Paul Heerema had a vision of an independent, full-service, community-oriented commercial bank—but with a difference. The bank he wanted to launch would be founded on Old Testament principles. Its purpose would be to serve the financial needs of northern New Jersey communities and foster a better community life by integrating tithing into its corporate and personal mission—that is, to give back 10 percent of its profits on an annual basis.
Heerema died before he could see the fruits of his labor, but CEO Paul Van Ostenbridge says that since the bank’s inception in 1985, Heerema’s “mission is flourishing.”
Atlantic Stewardship Bank (ASB) has the distinction of being the only bank on the East Coast that tithes. Headquartered in Midland Park, ASB has 12 branches in Bergen, Passaic and Morris counties.
ASB donates to Christ-centered organizations, local hospitals, fire departments, libraries, schools, and other civic organizations in New Jersey, and supports a variety of fundraising events. Each department can express a preference for where it would like funds to be allocated.
The bank also holds Stewardship Days on which employees volunteer at organizations the bank supports, such as Eva’s Village, a Paterson-based nonprofit serving people struggling with poverty, homelessness, hunger and addiction. Heather Thompson, executive vice president of Eva’s Village, applauds ASB’s “steadfast support” of the organization for nearly 25 years.
At Oasis in Paterson, some ASB employees teach English to at-need women and children. One Oasis client came to America from Jamaica and was in the midst of an abusive relationship. Starting with a fourth-grade education, she was able to obtain her diploma and support her two children thanks to ASB’s donation to the Oasis scholarship program.
ASB places a special emphasis on missions—local and international—and food banks, such as the Center of United Methodist Aid to the Community in Paterson, and Market Street Mission in Morristown. ASB helped the latter with its finances and credit plans.
Some of ASB’s efforts yield remarkable stories. Ten years ago, St. Anthony’s School in Hawthorne was in dire financial straits. Ostenbridge and other ASB personnel showed up at the school with a donation.
“They didn’t know we were coming,” Ostenbridge recounts. “We gave the principal the check and she started crying. I said, ‘Is everything okay?’ She said, ‘The boiler broke in this school yesterday. I had to hire a plumber to go ahead and fix that, and go out on faith. I didn’t have money to pay.’”
As it happened, the check the ASB emissaries had brought with them, covered 100 percent of the bill. Some would call this an extraordinary coincidence, and others would describe it as a miracle. For Ostenbridge, it’s a memory he carries every day.
Since 1985, ASB has given more than $10.1 million to nonprofits. “Each week it increases,” Ostenbridge says. Before 2018 is out, Ostenbridge expects ASB to have committed at least $900,000 to charitable causes. Annually, about 400 organizations benefit from the bank’s donations and in-kind services.
Paul Heerema would be proud.Click here to leave a comment