CoBank celebrated its merger with Wichita-based U.S. AgBank Tuesday by promising to donate $1 million to local charities during the next three years. The $1 million is in addition to the $100,000 it had anonymously donated in a matching grant last month.
The three-year gift will focus on three areas of community need: health care, food security and housing for the poor. Of the total, $375,000 will be allocated to health care programs run by Project Access and Via Christi Health. Another $300,000 will be designated for hunger relief and housing assistance programs managed by the Kansas Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity. The remaining $325,000 will go to United Way of the Plains and 10 other local charities.
Those charities are Wichita Children’s Home, Carpenter Place, Dress for Success, Union Rescue Mission, Heartspring, Children’s Miracle Network, Inter-Faith Ministries, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Greater Wichita YMCA and YWCA Women’s Crisis Center.
Ann Fox, the director of Habitat for Humanity, said the donation is highly appreciated. Her organization will receive $50,000 annually for three years.
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“You would not believe how the people in our office were squealing when we got that phone call, just out of the blue,” Fox said. “It’s really as if a Christmas angel dropped a blessing on us.”
The Wichita Children’s Home will receive $10,000. Sarah Robinson, the home’s director, said the donation comes at a good time.
“We can use it to take care of many, many kiddos,” Robinson said. “I am so excited and so grateful.”
CoBank board member Everett Dobrinski said the company is committed to contributing to the Wichita community.
“As a mission-based lender, we take very seriously the idea that we have an obligation to support the communities where we do business and where our associates live and work,” Dobrinksi said. “As part of our merger, we spent a lot of time thinking about what positive step we could take in order to mark the close of the transaction and also honor the past, present and future contributions of our Wichita-based employees.”
The donations will be administered through United Way of the Plains. United Way worked with CoBank in December to raise money for three charities after a story in The Eagle said they were concerned about raising enough money to provide Christmas assistance. CoBank anonymously offered to match donations made by the public up to $100,000. The company wanted to keep the donation anonymous until the $1 million donation was also announced.
“(CoBank President) Bob (Engel) saw the article in the Eagle about the budget shortfalls, brought it in and had that article circled,” said Dan Haley, CoBank director of corporate communications. “He said, ‘We need to do something about this.’”
The public donated $177,271, making the total donation $277,271 to Inter-Faith Ministries, Catholic Charities and The Salvation Army.
“We are very proud to be a partner with CoBank today,” United Way president Pat Hanrahan said at the event. “On behalf of the United Way, I would like to say that we are proud you are members of the Wichita business community, we are proud of our partnership and we are proud to call you friends.”
From the challenge grant, Inter-Faith Ministries received $36,623.76. The Salvation Army received $56,187.84. The largest sum was donated to Catholic Charities, which received $184,459.40. Catholic Charities chief development officer Wendy Glick said the money will be put to good use.
“We just feel so blessed that our donors recognize the great work we do, and we appreciate their support and support of CoBank in matching those donations,” Glick said. “Every day we work to alleviate poverty and strengthen families throughout the diocese of Wichita. These donor dollars go directly to help provide those services.”
Mayor Carl Brewer and U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo spoke at the event, praising CoBank for its efforts to support the Wichita community.
“This is what it’s all about – pitching in to help each other out,” Brewer said. “CoBank just showed us that’s what they’re about. We welcome them with open arms.”
Pompeo spoke of the benefits of this private partnership over government programs.
“This is precisely the way that our country will move forward,” Pompeo said. “When it’s the case that private institutions are run by people … who care so deeply about the community and are connected to it in important ways, we can do good for ourselves. When we try to do it in Washington D.C. we fail almost always – not because we’re not well-intended; it’s just a task that’s too great. There is no way for us to meet the real needs of our community because it’s too abstract, too centralized, too disconnected.”
CoBank will keep and expand its Wichita operations and no job cuts are expected.
In 2010, CoBank provided $225 billion worth of farm, ranch and cooperative investments to farmers across the U.S., and brought in $3.5 billion in income. U.S. AgBank has done business in Wichita since 1916, providing over 50,000 farm, ranch and other rural investments in Kansas, Oklahoma and nine other states. CoBank is based in Colorado, though it has done business in the Wichita area for decades. Its merger with U.S. AgBank closed Sunday.