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Citizens Bank donates $100,000 to support shelters and emergency food programs in Springfield, Massachusetts area

Funding will provide food and fuel to local residents during cold winter months

BOSTON    (December 14, 2009) - The Citizens Bank Foundation today announced it is donating $100,000 to three western Massachusetts nonprofit organizations that provide heating and food assistance to local residents in need. The Food and Fuel Initiative, aimed to help low-income residents cope with food and heating costs during the winter months, will support the Council of Churches of Greater Springfield, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness. Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno participated in the announcement held at City Hall.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno extended his deepest appreciation to Citizens Bank for its kind and generous contribution to three great organizations. “These monies will help off set budget challenges that these organizations face so that they can continue to provide front line services to those in need. As a caring city, we are glad to participate in this announcement.”

“We are proud to provide funding to three wonderful organizations in western Massachusetts dedicated to supporting our most vulnerable neighbors in their time of need,” said Stephen R. Woods, President, Citizens Bank, Massachusetts. “As a company committed to supporting the communities where our customers and colleagues live and work, we are honored to know that our small role in this program will mean that an elderly person, a parent or an individual will not have to make the choice between keeping warm or eating a meal this winter.”

According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the recent unemployment rate shows a decline from 9.3 percent in September to 8.9 percent in October, which is the first monthly decline in unemployment since June 2007. The network of emergency food programs supported by The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts reported serving 24 percent more meals to people in need in 2009 than they did in the previous year.

The three organizations will use their equal portion of the $100,000 grant as follows:

• Council of Churches of Greater Springfield: Support approximately 300 low-income people through its Emergency Fuel Assistance program, which assists individuals and families in purchasing heat during the winter months.

• The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts: Help fund its mission of providing more than seven million pounds of food to more than 108,000 people annually experiencing severe hunger or chronic food insecurity throughout western Massachusetts.

• The Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness: Assist a pilot program designed to end homelessness by working with community organizations to provide sustainable housing for homeless individuals and families. Through the pilot program, it expects to secure housing for more than 300 individuals and families in the Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties.

Joining Woods and Sarno at today’s announcement, were a number of community leaders, including Paula Alexander, Executive Director, Council of Churches of Greater Springfield; Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts; and Pamela Schwartz, Director of Regional Coordination, Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness.

In Boston, Citizens Bank launched a similar initiative in 2008 in partnership with the Black Ministerial Alliance, and as a supplement to Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s Food and Fuel Campaign, to support shelters and emergency food programs that provide heating and food assistance to local residents in need. The two-year donation of $200,000 to the Boston initiative and $100,000 to the Springfield initiative brings the Food and Fuel commitment to $300,000 from the Citizens Bank Foundation.

About the Citizens Bank Foundation

Citizens Bank Foundation is a charitable contributions vehicle of Citizens Bank. The foundation’s support is focused on housing, community development and basic human needs.

About Council of Churches of Greater Springfield

The Council of Churches, with 65 member congregations throughout the Greater Springfield area, brings together local congregations and community in the spirit of unity to address issues of social and economic justice, consumerism, education and political and social responsibility.

About The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts works with the community to reduce hunger and increase food security. The Food Bank’s approximately 400 partner programs consist of soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, childcare centers, elder programs and other food assistance sites throughout Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties. Through its warehouse and delivery program, The Food Bank provides $9 of wholesome food for every $1 donated to The Food Bank.

About the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness

The Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness is a collaboration of dozens of service providers, municipalities, state agencies and the Western Division Housing Court, which is spearheading a coordinated approach to homeless prevention and rapid re-housing in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties. Eleven member agencies provide case management and direct financial assistance to families that are homeless or at high risk of homelessness to assist those families to access and maintain stable housing.