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Santa Cruz County Bank president shares the gift of giving

December 23, 2007

By Jondi Gumz - Santa Cruz Sentinel

When David Heald, president of Santa Cruz County Bank, was asked about putting on a Santa hat this year, he did -- and in a most unusual way.

At the Christmas party for the locally owned bank, he handed out $100 to each of the 42 employees and challenged them to make a difference for people in need in the community.

Return on investment: Priceless.

"One of the best holiday seasons I've had," said Heald, 59, who's been in banking since 1972.

He's gotten e-mails from employees reporting on their efforts, grateful for the opportunity to give.

A teller who shopped with her son for a needy family put it this way: "I'm positive that will make these children smile this holiday season as they open up their presents. For that, I thank you."

Multiply that by 42.

Heald said he never saw "Pay It Forward," the 2000 film about a boy who repays kindness by doing good deeds for three new people, but his $100 challenge was rooted in a similar philosophy.

He could have identified a worthy charity and handed over a big check himself, but he wanted to empower his staff, especially younger people who may not have $100 to spare.

"I wanted employees to feel the gift of giving," Heald said.

In financial terms, it was a nifty use of leverage, magnifying efforts of the nearly four-year-old bank to support holiday charities.

Chuck Maffia, Scotts Valley branch manager, and his wife Chris, who works at the Santa Cruz branch, were able to get matching money for charity from Bank of America where both used to work. The Scotts Valley office bought books for the early childhood education center at Cabrillo and donated to Valley Churches United Mission and Second Harvest Food Bank. Capitola branch employees collected gifts for foster families; Santa Cruz branch employees donated toys for homeless children at the New Horizons School and for children of migrant farm workers. In Watsonville, 11 bank employees "adopted" Cesar Chavez Middle School, two families at the Pajaro Valley Shelter a total of nine people and 30 children in the Adopt a Star program. Like Santa's elves, they were busy wrapping gifts -- jackets, soccer balls and basketballs, watches, DVDs and CDs.

"With the help of customers, we were able to fill all the 'star' wishes," said service manager Andria Gonzalez. "A lot of kids weren't asking for games, they were asking for simple stuff.

Her 7-year-old son was inspired to give, too. It's just what Heald envisioned could happen.

 

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