Growth and prosperity through changing times
Over 15 years, a Wells Fargo client serves a growing Spanish-speaking population and broader community through its church and school in Annapolis, Maryland.
Recent chapters in the story of Book of Life Academy are similar to those of other private schools connected to churches. The pandemic has affected members’ ability to support the Annapolis, Maryland-based Pentecostal church, and some families have found it difficult to make tuition payments.
“We are a private school that solely depends on tuition to pay our teachers and staff,” said Vice Principal Rebecca Lemus. “When the pandemic hit, things started to get a little rocky. Students began to withdraw, and finances started to dwindle.”
The situation was particularly difficult for the small Christian academy due to the relatively low cost of tuition it offers to area families as part of its mission of ministry. The school is the vision of Rev. Hector Calixto, founder and senior pastor of Iglesia Hispana Emmanuel church, which serves the growing Spanish-speaking community (PDF) in the area.
Church administrators say their banking relationship with Wells Fargo has helped their particular story endure as one of growth and prosperity.
In recent months, Commercial Banking Relationship Manager Don Hoyt worked with church administrators to guide them through the process of obtaining a Paycheck Protection Program loan. The loan helped the school retain its educators and continue operations this fall to benefit K-5 students from throughout Anne Arundel County.
“Wells Fargo’s support has been unmeasurable,” Lemus said. “We have a staff that has dedicated themselves to us and has identified with our school’s mission, and we are so happy that we were able to protect them and their families with this PPP loan.”
The loan and the financial guidance from Hoyt are exemplary parts of a 15-year relationship with Wells Fargo, said Fedor “Tony” Zapata, a church administrator, board member, and financial officer.
“We have been with Wells Fargo through the years, and we have received wonderful treatment,” Zapata said. “In any relationship there are always changes and challenges, but even in tough times, we have been able to get to fair resolutions.”
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The tight-knit community of Annapolis also has a tight-knit Hispanic community, Zapata said, and Wells Fargo has nurtured business relationships within those communities.
“In the local branch, there are friendly and professional people, like Lead Teller Kim Lind, and always someone there who is bilingual,” Zapata said. “As soon as I walk in, it feels like everybody knows my name, just like they say on that series on TV. It makes you feel welcome.”
The church is currently in its dream home, supported by a Wells Fargo mortgage and what Zapata considers “a minor miracle” that helped increase the building value substantially because of local property cost fluctuations. Church administrators used those real estate gains to purchase a larger building and comfortably grow their church from 200 members to its current 900 members, and increase their student body from about 30 to more than 100.
Hoyt is one of the bank representatives who has worked with Zapata and church staff during many of the latest developments, including helping the church set up online donations when services began simulcasting to serve members sheltering at home.
“We have worked with Iglesia Hispana Emmanuel for years, through good times and bad times, but Tony [Zapata] and the church leaders have been great to work with, and I am happy they could say the same,” Hoyt said.
“We believe many more people and students will be coming to our church and our school,” Zapata said. “Wells Fargo has been very instrumental in helping us continue to reach out to our members who have also thought it was important to keep our church going through the pandemic. By the grace of God, we have been prosperous.”