Testimonials to Mike Kelly’s integrity and the breadth of his impact on our area social service organizations, churches and schools are no surprise to me.
I would like to add my story. In 1994, I was hired as executive director at Sarah’s Inn to shepherd through a complicated set of problems, not the least of which was that it was saddled with debt and standing at the edge of financial ruin. I met Mike Kelly shortly after my hire, when I came to him to ask for a loan that would prevent the agency from dissolving. I had so carefully prepared and made my presentation, explaining how these funds would buy the agency time to get back on its feet.
All the while, I wondered why this banker would take a chance on a troubled agency with a new director that he didn’t know. Mike Kelly listened patiently and, when he spoke, it soon became apparent that he would grant our request. It seemed to be as simple as Mike Kelly believing it was important that our communities have a place for battered women and their children to go to for help. Through my tenure and beyond, Mike continued to be a booster for Sarah’s Inn as it developed and prospered. I will never forget that it was his early support in the worst of times that made possible all the good things that followed.
The writers to the Journal have said it all. He’s been the model of what a community banker should be. His banks reflected his ideals, investing in low-income areas that other banks wouldn’t touch and supporting all the things that make communities vibrant and livable: the arts, education, service organizations, churches and hospitals. At a time when the public holds banks in deep disregard, Park National is beloved by the people it served and its employees, both of whom shared an unusual and intense loyalty to Mike and his banks.
How sad and ironic that a banker who was not about beauracracy, who was successful on his own terms, who gave others the breaks they needed should be brought down by red tape and beauracratic officials.
Senators Durbin and Burris: Where were you?
Representatives Davis and Rush: Couldn’t you have done more?
President Obama: Sure this is small stuff with all that you confront, but if you looked at what happened here you’d see that FBOP represented all the principles of community involvement that you so passionately believe in. And it did so in the very communities that embrace you and your administration. I don’t think you’d approve.
So I’m going to write our elected officials, and ask questions, and perhaps others who feel strongly about this loss to our community will do so as well.
Mike Kelly, who doesn’t want the light to shine on his good works, I hope you will understand that those who’ve done so just had to, this one time.
Joan Rappaport, who worked for Sarah’s Inn for five years, is a retired consultant for nonprofits that help victims of domestic violence. She lives in Oak Park.