When Wells Fargo officials invited heads of local nonprofit groups to their uptown bank tower for a thank-you breakfast Tuesday, Kathy Ridge showed up, as requested, just before 8.
"This is so nice," she said, watching fellow nonprofit executives mill around the glass-walled 41st floor dining area. "And I don't have to work the room because nobody here can give me money."
Before it was over, the head of Mecklenburg Citizens for Public Education had eaten grits, bacon and her own words.
She walked out with a check for $500,000, part of some $6million in mostly surprise donations Wells Fargo officials announced during the breakfast.
"Oh man, what a morning!" Ridge exclaimed. "I'd really better go to the bank!"
Wells Fargo officials said they made the donations to help recession-battered charities, and to emphasize the San Francisco-based bank's commitment to the Queen City following its merger last year with Charlotte-based Wachovia.
"We knew this community was looking for something very positive at the end of a very difficult year," said Laura Schulte, Wells Fargo's East Coast banking head. "It's the right thing to do, but it's also good business to make sure you invest in the community."
The bank had intended to give $7.2 million to charities in the region this year, about the same amount as last year. But Kendall Alley, president of its Charlotte region, asked leaders to do more. The request rose to CEO John Stumpf's office in San Francisco, and officials responded with another $4.6 million.
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