Leaders & Legacies: Itasca Bank & Trust Co., 75 years of commitment to the community
Leaders & Legacies: Stories of Local Impact is an ongoing series brought to you in partnership with the Daily Herald and DuPage Foundation. It highlights the inspiring stories of local individuals, families, and businesses who have made or are making a lasting impact for our community through their generosity and leadership.
The series continues with Itasca Bank & Trust Co., and the brothers behind it, Jack E. Mensching and James R. Mensching.
At a time when community banks are dwindling in number, Itasca Bank & Trust Co. is thriving, doing business just as it did in 1948. Brothers Jim Mensching, bank president, and Jack Mensching, its chairman, credit the bank's steady support for and from the community for much of its success.
Itasca Bank & Trust Co. maintains a reputation for financial strength, efficient technology, and a high level of customer service. It is its connection to the community, however, that matters most to the company. While the bank's service area has expanded throughout DuPage County - reaching Addison, Bensenville, Roselle, Wood Dale and beyond - the bank's values have stayed the same: when the community wins, the bank wins.
"The peripheral things that come our way because we're helping those around us, in ways that are not strictly bank-related, are immeasurable," said John Binneboese, senior vice president of community relations for the bank and son of Art Binneboese, a past president of the bank. "Our primary intent is always to help. When that help leads to success, it means we are able to do more."
Jack, Jim, and their eldest brother, Glenn Jr., grew up in a family with community bank ties dating back to 1890.
After immigrating to Chicago from Germany, their great-grandfather, H.H. Franzen, was involved in founding more than a dozen banks. His son, Elmer Franzen, followed in his footsteps.
When Itasca's bank was relocated in 1948, Elmer knew that the town needed to have a bank in order to grow and prosper. He founded The Itasca State Bank to fill this need.
Since day one, the independently owned bank's values have been rooted in finding ways to serve the community. As men returned from World War II, their home, car, and business loans built the bank's foundation.
A leadership team with long-term loyalty to the bank directed its prosperous growth for the next 75 years.
In 1955, Glenn Mensching was named president after the retirement of his father-in-law, Elmer Franzen, a position he held for 28 years. During Glenn's tenure in 1978, The Itasca State Bank became known as Itasca Bank & Trust Co., when it added a trust department.
Art Binneboese, an original employee of the bank, was elected president from 1983-85. Glenn's son, Jack Mensching, served as president from 1985-2015 and is currently chairman of the board of directors. Jack's brother, Jim, succeeded him and became the bank's fifth president in 2015.
In the early years of banking, bankers were often taught to keep a low profile to deter criminals. This modesty was passed down for generations and is seen in the Menschings' own generous, but quiet, philanthropic efforts.
"We organically learned about philanthropy from a young age," said Jim Mensching. "We always knew we were lucky to have the opportunities that we had."
Knowing that the surrounding community has always been supportive of them, the Mensching family gives time, talent, and treasure back to numerous organizations. Much of their philanthropy is central to the bank's service areas for localized impact.
"The world is a big place, and giving beyond where you live is important," said Dave McGowan, past president and CEO of DuPage Foundation. "But there is something especially meaningful about giving to the community in which you live, work, and play. The Mensching family understands this."
In addition to being longtime supporters of DuPage Foundation, some of the Mensching family's other charitable beneficiaries include Edward-Elmhurst Health, Itasca Park District, and Junior Achievement DuPage. A DuPage Foundation trustee from 2000-10 and past board chair of the organization, Jack and his wife, Kathy, are members of the foundation's Legacy Society, which consists of nearly 200 forward-thinking donors who have made a commitment to securing our community's future by including the foundation in their estate plans.
Commitment to service
The Menschings are not the bank's only philanthropic-minded team members. Itasca Bank & Trust Co. employs an energetic group of individuals who give back personally and professionally. The Conservation Foundation, Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce, Itasca Lions Club, and numerous other groups have benefited from the bank staff's philanthropy and volunteerism.
"We don't have a budget for doing good," Binneboese said. "Instead, we always have the intention of finding a way to say yes, which includes supporting staff in their own philanthropic endeavors."
The local philanthropic community is taking note of the bank and its employees' commitment to service. Scott LaMorte, the bank's business development officer, will be one of several honorees recognized by the West Suburban Philanthropic Network at its annual Philanthropy Awards on Thursday, Aug. 31. Learn more or register to attend at wspnonline.org/page-527669.
Itasca Bank & Trust Co. is a bank like all others, offering loans, opening new accounts, and accepting deposits. However, what stands out about it is its culture - particularly its staff's exceptional customer service. Described as generous, fair and trustworthy, the bank's staff's interactions with customers have a certain family feel.
"We take care of our people," said Scott LaMorte. "This is what allows us to thrive at our size."
Based on relationships, and sometimes a handshake, bank employees are empowered to make many decisions on the spot in order to better serve customers. With an internal decision-making process, the bank is responsive and can problem-solve quickly.
"Itasca Bank & Trust Co. may, at times, be able to increase profits by working in a more traditional way," said Brook McDonald, president and CEO of The Conservation Foundation. "However, they understand the importance of what their business and not-for-profit clients provide to the health and vibrancy of the community. This encourages them to be creative in finding solutions that benefit both parties."
In 1998, the bank enjoyed a successful 50th anniversary, during which it donated $250,000 back to the community. With that in mind, Jim knew that this year's 75th anniversary would be the highlight of his career.
"I've led several game-changing advancements during my tenure, including the expansion to our Roselle branch in 2011 and the introduction of internet banking," said Jim Mensching. "Still, incorporating so many people into our anniversary events and seeing the impact our team is making within the community is what makes me most proud."
True to the bank's core values, its celebration is focused outward.
"It's the relationships we have within our community that make us extraordinary, so we're celebrating those," said Ginny Wagner, the bank's director of marketing.
For its milestone anniversary, the bank is focusing on raising awareness of the growing pervasiveness of food insecurity in DuPage County. Its activities include a yearlong push to educate its customers and the broader community about this issue while enhancing the impact of five local food pantries: Itasca Cares Food Pantry, Roselle Community Food Pantry, Bensenville-Wood Dale Food Pantry, Elmhurst-Yorkfield Food Pantry, and Wood Dale Food Pantry.
The bank started by doing what it does best: it gathered area leaders, provided a meal, and facilitated a conversation. Together, pantry needs were identified. In addition to donating $75 for every checking account that was opened (the $7,500 goal was quickly reached within three months), an employee volunteer program to complete 600 hours was initiated. With staff's enthusiasm, 600 hours were completed by August of this year.
"Based on our partners' needs, bank staff help with food deliveries and heavy lifting," Wagner said. "It's been a genuinely unique opportunity for all members of our team to participate in, and the pantries have appreciated the help."
The bank also used its connections to fill an identified supply need for the Elmhurst-Yorkfield Food Pantry. With assistance from its commercial clients, a refrigerated truck was donated by Todo Imports of Chicago and repaired by Thompson Rental Station Inc.
The bank's leadership efforts didn't stop there.
Familiar with the Green Earth Harvest program, the bank inquired with The Conservation Foundation about extra land at its McDonald Farm headquarters in Naperville that could be harvested for area food pantries. Because of the bank's reputation for supporting effective community projects, staff were confident they could drive the fundraising needed to finance this idea. Almost all of the commercial customers they asked to help said yes. The bank purchased 20 weeks' worth of fresh-picked, organic produce, grown exclusively for its pantry partners.
"Getting healthy food to underserved communities is a macro problem, it's everywhere," LaMorte said. "We can't solve this issue for the entire country, but we have an opportunity to make a difference for the area around us. It's inspiring to know we've initiated a partnership that can be replicated elsewhere for those who are hungry."
In an effort to encourage a countywide dialogue around food insecurity challenges and potential solutions as a prelude to Hunger Action Month in September, Itasca Bank & Trust Co. will serve as the presenting sponsor of an educational luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29, at Abbington Distinctive Banquets in Glen Ellyn.
The luncheon, co-sponsored by DuPage Foundation, Duly Health and Care, and Edward-Elmhurst Health, and presented in partnership with 13 area chambers of commerce, will feature a keynote by Steve Dolinsky, Chicago's "The Food Guy" on NBC Channel 5, and a lively panel discussion conducted by local experts. See sidebar for details.
"The increase we have witnessed in the number of our neighbors visiting food pantries throughout DuPage County from 2022 to 2023 is staggering," said Mike Sitrick, president and CEO of DuPage Foundation. "Itasca Bank & Trust Co.'s commitment to addressing this issue is commendable. Not only are the bank and its employees investing their time, talents, and resources, they're creating opportunities for others to partner with them to deliver coordinated impact. DuPage Foundation is honored to lead with them in this effort. Addressing food insecurity is one of our four current focus areas under the DuPage Community Transformation Partnership, a five-year, $10 million grantmaking program we are administering with the DuPage County Board, so this opportunity is extremely timely."
As a lasting commemoration of its 75th anniversary, the bank has created the Itasca Bank & Trust Co. Hunger Action Fund at DuPage Foundation. This permanently endowed community fund will generate annual support for area not-for-profits working to address hunger and food insecurity throughout DuPage County. All are invited to join the bank in building this fund by contributing tax-deductible donations.
Donations may be made online at dupagefoundation.org/hungeractionfund, or by mailing a check to DuPage Foundation, 3000 Woodcreek Drive, Suite 310, Downers Grove, IL 60515. Check donations should be made payable to "DuPage Foundation" and include "Itasca Bank & Trust Co. Hunger Action Fund" in the memo line.
Leading the charge in generating impactful initiatives is not a new trend for the bank. Rather, it's a core value that has been ingrained into the bank's culture since its beginnings. Bank employees serve as mentors, organizers, financiers, and contributors for countless projects that better the community.
Instrumental to the creation of the Itasca Chamber of Commerce, and a continued supporter since, it was the bank's leadership that also led to the introduction of town hall meetings in Addison, Itasca, Roselle, and Wood Dale.
"I've moderated the open forums for more than 30 years, encouraging residents to communicate with their government representatives," said Jack Mensching. "It's an important opportunity that the bank is proud to offer."
One of the bank's most impactful programs is its Women's Initiative, beginning at a time when the reins of many businesses were being handed over to owners' daughters and wives. With a $250,000 budget, the bank committed to providing a holistic array of resources around business owning, financial success, and personal health. For 23 years, the bank has received an overwhelmingly positive response to its programming, which ensures women feel empowered to succeed. What was a cutting-edge program 20 years ago, as women were an underserved part of the business community, remains a valuable support system to problem solve among peers. The Women's Initiative has more than 3,000 members, including business owners, retirees, women in the workforce, mothers, and students.
"With our big-picture mentality, we know that what is good for women, is good for the community," said Jack Mensching. "And what is good for the community, is good for the bank."
Itasca Bank & Trust Co. is a prime example of how every company can conduct business in a way that is mutually beneficial for itself and for the communities it serves.
"If each major company understood the power they have in putting their resources to work out in the community, they would be shocked at how valuable it is for business and for morale building," McGowan said. "Itasca Bank has grown tremendously because of its leadership's unwavering commitment to being active community citizens."
Immensely proud of its growth and service over the last 75 years, Itasca Bank & Trust Co. has no plans of slowing down. As long as there is a demand for individualized attention and expertise, the bank will be there.
"We have no desire to be the biggest bank," Binneboese said. "We want to be the best."
With more than 250 shareholders, many of whom are second- and third-generation shareholders, ownership of the bank is committed to doing business how it always has - professionally, generously, and efficiently - long into the future.
• The Leaders & Legacies series is brought to you by the Legacy Society of DuPage Foundation. Suggestions for future stories can be sent to Robin Carroll, director of marketing and communications, at Robin@dupagefoundation.org. Interested in learning more about how you can make an impact or create a legacy for your community and favorite causes? Learn more at dupagefoundation.org or call (630) 665-5556. DuPage Foundation is located at 3000 Woodcreek Drive, Suite 310, in Downers Grove, IL 60515.
What: As a prelude to Hunger Action Month in September, Itasca Bank & Trust Co. will serve as the presenting sponsor of a community educational luncheon on food insecurity challenges and potential solutions. The event, co-sponsored by DuPage Foundation, Duly Health and Care, and Edward-Elmhurst Health, and presented in partnership with 13 area chambers of commerce
Featuring: Keynote by Steve Dolinsky, Chicago’s “The Food Guy” on NBC Channel 5, and a panel discussion moderated by Nicki Anderson, advancement committee chair for Loaves & Fishes Community Services. Panelists include Dr. David Dungan, an internal medicine and pediatric physician with Duly Health and Care; Beth Engler, community outreach coordinator for Naperville Unit District 203; and Barb Szczepaniak, vice president for programs at DuPage Foundation.
When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29
Where: Abbington Distinctive Banquets, 3S002 Route 53, Glen Ellyn
Cost: $40 per chamber member; participating chambers will donate a portion of their proceeds to local food pantries.
Registration: Contact your local chamber of commerce. If you are not a member of a participating chamber, contact Scott LaMorte at (630) 773-0350 or email@example.com
itascabank.com/hunger-action-luncheonParticipating chambers: Bloomingdale Chamber of Commerce; Carol Stream Chamber of Commerce; Chamber630; Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce & Industry; GOA Regional Business Association; Greater Oak Brook Chamber of Commerce; Lisle Area Chamber of Commerce; Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce; Palatine Chamber of Commerce; Roselle Chamber of Commerce; Western DuPage Chamber of Commerce; Westmont Chamber of Commerce; and Wheaton Chamber of Commerce