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BankTravel 101 — Community involvement

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George Bailey, manager of the Bailey Building and Loan Association in Bedford Falls, New York, seemed to be having a terrible life. On a snowy, miserable evening, he pondered ending it all by jumping off a bridge.

It took Clarence Odbody — an Angel Second Class sent straight from heaven as George’s guardian —to set George straight on the facts.

In dramatic fashion, Clarence pointed out to George, a personally and professionally charitable man, the impact he had in the community and individual lives. Thanks to George’s leadership at the bank, Bedford Falls was a better place and many grateful townspeople had George to thank for giving them a helping hand.

As we know, in the end it turns out that George realized that “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Joan Galgay, director of Club 50 at Watertown Savings Bank in Watertown, Massachusetts, just might be the first to admit the similarities between George Bailey and herself. Ten years ago, after losing her beloved husband of 33 years, Galgay felt “helpless and hopeless” until her own guardian angels — her family and friends — showed her what a difference she had made in those around her.

Extraordinary giving
The tender care of those close to Galgay led her to what they knew she loved to do — helping others. In her position at Watertown Savings Bank, she not only has the opportunity to fulfill travel dreams of club members, but also to participate in a lengthy list of community organizations designed to fulfill other sorts of dreams.

“My husband and I always loved giving back — it makes you feel good! This bank always had a well-known, charitable reputation, and I knew this was where I wanted to work,” she said.

Indeed, it was Galgay’s own charitable reputation that convinced bank management that she was the person they wanted to lead Club 50.

“It’s really expected of me and most employees here that we give our time to others. I’m not sure if it’s in my job description, but it might as well be,” she said.

Carole Katz, vice president of marketing for the bank, agrees.

“Our managers fill out a report every month on their community activities,” he said. “Every year I send thank-you gifts to those who participate, and out of our 150 employees, over 90 receive gifts. We’re very grateful to have the caliber of employees, like Joan, who value the importance of giving back.”

From sponsoring local baseball teams to holding an auction for the local boys and girls club and helping individual families in crisis, Watertown Savings Bank holds personal stock in each of the nine areas where they have branches. Galgay is a member of the local Rotary Club and chamber of commerce, and sits on the board of the local children’s theater and boy’s and girl’s club. And the bank reviews hundreds of requests each year for donations — in 2011, Watertown Savings Bank donated more than $500,000 to more than 350 local organizations.

“Every year we sponsor the Customer Choice Awards,” said Galgay. “The winners are chosen by bank customer votes. At an annual get-together at our American Legion Hall, we hand over checks totaling $75,000 to the winners. This year, the big winner was our local food bank.

“We’re also proud of our participation in Operation American Soldier, an organization that originated in Watertown. They ship boxes full of great goodies and necessities to soldiers every month. Our employees have gone shopping, filled up the carts and volunteered to pack the boxes. What a great experience.”

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