First Niagara banks on hands-on history lessons


Monday, 6/30/2014 12:12pm

Calculate the return on this good investment: a donation of $20,000 that can touch the lives of up to 20,000 schoolchildren.

That metric made First Niagara Foundation the first corporate sponsor of Historic Hudson Valley’s school-time programs at Philipsburg Manor and Van Cortlandt Manor.

With spring in full bloom, students of all ages from across the region are arriving by the busload for dynamic hands-on history lessons that go beyond books and classrooms.

At Philipsburg Manor, students in programs like “Millers and Merchants” and “Touching the Past” roll up their sleeves and get right to work, 18th-century-style. Instead of playing Candy Crush, they grind corn in the mill, thresh wheat in the barn, dye wool, and identify garden herbs.

At Van Cortlandt Manor, the “Hard Work and Hand Work” program immerses young pioneers in the daily chores of Post-Revolutionary America, from open-hearth cooking to blacksmithing to crafting brooms and candles from scratch.

“First Niagara is proud to support programs such as this that foster youth education about an important part of our region’s history,” says Cathie A. Schaffer, First Niagara Bank’s Tri-State Regional President. “The Historic Hudson Valley National Historic Landmarks are near and dear to the hearts of Hudson Valley residents, and together we are able to teach these young children about the importance of history and culture.”

Indeed, Ms. Schaffer knows a thing or two about being a Valley pioneer. She came aboard shortly after First Niagara acquired a batch of local HSBC branches, which grew First Niagara’s Northeast fleet to some 420 branches. Since then, she’s been leading the charge to build new business from the ground up and amplify the impact of the First Niagara Foundation. Formed in 1998, the Foundation focuses the bank’s philanthropy on local organizations dedicated to youth and education—making them the perfect match for Historic Hudson Valley.

“Our educational programs are the bedrock of our mission,” says Waddell W. Stillman, Historic Hudson Valley’s President. “The generous support of partners like First Niagara helps ensure our ability to serve thousands of schoolchildren each year.”

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