Bank of Bennington will celebrate 100th anniversary

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BENNINGTON — The Bank of Bennington is gearing up to celebrate its 100th year.

The Bennington-based financial institution will celebrate its centennial this year with special events at each branch, the burying of a time capsule and a commemorative book.

And it's a way to give back and thank customers, employees, businesses, local organizations and other partners, according to Shannon McLenithan, senior vice president of residential lending.

"We want the community to celebrate with us," she said on Friday.

May 12 will be the kick-off date. The bank is still in the planning stages and more details will be announced soon.

It's the only bank that is still headquartered in Bennington. McLenithan noted that, unlike others, it has not consolidated or merged with other financial institutions. But it's still the fastest-growing bank in Vermont and has amassed more than $400 million in assets.

"That growth came about organically while we stayed in the community," she said.

A group of local businessmen founded the bank on May 14, 1917. Known then as Bennington Co-Operative Savings and Loan, founders aimed to help mill workers buy homes.The first mortgage was granted on Oct. 5, 1917 to Clarence D. Wilson, a worker at the E.Z. Waist Company mill, for a home at 219 Grove St. that still exists today.

Today, the full-service bank employs the equivalent of 60 full-time employees. It's held a five-star rating -- the highest score -- from Bauer Financial for 25 years. It operates two branches in Bennington: The flagship branch on North Street and a new one on Phyllis Lane -- as well as branches in Arlington and Manchester. It also operates a loan office in Rutland; a fifth, full service branch is slated to open in that city in May.

The anniversary will marked with celebrations at each branch, with special giveaways to customers.

A time-capsule will be buried at the flagpole next to North Street. A volunteer committee is still looking through pictures and records for things to include.

McLenithan said the bank acts as a good neighbor by partnering with community organizations, including the Bennington Coalition for the Homeless, Meals on Wheels, Oldcastle Theatre and others. Total donations last year were over $120,000.

The bank's organization allows it to do things differently, and be more flexible and creative.

McLenithan pointed to the bank's partnership with Southwestern Vermont Health Care, the parent company of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, for the hospital's "Healthy Homes" initiative. That program offers financing to first-time home buyers.

The bank is also a partner in the proposed redevelopment of the former Putnam Hotel, or Greenberg block, in downtown Bennington.

"We're here because of the community," she said. "We enjoy it, we love it, and we look forward to being here for another 100 years."

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.


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