PARK NATIONAL BANK’S VALUE
Five years ago, Operation Uplift, a community organization in Maywood, was struggling to pay its mortgage.
Much of the nonprofit’s money came from private donations and grants. But with its operational costs increasing and little to no help from state funding, the group was in jeopardy of shutting down.
“Our revenue streams had just dried up. We were in desperate need to refinance our mortgage,” said Northica Stone, CEO of 42-year-old Uplift, a social service organization that also operates the West Town Museum of Cultural History in Maywood.
What’s more, their mortgage had just been taken over by Park National Bank, the Oak institution then owned by River Forest resident and philanthropist Mike Kelly. The bank had purchased Maywood Proviso State Bank, which had owned the organization’s mortgage. A few days after her initial conversation with a Park National Bank loan officer, Kelly visited her center.
“I had never seen a bank president visit an organization for which his bank held the loan,” Stone recalled. “It showed me that Mr. Kelly was certainly looking out for the needs of the community.”
Kelly and his loan officer, Eric Soderberg, agreed to refinance the mortgage. But Stone has an altogether different relationship with Park National’s new owner, U.S. Bank, the Minneapolis-based company that bought Kelly’s banks in October after they were taken over by federal regulators. A loan officer from U.S. Bank checked in with Stone last month.
“The loan officer had called me to remind me of the impending renewal notice I was set to receive for the facility. I told him about the type of relationship we had with Mr. Kelly and Park National Bank and how important it was to reaching each of our goals and he responded, rather flippantly, ‘There’s a new sheriff in town.’ That’s when I knew the positive relationship we once had with the bank was gone.”
Austin Weekly News called U.S. Bank but was unable to reach anyone for a response.
Stone said that the incident with U.S. Bank underscored her concerns about dealing with a more corporate-based institution, as opposed to Mike Kelly’s Park National Bank, which had a “great relationship with the community.”
Austin pastor, Rev. Robert Pomerlee also described having a positive working relationship with Park National. In August 2008, Pomerlee’s church, Christ Resurrection Church, 5460 W. Division, was behind on its mortgage and facing the prospect of foreclosure.
“We were behind in our payments to our bank, which at the time was a Florida branch,” he recalled. “The situation became even worst when we attempted to work with a private company to pay off the amount owed to the bank and the company ran off with $12,000 of the money we gathered to pay off the balance.”
Pomerlee decided to reach out to Park National Bank for help and to avoid losing his church. The bank agreed to take over the loan and also assisted Pomerlee in refinancing so he could catch up with his payments. The pastor said his church owes Mike Kelly “all the thanks in the world.”
Austin Weekly News will have more stories about Park National Bank and Mike Kelly’s philanthropy in Austin and the West Side.