Austin activists fear that the federal takeover of Oak Park-based Park National Bank will have a devastatingly negative effect on their community.
Bob Vondrasek, executive director of the South Austin Coalition Community Council, said Park National and its chairman, Mike Kelly, are “indispensable parts of the West Side.”
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation last Friday seized the assets of Park National’s parent company, First Bank of Oak Park Corporation, placing it in receivership. U.S. Bancorp, based in Minnesota and with branches across the country, including at Laramie and Madison, has stepped in as Park National’s new owner. Park National is located in Oak Park just across the Chicago boarder at Madison and Austin.
Vondrasek said the bank has helped Austin homeowners and families secure low-income loans over the years, among other initiatives. SACCC joined other West Side organizations Monday afternoon for a protest at the downtown Chicago office of the FDIC, 300 Riverside Plaza. More than two dozen people attended Monday’s protest, including representatives of the Westside Health Authority and the Leader’s Network, a conglomerate of West Side pastors.
The organizations were able to make their way inside the office and met with two FDIC officials. Before leaving, the protestors held a prayer service in the lobby. Vondrasek said he and other community leaders are scheduled to meet with FDIC officials within the next week. Their concern, he added, is whether U.S. Bank will continue FBOP’s commitment to helping Austin and the greater West Side.
He also praised Kelly, who is known for quietly helping others via the bank and personally while shying away from any publicity for himself.
“Mike Kelly has a reputation for being involved in the community,” said Vondrasek, pointing out that the bank also donates a notable portion of its profits to the community.
Rev. Chris Devron, president of Christ the King School, a Jesuit high school in Austin that opened in 2008, also spoke highly of Kelly. Prior to his school’s opening, Kelly provided Devron with office space at Park National’s Madison and Austin location. He noted that Kelly made sure his bank employees shared his vision.
“He was committed to really helping people, and I think he created a culture inside the bank; that their job as bankers is to be a part of their community. That’s a really unique thing to do.”
A fact sheet provided by FBOP Corp. prior to its takeover noted that its Park National Bank had provided Christ the King with an interest free $22 million construction loan. The Austin school will open its brand new building in January at the Resurrection Parish campus near Jackson and Laramie.
Christ the King is part of the Cristo Rey national network of Jesuit schools. It’s the network’s second Chicago-area school; the first opening in 1996 in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood on the Southwest Side. All told, Cristo Rey has more than a dozen schools nationwide serving mostly minority students.
Park National is also an internship location for three of its students – one from the Pilsen school and two from Christ the King. The internships are a critical component of the school’s approach providing both work experience in corporate settings for young students and, via payments from sponsors, a method of subsidizing student tuition.
Devron noted that the bank’s federal takeover will not affect those students or the internship program. Devron said he, like others who support Park National, were aware of the bank’s impending takeover. As for its new owners, Devron said he’s hopeful that U.S. Bancorp will continue to be committed to helping the West Side community.
Delores McCain contributed to this story