First Federal unveils innovative Community Dividend Program

It's a well-known fact that banks are failing nationwide because of a credit crisis related to subprime lending.

Not only is First Federal in the clear, the community-oriented lending institution is doing its best to build on its squeaky clean reputation. The bank announced its new Community Dividend program Aug. 22, making public a $1 million commitment to support key projects in Sequim, Port Angeles, Forks and Port Townsend that otherwise wouldn't have the resources.

"The Community Dividend program encompasses everything we currently give back to our communities plus an additional amount determined by our board of directors on an annual basis," said Karen McCormick, president and CEO of First Federal, in a recent press release. "This year, I'm thrilled to announce we'll be giving back

$1 million to projects and programs meeting criteria determined by the board."

The program will focus on housing, economic development and community development. In terms of housing, First Federal will provide resources to support the development and maintenance of actual housing units - both rentals and ownership opportunities - for low- and moderate-income individuals and families, the press release explained.

Economically speaking, First Federal will seek opportunities to retain and expand existing small businesses while also encouraging the growth of new small businesses. The board also will consider projects supporting the development of skills for both business entrepreneurs and the entry-level workforce.

When it comes to community development, First Federal will support the completion of public, nonprofit capital projects benefiting the community - projects that are not likely to be supported by other traditional funding sources - and projects seeking to expand existing community facilities.

"These areas are the passion of the board of directors and the key to making the North Olympic Peninsula a desirable place to live," said Mary Beth Wegener, marketing manager, during a telephone interview. "In our minds, this is something no one else is doing and we are able to do it because First Federal is a mutual institution that's essentially owned by its depositors."

Individuals and organizations are encouraged to contact First Federal and apply for assistance.

"If you would like to be considered for funding, you must turn in an application for need to be assessed," Wegener said. "Once that starts happening, money can start being distributed." The money, she explained, is donated from the bank's profit after the net earnings are determined.

For more information about the First Federal Community Dividend program, go online to

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