Photo by Michael Douglas
Union Bank, N.A., and the West Angeles Community Development Corporation (CDC) recently celebrated the official grand opening of the bank’s new Crenshaw branch at the new West Angeles Plaza, an $8.5 million, 24,000 square foot retail complex located in the heart of the Crenshaw District. The long-awaited development is the result of a nearly 20-year partnership between Union Bank and the West Angeles CDC. Union Bank originally sold the site to West Angeles in 2006 with the shared vision of revitalizing the landmark area.
In addition to West Angeles CDC founders Bishop Charles E. Blake, senior pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, and Dr. Lula Ballton, the milestone celebration brought together a host of community stakeholders and elected officials, including: Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson, Jr.; Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, senior pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church; West Angeles CDC Executive Director Tunua Thrash; Union Bank Senior Executive Vice President and Head of Community Banking Pierre Habis; Executive Vice President and Head of Branch Banking Mike Feldman; Executive Vice President and Regional President Leticia Aguilar; Senior Vice President and Regional Manager Christine Sarkissof; and Vice President and Crenshaw Branch Manager Karen R. Smith.
“Union Bank has been a staple in the Crenshaw community since 1963,” said Aguilar. “The success of this revitalization project demonstrates Union Bank’s strong commitment to economic empowerment and development in the communities where we do business. We were thrilled to work with the West Angeles CDC to see this through.”
Program highlights included a ceremonial ribbon cutting to officially welcome the bank’s new location at the corner of Crenshaw and Jefferson Boulevards. As part of the bank’s commitment to responsible banking and ongoing support for the West Angeles CDC, the Union Bank Foundation presented a check for $100,000 to the CDC. The grant will help the CDC continue to provide financial education, counseling and first-time homebuyer education to the low- to moderate-income (LMI) community. The total grant awarded is $300,000 over a three-year period and is part of the Foundation’s support of nearly 30 small business technical assistance and homeownership counseling nonprofit organizations in California and the Pacific Northwest.
The momentous occasion also included entertainment from the Crenshaw High School Marching Band, and Union Bank provided a $1,000 check to the band to support the school’s performing arts program. The evening culminated with birthday serenades by the West Angeles Extension Choir for Dr. Lula Ballton and two long-time Union Bank customers who recently celebrated their 99th and 101st birthdays. The bank also honored Dr. Ballton by naming the branch’s new conference room after her.
“We are honored to have this beautiful plague in the branch as a daily reminder of the dedication and tireless efforts that Dr. Lula Ballton and the West Angeles CDC put into this community and this project,” said Smith. “The Union Bank Crenshaw branch is a prime example of community banking partnering with non-profits, local government and the business community to serve working families and small business owners.”