Chris Hanks addresses third-graders Longley Elementary School in Lewiston about money matters.

LEWISTON — Chris Hanks stepped into a third-grade classroom at Longley Elementary School two weeks ago, and was greeted with immediate smiles. 

The students were working at their desks or reading quietly, but soon gathered in a circle to talk about what they learned during Hanks’ Junior Achievement class. 

Hanks was holding a bag of miniature flashlights supplied by his employer, Mechanics Savings Bank, but they were well-hidden. It was the last session of the class and he brought the gifts along with certificates for each student.  

Junior Achievement of Maine matches volunteers from Maine’s business community with K-12 classrooms across the state, focusing on skills such as financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.

Hanks is chairman of Junior Achievement’s central Maine area board, while typically leading two classroom sessions, among other JA programs, each year. One, called the Titan Challenge, puts high school students in a business strategy competition. He began volunteering four years ago, and has been the local chairman for about two. 

But Hanks also finds the time to volunteer elsewhere. 

The recent hourlong session at Longley was the last for the school year, and Hanks focused on asking the students to recap what they learned. Students recalled things like learning about money and using a piggy bank. 

Hanks said he taught students different scenarios for spending and saving money. On the first day of his Junior Achievement class, students designed a city, talking about issues that often face city planners. Where should housing be located? Would you put houses near factories?

In another class with a business focus, students created a restaurant. It was just before a vacation week, so when Hanks asked students if they remembered what they learned there was a long pause, followed by a collective “Oh yeah!”

Then, students began rattling off what their restaurants would be called.  

A Mechanic Falls native, Hanks lives in Turner but works — and volunteers — in the Twin Cities. He’s also the treasurer of the board of trustees at Tree Street Youth, the Lewiston youth organization not far from Longley Elementary. There he sits on various committees, and his knowledge went a long way for the group’s recent fundraising campaign and resulting expansion. 

“The support and knowledge Chris provides to our organization is truly invaluable,” said Julia Sleeper, the executive director at the youth center. “His kindness, flexibility, and ability to bridge the gap between complex finances while still understanding the programmatic needs of Tree Street and the community at large is a difficult task, yet one he masters with grace, consciousness and energy. We are extremely grateful for the time and support he gives to us.”

Hanks said he joined the board about halfway through the fundraising process.

“It wasn’t just large donors; it was really the entire community,” he said, referring to the fundraising. 

There’s more.

Hanks serves on other committees in the region, including the Lewiston-Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s education and workforce development committee, and he’s chairman of the Maine chapter of the Risk Management Association’s young professionals committee.

When asked how many hours are in his day, he responded with “1,000 hours.” He also has a wife and two children. 

“I don’t watch TV — that’s the answer,” he said. “I get home and I do work.” 

For the last session, Hanks talked to students about communication and why it’s important, as well as how students get their information. 

One student said weather forecasters are an important news source each day. 

“They can warn you about bad weather,” she said. 

Other students talked about social media and video game consoles as a source of news.

“You can just go on Google,” another student said.  

At the end of the session, Hanks directed the students to their desks and handed out Junior Achievement certificates one by one. 

“I’ve been told the busier you are, the longer you keep your mind,” he said. “So let’s just challenge ourselves to be as busy as we can. We have the energy now, so why not put it into the community?” 

[email protected] 

Know someone with a deep well of unlimited public spirit? Someone who gives of their time to make their community a better place? Then nominate them for Kudos. Send their name and the place where they do their good deeds to reporter Andrew Rice at [email protected] and we’ll do the rest.


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