Benjamin F. Edwards cultivates a community of giving among associates

Benjamin F. Edwards cultivates a community of giving among associates
By: Kellyn Vale Last Updated: February 12, 2020

With a legacy spanning over 130 years, wealth management financial firm Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. has kept five core values at the heart of its family-oriented company: independence, accessibility, having fun, striving for excellence, and The Golden Rule, treating others the way you want to be treated. In taking this fifth core value to heart, Benjamin F. Edwards & Co., in Chesterton has developed a reputation for heartfelt community interaction that takes the firm’s influence beyond the realm of finance.

“Part of our philosophy is giving back to the community as a whole, not just our clients,” said Cliff Bryan, Managing Director-Investments and the Branch Manager of Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. in Chesterton. “We know that engaging in a healthy community makes our workplace just as healthy and positive.”

While it’s not uncommon for companies to dedicate a day or two each year to group service, Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. makes philanthropy part of their daily life. Rather than confine employees to a one-day collective effort for good, the Benjamin F. Edwards firm encourages them to be active in the community wherever and whenever they see fit, making the firm a vessel for year-round support of myriad nonprofits.

“I work with American Cancer Society, MS Society, Easterseals of Chicago, Our Greater Good, Memorial Opera House, and VNA of NWI,” Bryan continued. “Those are the organizations I’m passionate about, but I want everyone in the office to have a sense of ownership and passion for the good they do. Our advisors are given the freedom to get involved in areas of our community that they personally connect with and to make a difference in causes that they as individuals find meaningful.”

This diversified approach to giving back extends the helping hands of the Benjamin F. Edwards  & Co. team across the Region, with members serving organizations from local YMCAs, to St. Jude Hospital, to Opportunity Enterprises, and more. Name a local nonprofit and odds are a Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. advisor has been a part of their movement for change.

“We all have our different places we reach out to. Everybody seems to have something they like to do,” said Financial Advisor Bob Kollar. “I’ve been in many offices but nothing like this where everybody has this goodness in their heart, especially in all these different avenues.”

Kollar is on the Duneland Chamber of Commerce board, the Chesterton Art Center board, and serves as president of the local Rotary.

“I initially got involved at the Art Center because at the time, Duneland was cutting art and music programs due to budgeting issues at the schools. I’m not artistic at all, but I do believe music and art are important in peoples’ lives,” Kollar said. “I figured I might not be able to paint something that will inspire people, but what I can do is help keep art programs accessible for others.”

Kollar also serves as a volunteer Junior Achievement Instructor for his 9-year-old daughter’s class, becoming a strong role model for students.

“Every time I’d go there the kids just run to me,” Kollar said. “Some kids don’t have a male role model in their lives, so to be a mentor and friend to them even for just one 90-minute class felt good. I love what I do, but if I could go back to 25, I would consider teaching as my profession.”

Financial Advisor Jeff Fernandez serves with both the Valparaiso and Chesterton Rotary clubs, though another key inspiration to give back stems from his childhood experiences at the YMCA.

“I used to go there as a kid for summer camps and after school activities,” Fernandez said. “It’s a great place for kids to meet new friends and be active.”

The Y left a lasting impact on his life, leading him to help create this same healthy space for others wherever his career takes him.

“I’ve lived in St. Louis, South Carolina, and Tennessee, but the Y is always the first place I become a member no matter where I go,” Fernandez said. “It’s such a supportive environment for friendship and activity, so when I moved to Valpo from Nashville a couple years ago I knew I had to continue my contributions at the Valpo Y.”

Kristin Jackson, Vice President/Investments, and her father Thomas “Tom” Roberts, Senior Vice President/Investments at the Chesterton firm, have been active members at the Duneland Family YMCA for years.

“I actually went over my term and had to step off the board,” Jackson smiled. “I hope to come back, but I’m still actively volunteering there. My father has been influential there, which is why a big part of my heart is there, too.”

This year Jackson is putting together the Duneland Family YMCA Prom Fashion Show.

“I’m excited to get all of the young ladies out there, helping them build confidence, self-esteem and feel present,” Jackson said. “I want to help them feel good about who they are inside and out.”

A Chesterton native, Jackson hopes to build a stronger community and inspire her daughter in the process.

“I am so glad to be able to give back to the community and make it stronger,” Jackson said. “I want my daughter to feel like she can come back here and raise a family, to have roots embedded in the community and know how wonderful it is.”

Roberts is an inspiration to Jackson and the community at large. He has been active in developing the Duneland community, the Duneland Family YMCA, Rotary, and even singing in the church choir. His work has made him a pillar of positivity and growth for years, even earning him a personal landmark of sorts in the form of “Roberts Road.”  

“He’s a nice presence in the community in so many ways,” Jackson said. “To see him giving back and going strong at 82 makes me so proud to be his daughter.”

Giving back has become a way of life at Benjamin F. Edwards & Co., so much so that two of their team members have taken on the challenge of kickstarting a new nonprofit organization. Senior Client Service Associate Deanna Lindlow and Senior Registered Financial Client Associate Jennifer Espinoza teamed up with friend Jaymee Penrose, who founded Calling All Angels in September 2019. The journey has been a learning experience for Espinoza, who now serves as Vice President for Calling all Angels, and Lindlow, who serves on the board – each of them striving to bring the charity’s mission to life daily.

“We’re still in the development process, but good things start small,” Espinoza said. “We hope to one day grow to do everything the major nonprofits can do, whether that’s hosting galas or funding scholarships. There’s a million different ways we can take this, but I don’t think there are any limitations on what we can accomplish.”

Espinoza also is active in supporting the Portage Township YMCA, and Portage Pop Warner, for which she serves as the Community Relations Board Member.

“It’s important to me to encouraging our athletes to be involved in the community,” she said.

Every member of the Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. team brings the feel-good vibes from their own efforts for change back to the office, where they culminate in an environment of consistent encouragement and support.

“We’re all on so many boards, and oftentimes they’ll hold meetings on the same nights,” Espinoza continued. “I’ll come from Calling All Angels, Cliff will come from Our Greater Good, Bob will come from the Chamber; all of us will come back to the office buzzing with excitement for what each of our organizations are doing.”

Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. promotes employee community activism with refreshing fervor and dedication, and reaches out to the entirety of Northwest Indiana like family.

“They have a strong belief that supporting the community and supporting others is the foundation of being successful, which is a belief I hold myself as well,” Fernandez said. “In this office and our offices all over the country, they encourage us to be a staple in the community and help others succeed, whether that’s financially or any other way that we’re able to help.”