Smiling Woman

Strong Relationship Helps Organization Support Kids with Special Needs

Sheri Canfield knows how important it is to support people who need it. When her 2-year-old son, Alex, began to show signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), she looked for the resources that could help. When she discovered there weren’t enough, she created The Spotted Zebra Learning Center.

The Spotted Zebra provides education services to children who are developing typically and for those identified with special needs through a uniquely integrated program. The first school year in 2005 started with 10 children before quickly ballooning to 40. By 2008, The Spotted Zebra had grown to offer a kindergarten program, and it looked like the growth would continue.

The need in the greater community was clearly there. But Sheri needed something, too. She needed a financial partner who believed in her vision.

She found that in Community Bank.

“I’ll never forget their enthusiasm,” Sheri said. “We’ve never had anyone in the banking industry support us like they did. They gave us the feeling that we had their support to do more.”

And “more” is exactly what Sheri and The Spotted Zebra have done. In 2014, Community Bank helped guide Sheri to finance a new 14,000-square-foot space that she still occupies today. The next year, the program began providing early intervention services for children 0-3 years old. Community Bank then helped Sheri acquire new equipment for children with sensory needs through a loan with the Albany County Chamber. Subsequently, new programs like the Bizzy Beez Activity Center and the Speckled Zebra have been added, as well as programs for adults with autism.

My other banks didn’t know me. They didn’t know who I was or what kind of a business we were. As a new client of Community Bank, when we needed help, we got somebody who knew you by name, who was willing to have a conversation. It’s a personal experience.”

“They’ve given me the confidence to do these kinds of things,” Sheri said. “If you don’t have someone like him in your corner, it’s almost too much to stomach sometimes. I don’t think we’d be this far without Community Bank.”

Sheri appreciates how her strong relationship with the bank turns a tough conversation into a friendly one that, more times than not, ends in the right place.

“My other banks didn’t know me. They didn’t know who I was or what kind of a business we were. As a new client of Community Bank, when we needed help, we got somebody who knew you by name, who was willing to have a conversation. It’s a personal experience.”

“Starting just with a vision as a parent and having the ability to make it come true and continue to move it forward, it’s been an incredible experience,” Sheri said. “The kids that we touch, and when I see them now and they’re grown, looking at colleges with confidence—it’s humbling.”


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