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Heritage Bank makes local senior center safer

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Heritage Bank, a 53-year community bank in Jonesboro, has set aside $1 million in savings, and will use the accrued interest to give residents of the Jonesboro Nursing and Rehabilitation Center greater peace of mind.

On Thursday, the bank sponsored the center's membership in the Senior Housing Crime Prevention Foundation's (SHCPF) Senior Crimestoppers Program.

The nationwide program seeks to reduce crime in the nation's senior facilities by creating incentive programs for people to report crimes, and giving seniors more tools to avoid being victimized.

The interest earned on the money set aside by the bank will fund several programs center residents will now be able to enjoy. They include: Safety lock boxes for all residents; ongoing crime-prevention education for staff, family and residents; and a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week, tip line where residents, staff, or family members can anonymously report incidences of crime, with $200-$1000 cash rewards for information that leads to arrests.

Terry Rooker, SHCPF president, said the Senior Crimestoppers Program operates in 6,000 facilities across the country. He said seniors are often the victims of petty theft, vandalism, and even verbal, physical and sexual abuse, and that programs, such as Senior Crimestoppers, act as a deterrent.

"This is a life line that they are putting in place to address anything that might happen," said Rooker. "It helps management get information that they normally wouldn't be able to get. When it's anonymous ... the motivation to get involved dramatically increases."

Eldrin Bell, whose 93-year-old mother, Ruth Glass, is a resident at the center, applauded Heritage Bank for "helping protect [one of] our most precious, valuable [resources].

"Senior citizens are probably one of the most preyed upon groups in the county," said Bell. "Unfortunately in the past, we have given them the least attention. This is a way to turn that around."

Leonard Moreland, president and CEO of Heritage Bank, said the bank's minimum commitment to the Senior Crimestoppers Program would be five years. During that time, their investment will accrue approximately $20,000 per year, enough to fully fund the program's cost, Moreland said.

"We've been in the community for 53 years and we look for ways to help different segments of the community," said Moreland. "We understand that there are many issues of crimes against the elderly. This is our chance to help stop that."