Howard Bank Volunteers Provide “Hands On” Support for The Arc


Howard Bank team members (from l.) Steve Poynot, Shannon Boswell, Paul Brown, Tom Drake, Rosa Scharf and President & CEO Mary Ann Scully were among the volunteers who helped "make over" one of The Arc of Howard County's residences.
Howard Bank team members (from l.) Steve Poynot, Shannon Boswell, Paul Brown, Tom Drake, Rosa Scharf and President & CEO Mary Ann Scully were among the volunteers who helped "make over" one of The Arc of Howard County's residences.

Howard Bank employees recently proved they can think outside the safety deposit box, so to speak, when they dedicated a labor-intensive day to The Arc of Howard County’s new “Adopt A House” program.

Steve Poynot, a vice president and relationship manager for the local bank, had been casting about for a way to give back to the community when he discovered The Arc’s home renovation program, in which corporate executives can trade their business suits for coveralls and pick up tools instead of BlackBerrys. One of The Arc’s residences in Elkridge became the site of the bank’s first annual Community Service Day.

“Sometimes giving money doesn’t make you feel the same way as doing something,” Poynot says of the project to spruce up the home of two women with developmental disabilities. “We’re a bunch of bankers, but we want to be different.”

The bank often does donate money to community causes and recently pledged $15,000 to Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center for its renovation and expansion campaign. The center’s entrance garden will be named in the bank’s honor.

“Community involvement is one of our core values,” explains Mary Ann Scully, president and CEO of Howard Bank, which will celebrate its second anniversary in August. “It is a seminal part of who we are and who we want to be.”

Indeed, the bank’s website prominently displays the slogan “Hands on,” and on a hot day in June, nine pairs of employee’s hands tackled projects ranging from painting to installing paneling to landscaping. To insure their success, the bank’s do-it-yourselfers invited their small business customers to join them.

“Some businesses may feel they’re too small individually to make a difference,” Poynot points out. “By inviting them to join us, we were able to accomplish a lot together and have an impact on these young women’s daily lives.”

Acumen Development, Atec Industries and John E. Ruth Co. took the bank up on its offer by sending employees to lend a hand at the small bungalow on Ducketts Lane, accomplishing in one day cosmetic home repairs that may have languished for months until state funds became available.

The kitchen, dining room, two master bedrooms and bathrooms now sport fresh paint in soothing colors. A privacy fence was erected on the side porch and the shady front yard was landscaped, among other projects. Not all details were handled that day, but when the women returned home from The Arc’s day activities for them, their home had been transformed in a miniature version of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover, Home Edition” television program.

“It was such a community effort,” says Nancy McLay, The Arc’s director of resource development and a hands-on facilitator of the organization’s Adopt A House program. “Lauren and Mary are so much happier here now. The bank’s donation of supplies and willingness to pitch in have transformed this house into a home.”

In addition to Poynot and Scully, Bank employees who participated in the one-day makeover on Ducketts Lane included Shannon Boswell, Paul Brown, Peg Brown, Tom Drake, Pat Howard, Chris Marasco and Rosa Scharf. Kari Ebeling, The Arc’s development specialist, helped organize the project and was one of the house painters.

The state’s funding priority is people, McLay points out, and budget items involving small repairs or aesthetic changes must sometimes take a backseat. That’s where businesses that participate in the Adopt A House program can really make a difference, she says.

The Arc operates 45 homes in Howard County, and is in need of 45 benefactors to refurbish and maintain them. “Our residents often have physical disabilities and they can be very hard on these houses,” she adds.

Businesses can elect to support the program in various ways and their employees are not required to wield a paintbrush or hammer. “We will tailor-make an arrangement for anyone who can help us renovate these homes, whether they want to donate money or time or both,” says McLay. “The main emphasis is on raising the quality of life for the residents.”

Howard Bank is the second business to take on a house for The Arc of Howard County. In April, Gannett Co. Inc., publishers of USA Today, adopted the first house just across the Howard County border in nearby Prince George’s County.

The bank hopes to build on the success of its first annual Community Service Day by working on a different cause each year, Poynot says. The bank employees will continue their efforts to make the day a vehicle for their small business customers to join in giving back to the community that supports them.

Howard Bank, Scully notes, requires all managers to spend time on a not-for-profit organization’s board. “It’s our way of strengthening the community on which we depend. By getting personally involved, we hope to lead by example.”

McLay hopes Howard Bank’s alliance with The Arc will inspire other local businesses to join the Adopt A House program. “Neither of the women who live in that house can speak to say ‘Thank you,’ but they are both thrilled about their ‘new’ home.

“Businesses who take on this partnership will see their investment snowball,” sums up McLay. “What starts as an investment in people becomes an investment in the community, which becomes an investment in the county.”

The Arc of Howard County was started by a group of parents in 1961 as an advocacy and support group. From its grassroots beginnings, the organization has grown to become one of Howard County’s largest employers. It now provides housing, job placement, vocational training and a wide variety of support services for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

For more information on the Adopt A House program, call 410-730-0638.