Justine Shaffer, Chad Witte

Chad Witte, right, hands Justine Shaffer a gift-wrapped donation to the Laramie Animal Welfare Society on Feb. 14 during the Giving from the Heart Ceremony at Western States Bank.

SHANNON BRODERICK/Boomerang photographer

Community building can be complex, but at Western States Bank, Senior Vice President Chad Witte said the company’s approach is simple — give money to the organizations working toward a better Laramie.

“Every year, we set a budget for donations and sponsorships,” Witte said. “Then we give them all out on our ‘Giving from the Heart’ day, which coincides with Valentine’s Day.”

The money is taken directly from the bank’s earnings and distributed to various nonprofit organizations throughout Laramie.

This year, Witte said the bank donated just less than $60,000 to 45 local organizations.

“This way, we can make sure we share our success with the community,” Witte said. “If they’re better, we’ll be better.”

Founded as Wyoming State Bank in 2006, the institution merged with Nebraska-based Valley Bank and Trust in 2016, changing their name to Western States Bank. Witte said the bank chain has 10 locations throughout Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado, with Laramie as the chain’s headquarters.

Witte said the institution started “Giving from the Heart” about three years ago. While the donations are based on the bank’s fiscal performance, he said the number of participating organizations and the amount of money donated has increased each year.

Organizations can use the money for everything from operations to capital construction, Witte explained.

“We look for need, and we look for the money to stay in the community,” he said. “There is no follow up process. We take people at their word for what the money will be used for.”

Some of the organizations to receive funding from the bank this year were the Laramie Police Department Foundation, Healthy Kids Rx, Laramie Local Foods, Rock River High School Athletics and the Rock River Parent-Teacher Organization.

The money is neither a grant nor loan, but a one-time payment to the organizations, which are not required to be members of the bank to apply for the funds, Witte said.

“We really try not to use the term donation, because we think of the money as more of a partnership,” he said. “We’re not really donating to that cause; we’re partnering with them. We realize if their organization is stronger, it makes our community stronger.”

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