Banking With Faith
City Financial Services Company Has Mennonite Roots
Posted: March 9, 2013
Patty Skelton works the front desk at the faith-based financial institution, Everence, on Thursday afternoon. (Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
Everence financial adviser Glen Kauffman discusses the faith-based institution’s history Thursday in his office. Last year, Everence distributed nearly $46,000 through a sharing fund. (Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
“Everence is a made-up word,” explained Glen Kauffman, a financial adviser at the company’s Harrisonburg branch. The company’s former initials — MMA, which stood for Mennonite Mutual Aid — caused some problems.
“The phone would ring [and they’d say], ‘Where’s the nearest gym?’ ” Kauffman said, laughing.
In 2010, the corporate company based in Goshen, Ind., decided to lessen the confusion by switching the name.
“Then, you can invest in giving a meaning to that word, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Kauffman, whose 26 years with the company means he’s seen it through many changes.
The umbrella company was incorporated by the Mennonite church in 1945 to help those returning from alternative service during World War II.
Locally, the organization’s only Virginia office worked out of the Virginia Mennonite Conference Center starting in the ’80s.
In the mid-1990s, it moved into the Park View Federal Credit Union before transitioning again to the Traditions shopping center.
In 2008, the branch merged with the Mennonite Financial Credit Union.
The Harrisonburg Everence has been operating from its current location — 841 Mt. Clinton Pike — since July 2009.
The building is set up with the credit union on one side and the financial services department — offering everything from retirement planning to charitable giving to investments — on the other.
The company is one of few that incorporates customers’ faith and values into their financial decisions.
“That’s really what differentiates us from other businesses,” said Joseph Lapp, managing director of the Harrisonburg office.
“It’s a place where people can feel as if they can make their faith relevant in their decisions.”
One way Everence claims to adhere to the Biblical model of being good stewards is through its Sharing Fund. Thanks to a unique nonprofit tax status making the company a fraternal benefit society, it returns what it would pay in federal and state income and premium taxes to its members.
The local office works with more than 100 congregations throughout Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland to return, not only those tax funds, but a 10 percent tithe on all profits and additional donations from employees to those in need, according to Kauffman. The company operates through volunteer advocates working in churches that agree to match its contribution.
Last year, Everence distributed almost $900,000 in Sharing Fund matching grants to nearly 2,000 households to help with basic living expenses. Almost $46,000 of that amount went toward churches in the Harrisonburg area.
Those who receive the donations don’t have to be company members.
Unlike some other financial institutions, Everence has been growing steadily, especially in the last 10 years, Kauffman and Lapp said. It passed the mark of $2 billion in assets under management late last year.
The local branch has nine employees, while the corporate company boasts more than 400 staff members and advisers and more than 1,500 volunteer advocates serving in member churches.
Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or firstname.lastname@example.org