Fifth Third Gifts Convention Center With $1 Million

June 5, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Fifth Third Bancorp made a loud statement Thursday regarding its commitment to the community and its intention to “give back,” with a $1 million gift to the downtown convention center project.

The $1 million check was one of two donations Fifth Third made Thursday, providing a classic example of how to “put your money where your mouth is.”

The company stepped up to the plate a second time to pinch hit for kids with a commitment of $37,500 to the Inner-City Youth Baseball/Softball program.

The donation will double both the size and scope of the program, which up to now has been sponsored solely by the West Michigan Whitecaps.

Following Fifth Third tradition, the announcements came on the third day of the fifth month.

According to the company, the May 3 date is typically reserved for company announcements involving major community donations.

Kevin Kabat, president of Fifth Third Bank of Western Michigan, said both donations demonstrate Fifth Third’s commitment to the West Michigan community. He added that the convention center will represent “a cornerstone of economic vitality” in Grand Rapids.

John Canepa, co-chair of the Grand Action Committee, the private sector force behind the Van Andel Arena and the convention center, accepted the check on behalf of the committee.

With Fifth Third’s financial support, the youth sports program will be expanded this year to include an additional 400 children ages 6 to 14.

The donation also provides for three more game sites and offers game instruction at 16 neighborhood playground sites. As part of the package, kids can get free transportation to sites of evening games.

The Inner-City Youth Baseball program was launched seven years ago and is run through a collaboration of the YMCA, Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation Department and WXSP.

Fifth Third’s commitment to the program will be bankrolled on the success of the West Michigan Whitecaps. The bank will kick in $100 for every third-base-to-first-base putout (5 to 3 if you’re scoring at home) that the Whitecaps make.

“One of the things that became very clear as the program continued to grow was that there was more we could do; we could reach more kids,” said Lew Chamberlin, managing partner of the Whitecaps.

Chamberlin said Fifth Third stepped up to help take the program to the next level.

The baseball program, Kabat said, provides children with opportunities to interact with positive role models and learn the values of commitment, perseverance, respect and teamwork.

“The sport encourages collaboration and individual excellence, which together provide a solid foundation to succeed in life,” Kabat said.

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