Activists from the neighboring Austin neighborhood fear that the takeover of Park National Bank by U.S. Bancorp will have a devastatingly negative effect on their community.
Bob Vondrasek, executive director of the South Austin Coalition Community Council, a neighborhood advocacy group, said Park National and its chairman, Mike Kelly, are “indispensable parts of the West Side.”
The Oak Park-based bank has helped homeowners and families secure low-income loans over the years, among other initiatives, Vondrasek said. The advocacy group joined other West Side organizations Monday afternoon for a protest at the downtown Chicago office of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 300 Riverside Plaza. The FDIC on Friday seized Park National’s parent company, First Bank of Oak Park Corporation.
More than two dozen people attended Monday’s protest, including representatives of the Westside Health Authority and the Leader’s Network, a conglomerate of West Side pastors. The organizations were able to make their way inside the office and met with two FDIC officials. Before leaving, the protestors held a prayer service in the lobby. Vondrasek said he and other community leaders are scheduled to meet with FDIC officials within the next week. Their concern, he added, is whether U.S. Bank will continue FBOP’s commitment to helping Austin and the greater West Side.
He also praised Kelly, who is known for quietly helping others via the bank and personally while shying away from any publicity for himself.
“Mike Kelly has a reputation for being involved in the community,” said Vondrasek, pointing out that the bank also donates a notable portion of its profits to the community.
Rev. Chris Devron, president of Christ the King School, a Jesuit high school in Austin that opened in 2008, also spoke highly of Kelly. Prior to his school’s opening, Kelly provided Devron with office space at Park National’s Madison and Austin location. He noted that Kelly made sure his bank employees shared his vision.
“He was committed to really helping people, and I think he created a culture inside the bank; that their job as bankers is to be a part of their community. That’s a really unique thing to do.”
A fact sheet provided by FBOP Corp. prior to its takeover noted that its Park National Bank had provided Christ the King with an interest free $22 million construction loan. The Austin school will open its brand new building in January at the Resurrection Parish campus on the West Side.
Christ the King is part of the Cristo Rey Network of Jesuit schools across the country.
Delores McCain contributed to this story.