Can you say that you were “called” to your job, position or career path? Rick Bannister of neighborhood bridges can, and he proudly tells his story to tug at not only your emotional side, but also to entice those he meets to spread the message, share the successes and ultimately, make a difference in someone’s life who really needs it!
Founded in 2017, neighborhood bridges utilizes lower case letters in the branding of its name on purpose. “It’s our way of demonstrating humility,” shared Rick. Committing his life to a career of public service was his calling, and Rick admits he took a leap of faith when he left his longtime position as Chief Operating Officer at the Ohio State Bar Association. It was time to follow the voice in his head to establish neighborhood bridges on the premise that people, at times, need a bridge…a bridge to financial help, a bridge to those who have the means to help, and a bridge between communities that can combine resources, talents and funding.
Their mission is simple, yet profound: To create a gateway for kindness. According to their website, “We use technology and social media to advocate for children and families in need...and then engage the community via a ‘campaign for kindness’ to fill those needs. Neighborhood Bridges [sic] is about kindness...speed...efficiency...and bridging all community resources to drive direct support and care to remove barriers for children/families in need. 100% of what is raised in each community...remains in each community. neighborhood bridges has successfully achieved this goal every day since it launched on Martin Luther King Day, 2017.”
As his business model utilizes resources that are basically free - social media, electronic communication and local volunteers - Rick set out to self-fund neighborhood bridges through its first year to avoid overhead and jump-start the venture. He didn’t want expenses to impact decisions, stall the overall first-year goals, or stunt the growth of a venture designed to spider-web through the communities. His plan was to utilize people he already knew from volunteering on school boards and in his community to network the needs. For example, a student communicates a need often unknowingly to a volunteer, possibly a teacher or other school figure, who can then anonymously coordinate resources to fill the need or offer assistance. Bridges through the community evolve and needs are met simply by putting one person in touch with another, or basically coordinating a pick-up point which is often a local fire station.
Most of us can admit we often have a yard sale to get rid of, repurpose, and/or find new homes for household items that seem to have lost their value to us. To facilitate that purpose, consider the possibilities of a website that reaches out to locate those types of items for maybe a family who just survived a fire, but lost their home. They can get an apartment, but they might need household items to restart. Also, think of an elderly person who just needs assistance returning an item to the store that they ordered online. These types of requests can be filled through the digital portals at neighborhood bridges.
The organization does need a bank to handle their financial affairs, especially if donors wish to make monetary donations. Heartland Bank was Rick’s first choice as he believes the business philosophies of both companies are aligned and congruent. Even the segments working in Alabama, the only other state with a neighborhood bridges presence and organized by Rick’s brother, depend on Heartland to keep their initiatives up and running. Heartland has been a valued financial resource, and Rick will share his experience with others as the partnership has contributed to the success of his venture.
Since their launch in 2017, the annual donations have more than doubled every year and neighborhood bridges has directly impacted more than 118,000 children and families in the 27 communities currently served. It's proof that kindness is everywhere!
Heartland is proud to work with non-profits like neighborhood bridges. If you need a community financial partner, look no further than your own neighborhood – Heartland is your community bank!