Credit union to expand with new location on south Iowa Street; grant program to fund outdoor workout centers for Kansas cities

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Bank Midwest closed its large branch at 3045 Iowa St. in October 2020, bank officials have confirmed.

Of course you can do banking remotely these days. (I’ll admit there was an unfortunate incident with a Sharpie and my iPhone when I tried to electronically endorse a check.) For those reasons and others, there are still plenty of people who want to go to a brick-and-mortar banking location. One credit union in particular is betting that is still the case in Lawrence.

Envista Credit Union has reached a deal to purchase the former location of Bank Midwest at 31st and Iowa streets in south Lawrence. The location will be Envista’s second in Lawrence. Its other location is at 1555 Wakarusa Drive. Envista hopes to be open in the new location in May.

If you are having a hard time picturing the spot, it actually is a fairly big bank building that is just south of the Aldi grocery store. We reported in November that Bank Midwest had decided to close the location — leaving it with one in northwest Lawrence — because more people were turning to their phones and mobile devices for banking tasks. In fact, in that same article, we reported on US Bank closing its branch at 27th and Iowa streets for some of the same reasons.

With those types of trends, some wondered what other use could go into the Bank Midwest building. Come to find out, there was no need to come up with a new idea. Instead, it just took finding the right financial institution that was still committed to physical bank locations.

But Ron Smeltzer, president and CEO of Envista, said that he hears from the credit union’s members that they really like physical locations, even though Envista offers a full suite of mobile and online banking options. With just one physical location in Lawrence, expansion here has been on Envista’s mind.

“Our expansion decision was driven by member demand,” he said. ” Our growth has been outstanding, and our current members wanted the additional convenience and access that a second branch provides. Also, the rapid growth within the community is very exciting, and that doesn’t appear to be changing. Lawrence is a very dynamic community. That presents a lot of opportunity.”

Envista has had a location in Lawrence since 2014. Its largest presence, however, is in Topeka, where it has seven branches. It also operates a branch in Hutchinson. The credit union has been in business since 1957, when it was the Winter VA Employees Federal Credit Union. Over the years it also has been the Kansas Credit Union and the Kansas Super Chief Credit Union. The organization changed its named to Envista in 2010.

The new south Iowa Street branch will be a full-service location, offering checking, savings and lending options for both residential and business accounts.

The new location does represent a new effort to engage with the Lawrence community, Tara Dimick, chief business development officer for Envista said. The credit union — it is different from a bank in that its depositors are owner-members of the organization — will expand a new charitable giving program to Lawrence.

Beginning in May, Envista will choose a Lawrence-based community organization to partner with. During the time period, Envista will donate an advertising package to the organization, which will be used to solicit funds for the organization. Envista will match the first $2,500 given to the organization. The credit union has had the program — called EnvistaCares Challenge — operating in Topeka for a while now and has raised $300,000 for various organizations in Topeka.

Envista plans to partner with six organizations during the course of the year. Look for more details from the credit union as May approaches.

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While we are mentioning charitable programs by businesses, word did come out today of a new, interesting program from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas. The state’s largest health insurance company is launching a statewide grant program to fund the creation of outdoor fitness centers.

The Topeka-based company — which has an administrative office in downtown Lawrence — is teaming up with the National Fitness Campaign to build a special type of open-air training area called a “Fitness Court.” The courts feature seven type of training stations — things like pull-up bars, rings and jumping blocks — that can be used freestyle or as part of a seven-minute workout program that you get with a free mobile phone app.

Cities, schools and other organizations, like parks and recreation commissions, can apply for a grant to partially fund a Fitness Court. About $600,000 in grant money is available in Kansas, with half of it coming from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas and the other half coming from the National Fitness Campaign, which promotes the Fitness Court initiative.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas announced on Thursday that the first grants have been awarded to Wichita Park and Recreation, the Coffeyville Recreation Commission, and Garnett Parks and Recreation.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas is partnering with the Kansas Recreation and Park Association to offer the Kansas grant program.

Organizations interested in applying for the grants can get additional information at

photo by: Courtesy: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas

A rendering shows an example of an outdoor Fitness Court, which Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas is offering grant money for communities to build.


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