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BMO Harris recognized for innovative community development program

October 1, 2020 | Giving and sponsorships

The Consumer Bankers Association (CBA) awarded BMO Harris Bank with the Joe Belew Award for its cornerstone role and recommitment to the United Way of Metro Chicago’s Neighborhood Network Initiative. The 2020 Joe Belew Award is presented to the CBA member-bank with the most innovative and impactful community development programs. A record 14 entries were submitted this year.

The Neighborhood Network brings together multiple community groups in underserved neighborhoods to develop a community-led approach to the issues they face. Supported by both the public and private sectors, it will help ensure all residents can thrive.

What is innovative about the Neighborhood Network in Austin is its scale and focus on the community-led nature of engaging community residents from the start and putting together plans where residents lead the change, goals and outcomes. The community formed a lead agency, Austin Coming Together (ACT) to drive the collaboration, goals and impact in their neighborhood.

“At BMO, we consider it our responsibility to boldly grow the good in the communities we serve. Economic inclusion and strong, resilient neighborhoods go hand in hand,” said Ernie Johannson, Group Head of North American Personal and Business Banking. “We are proud to partner with the United Way of Metro Chicago on a program that removes barriers to inclusion by working side-by-side with and listening to community leaders about how to sustainably revitalize their communities.”

BMO was the cornerstone investor of the Neighborhood Network in 2013, committing $1.5 million to launch the initiative to build capacity for community coalitions and strengthen neighborhoods. The bank committed another $1.5 million in 2017. In 2019, BMO committed $10 million to United Way for the next phase of this important work with a specific focus on the Austin neighborhood. The 2019 commitment is the largest corporate gift in United Way of Metro Chicago’s history.

“CBA members are committed to improving the quality of life in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods through affordable housing, economic development and other innovative solutions,” said Richard Hunt, CBA President and CEO. “This year, we are pleased to honor two banks – BMO Harris and IBC Bank – with the Joe Belew Award for their exemplary programs and thank them for their commitment to initiating top-notch community development efforts.”

Learn more about BMO’s work with the Neighborhood Network and the approach to inclusive local economic opportunity the bank is pursuing.

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