October 23 to select up to 10 nonprofits for the bank’s upcoming 2016-2017 LOOP Visa funding cycle.

Selected nonprofits for the program will be announced on Friday, November 27 prior to Giving Tuesday events that will be held at the $153 million bank.

“Selected organizations will be invited to ‘set up shop’ in our branch offices on December 1st to share information and talk with folks about what they do for our community,” Cebula said. “We’ll also make it easy for anyone to come into one of our branch offices to donate on the spot to their favorite local non-profit.”

Home to nearly 500 nonprofit accounts, Albina Community Bank is also certified as a Community Development Financial Institution, providing credit and financial services to underserved markets of the Portland area.

“We have a mission to increase economic opportunity and promote community development,” Cebula said. “We put extraordinary effort into helping create and maintain local jobs, build and rebuild communities and create a Portland that thrives for everyone. We believe that support for local non-profit organizations, with similar missions to improve Portland and surrounding communities, is a clear way to demonstrate our commitment to this community. Giving Tuesday is a natural fit for what we stand for.”



From Peru to Puget Sound, Financial Services Champion of the Year discusses her journey

By May O'Mahoney   Tue, Apr 28, 2015

Recognized for her many years of providing financial services and education to Seattle's small business and multicultural communities, Rosario Arias de Carroll, senior vice president, director of diversity banking for Plaza Bank, Seattle, received the SBA Financial Services Champion of the Year award in 2014.

“Having leaders like Rosario Arias de Carroll in our financial community is critical to the success of our state’s economy,” Nancy Porzio, the SBA's Seattle district director said in an announcement released last May.

The story of how Carroll became an award-winning lender and educator began thousands of miles away in Peru during a perilous time in the country’s history.

“I was born and raised in Lima, Peru,” Carroll said. “Twelve out of the twenty years that I lived in Peru were under military occupation, oppression and rationing of consumers’ basic needs. As a young adult, I quickly learned how fragile life was when I would hear of atrocities and loss of innocent lives. Those were violent times when curfew and terrorists attacks by the Shining Path were a way of living. I knew then that better opportunities waited for me outside Peru.”

Graduating from a business school in Lima as a business secretary, Carroll held a job at an import/export office before making her move to the States.

“I was able to transfer my trade knowledge once I moved to the Northwest,” Carroll said. “Before starting my banking career, I worked at a small family-owned business and strengthened my knowledge of the import/export industry, including international services, freight and forwarding and export/import agency services.”

Two years after her arrival in the United States, she began her bank training at Peoples’ Bank in 1984 (later acquired by U.S. Bank). In 1995, Carroll joined City Bank of Lynnwood in Snohomish County as a commercial lending officer. In 2006, she was recruited to help establish Plaza Bank, a now $75 million commercial bank that also focuses on the small business needs of Seattle’s multicultural communities and nonprofit organizations. 

“I was recruited to Plaza Bank, a de novo startup, as a commercial relationship manager,” Carroll said. “It’s such a great experience starting a bank from scratch. It gives you a very strong sense of ownership.”

Carroll later became their senior lending officer in 2011 and, due to an initiative that she developed, became the bank’s director of diversity banking in 2015.

“My main responsibility is to develop new relationships for the bank, not just commercial loans, but to serve the community needs and wants,” Carroll said. “That is where diversity banking plays an important role in my position. [It’s a] holistic way of doing banking. Products and services for the clients’ banking and financing needs [are] paired with awareness of available resources in the private and government sectoras well as with financial education programs and making contacts with non-profit organizations based on the business owners’ mission and passions.” 

Nicknamed “La Lidereza” (“the leader”) in Peru, Carroll dreamed of being an attorney as a child to give voices to those who had none. While she chose a financial rather than legal career path, she now provides a voice for underserved communities through her lending services and passion for financial education, teaching numerous seminars in both English and Spanish.

“What I have experienced during the years of imparting financial education is that our Latino business communities are thirsty for this type of information — and the small business community overall,” Carroll said. “There is so much work to be done in this area that ten hours during the working day are not sufficient to fulfill this need.”

   Carroll recently completed a white paper with the intent of persuading community banks to commit their efforts towards the development of financial services and support for the underserved business ownership community. 

“This commitment coupled with the development of a diversity banking line of business and strategic partnerships will assist the minority entrepreneurs in forming strong affiliations, increase their financial acumen and provide for an enhanced revenue base,” Carroll said. “It is my firm belief this will result in sustainable profitability, business growth, and thereby hiring of more personnel. In doing so, the ripple effect created will result in a stronger economy within our local communities and a healthier society overall.”


For more information on #GivingTuesday and #OregoniansGive, visit



Kitsap Bank edg3 FUND goes to a warm and fuzzy software company

By May O'Mahoney   Tue, Nov 25, 2014

Kitsap Bank’s edg3 FUND is a competition that awards a cash prize of $20,000 to a small business pitching an exceptionally unique and innovative idea. The goal of edg3 FUND – which rhymes with ‘hedge fund’ – is “to provide funding for entrepreneurs dedicated to growing our community economically, socially or environmentally.”

The $960 million Kitsap Bank, Port Orchard, Wash., received nearly 70 applications for the award from entrepreneurs representing a wide range of industries throughout Washington.

After five finalists made their live pitch in front of an audience earlier in September. Seattle-based Pawzii, Inc. was determined the winner by an independent panel of judges. Pawzii, Inc., is an online pet licensing software company and safety network dedicated to the protection of pets. Currently Pawzii assists the Kitsap Humane Society, Seattle Animal Shelter, Regional Animal Services of King County, and Pierce County in issuing pet licenses online. In the process, it also maximizes efficient office workflow, reducing paperwork and red tape in order for these organizations to free up resources for life-saving causes.

“Pawzii's mission is to fundamentally improve animal welfare in this country with software,” said Alec Matias, CEO of Pawzii, Inc. “Four million healthy and adoptable pets are euthanized in our shelters every year, mainly from a lack of resources available to re-home stray pets. Our products support groups on the front lines like local government-run shelters or non-profit humane societies. We automate their operations and help them find new sources of revenue.”

Matias said that only 12 percent of pet owners take the time to register their pet. This is due to a number of barriers, including having to walk into a government office to complete the process. This void in efficient and up-to-date licensing procedures was the catalyst behind Pawzii. Previously leading development teams at Zillow, NFL and NBC Universal, as well as being a passionate pet advocate, Matias thought he was in a good position to help.

“My fiancée, a veterinarian at a local humane society, pleaded with me to come in, take a look, and see if I could fix things,” Matias said. “It was at that point that I learned just how far behind technology was in the animal welfare space, and I knew it could be done better. By helping these places take their pet licensing online, they save their staff a ton of time processing registrations and they're reaching more people, because it can be done in just minutes from a computer or smartphone.”

While pet licensing is at the core of Pawzii, what won them the award was their pitch to develop a mobile application that focuses on Trap-Neuter-Return.

“TNR is an effective way to prevent feral cats from breeding unwanted kittens in the community,” Matias said. “Volunteers trap feral cats, spay or neuter them, and return them to their territory. In just a single year of TNR in the city of Bremerton, cat and kitten intake at the Kitsap Humane Society dropped over 50 percent.”

The edg3 fund will give Pawzii the opportunity to hire team members to develop and implement their TNR mobile app, as well as make it available in every app store for free.

Pawzii is also in the final stages of becoming a certified B Corp. Short for Benefit Corporation, it requires the company meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

“There's a whole new set of business challenges when transparency and sustainability are at the core values of a company,” Matias said. “Grants like this from Kitsap Bank are sorely needed to help companies like Pawzii continue to do business while doing good.”