‘Thank you from the bottom of my heart’

More than 3,276 toys and $1,729 were donated in the 10th annual Bank Independent Toy Share drive between Nov. 13 and Dec. 4.

According to Bank Independent, all donations have been distributed to local children in need through partner organizations across north Alabama in time for the holidays – including an additional $11,000 donated by the bank to match the $11,000 seven customers won during the Seven Weeks of Winning and Giving sweepstakes.

“I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said Macke Mauldin, president and CEO of BancIndependent. “The outpouring of generosity from our friends and neighbors is humbling.

“Your support through Toy Share will help bring joy for so many local children in need,” Mauldin said. “More significantly, your support provides an example of how we can make a positive difference as a community.”

This year the bank implemented new low- and no-contact donation options in response to the unprecedented COVID-19 restrictions. Traditional drop-offs were still accepted at all 28 bank locations as usual; however, in an effort to reduce contact, bank volunteers also conducted a series of collection events.

Patrons were able to drive up and drop off donations without leaving their vehicles.

Additionally, the bank established an Amazon Wish List for online shoppers and accepted monetary donations through PayPal.

“The decision to match ‘Seven Weeks of Winning’ funds with ‘Seven Weeks of Giving’ gave us the opportunity to make an even bigger impact,” Mauldin added.

“Our community partners are on the ground every day and best positioned to help people in need. We know the additional $11,000 will go to support families right here in the local community.”

The Seven Weeks of Winning debit card sweepstakes ran Nov. 2 through Dec. 20.  Customers were encouraged to use their debit cards to have their names automatically entered into a weekly drawing for $1,000 and the grand prize of $5,000.

Over the seven weeks, the bank donated a matching $11,000 to the winners’ local Toy Share partners.

“Our annual Toy Share drive has always been well-supported in the communities we serve,” said community engagement officer Nikki Randolph. “However, with the impact COVID has had on our community and the local economy, we approached this year’s drive with cautious optimism, choosing to focus on safety and convenience.

“We couldn’t have anticipated the level of positive response from the community.”

Despite of the obstacles presented by the coronavirus pandemic, Randolph said 2020 numbers exceeded expectations.

In comparison, the Bank’s 2019 Toy Share drive provided more than 3,688 toys and more than $730 in cash donations to partner organizations in time for distribution to local families for Christmas.

The bank partners with charitable organizations across its seven-county footprint to distribute Toy Share donations. In Franklin County, donations go to the Department of Human Resources for distribution.

Other partners are the Angel Tree Program in partnership with Lexington High School, Christmas Charities Year Round of Madison County, Committee on Church Cooperation in Morgan County, Cornerstone Church in Lawrence County, Department of Human Resources in Lawrence and Limestone counties, North Alabama Christian Children’s Home, Rogersville Volunteer Fire Department, Safeplace of the Shoals and William Porter Foundation of the Shoals.

Toy Share is the last of four annual Share drives hosted by Bank Independent to give back to the community as part of Bank Independent’s Helping Hands initiative.