After more than six years, the St Helens and St Marys Community Bank opened its doors to the East Coast community.
An opening celebration took place on February 8 and despite the inclement weather, bank chairman Andrew MacGregor said it “totally exceeded expectations”.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said.
Mr MacGregor said he thought about 100 people would turn up to the event, however, more than 200 people attended on the day.
Guests included Break O’Day Council mayor Mick Tucker and a number of councillors, alongside “masses” of community shareholders.
A sausage sizzle and music kept everyone entertained.
“Ukulele Unleashed warmed up the crowd, and Shirley Barnes from Gypsy Rose performed solo,” he said.
Mr MacGregor said it was a great feeling to see customers in the bank making transactions.
“It’s incredibly rewarding, and a massive relief,” he said.
In September 2017, the bank reached its funding target of selling more than 600,000 shares at $1 each.
This ensured the branch would open after the community feared the Bendigo Bank franchise would not go ahead.
“It’s been hard yards,” he said. “Thousands of hours of volunteer work.”
Mr MacGregor said at the opening celebration they were able to hand out community grants to groups in the East Coast community.
“Bendigo Bank grant money to newly established branches, so we had nine $500 grants to give to community groups in the region.
“We got to hand out the grants and also find out what some of it would go toward,” he said.
The grant recipients were the Fingal Valley Festival, the Fingal Valley Neighbourhood House, Scamander Surf Life Saving Club, St Marys Community Space, St Helens Marine Rescue, St Helens Fire Brigade, Poss’M’Agic Childcare Centre, St Helens Netball Club, and the St Helens Football Club.
“From day one, it gets the message out,” he said.
“It’s all about giving back to the community.”
The St Helens and St Marys Community Bank branch can be found at 41 Cecilia Street, St Helens.