Preserving Cape Cod's middle class is of paramount importance to Dorothy Savarese.

The local population already skews older and wealthier, but the economic downturn has made it even more difficult for working families to continue living in the area, Savarese says.

Her mutual thrift is doing its part to help by renegotiating the terms on many of its mortgages so that borrowers can stay in their homes.

"We call our collection department 'the home retention center' because that is to be their focus," says Savarese, who has a background in economic development. "There is nothing more gratifying than helping a family stay in their home."

Cape Cod Five Cents Savings also stepped up its mortgage lending in recent years-2009 volume jumped 40 percent from the year earlier, to $800 million-and the marketing effort to let people know it is eagerly making loans.

And the $576,000 in grants awarded by its charitable foundation last year focused largely on initiatives to prevent foreclosures.

Savarese, who in her previous career worked to revive downtown Cincinnati, says the thrift takes its responsibility to the community seriously and expresses that in its actions as much as anything else. She considers housing key to retaining the people who keep local businesses running, from the hospital to the thrift itself.

"I understand the importance of intact and healthy communities," she says. "It's important to keep Cape Cod demographically balanced so you have young people coming up."

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