In 1938, Ben Stefanski and his wife Gerome started Third Federal Savings and Loan, with the promise of helping those in the community achieve the dream of home ownership and financial security. In addition to offering mortgage loans, Third Federal has long been dedicated to educating their customers on the requirements of home ownership beyond the down payment.
Through the years, Third Federal expanded far beyond its home office at 7007 Broadway Avenue. In 1957, the company opened a second branch in Brecksville and by the end of the 1960s had an additional seven branches. By 1983, the savings and loan had 16 branch offices and $1.08 billion in assets. Today, Third Federal has 46 branch offices in Ohio and Florida, and lends in 21 states and the District of Columbia, making it the largest Polish American-led financial institution in the country.
While the company has always dedicated itself to helping members of the Slavic Village community afford homes, they have also earned a reputation as a company devoted to giving back to the community through philanthropy. Ben Stefanski was a strong supporter of the arts movement, most noted by the commissioning of a mural by Peter Paul Dubaniewicz. The mural was dedicated to the public and depicts the building of America by men of many cultures.
In addition to the arts, Stefanski was a great supporter of education in the community. In 1965, he gave $1 million to the Catholic Diocese High School Fund for the building of 11 new high schools and expansion of seven existing schools. It was this extreme charity that earned him the nickname “Benefactor” Stefanski. Today, Third Federal still follows the example of Mr. Stefanski in their dedication to the education and health of those in the community. In 2007, the company created the $55 million Third Federal Foundation when the company went public through its IPO. The purpose of the foundation is to bring partners together in collaboration of programs that promote education in the community. The foundation’s initiatives include the P-16 program and a Service Scholarship program at Cleveland Central Catholic High School. The P-16 program works closely with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to improve educational experiences for those in the Slavic Village through the implementation of tutoring programs, after school programs, and scholarships. They have also collaborated with Metro Health to put a clinic in a local school. The program has proven so effective that a mobile health clinic was added to service additional schools, more school-based clinics are planned.
Most recently, Third Federal developed Trailside Slavic Village. A neighborhood of new construction, affordable housing, built on the site of former light industrial buildings. Beginning construction in 2013, Trailside is located along the Morgana Run Trail and is adjacent to the Third Federal headquarters. Currently in Phase 1, the development offers two different style homes, each with three bedrooms and open floor plans. All of the homes meet or exceed Cleveland’s Green Energy standard with down payment assistance and tax abatement.
Third Federal is committed to benefiting not only the surrounding community, but also the associates who make the company as successful as it has become. Third Federal has been featured on Forbes' list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, and the company boasts that it has not had a single layoff in its history. Associates are cross-trained to assist in other areas as needed. Third Federal offers a number of training opportunities, tuition reimbursement, and throws annual appreciation events.
In its 77 years of operation, Third Federal has become a crucial piece of the Slavic Village neighborhood through its continued dedication to the betterment of the community as a whole. The company has long lived up to its mission of “helping people achieve the dream of home ownership and financial stability, while creating value for our communities, our customers, our associates, and our stockholders.”