WASHINGTON, March 13, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Consumer Bankers Association recognized First Niagara Financial Group Inc.'s (Nasdaq:FNFG) work to resolve housing issues in low- and moderate-income communities, in particular its partnership with Habitat for Humanity Capital District, by honoring the regional bank with the national association's third annual Joe Belew Award. Together with HfHCD in Albany, N.Y., First Niagara developed and implemented a model for sustained community development to transform neighborhoods, with a specific emphasis on large, scalable residential projects. "We are honored to share the terrific success of our relationship with HfHCD with the national banking industry through acceptance of the 2013 Joe Belew Award," Executive Vice President, Retail Banking Mark Rendulic said. "Everywhere we do business, First Niagara employees demonstrate unparalleled passion and commitment to the communities where they live and work. In Albany, our work with HfHCD and the many community partners we've engaged together has resulted in large-scale, innovative and sustainable change in some of the area's most troubled neighborhoods. By sharing our model of collaboration and investment with banks around the country, we hope to demonstrate how productive public-private relationships can be strong catalysts for lasting neighborhood revitalization." First Niagara provides multi-faceted support to HfHCD and its projects through loans, grants, technical assistance and employee volunteers. Since 2010, the bank has provided more than $3 million in loans or investments, more than $30,000 in direct grants and helped to secure an additional $150,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Program. The bank also provides financial literacy training and family support to the resident families of HfHCD homes and grass-roots fundraising to support HfHCD. "HfHCD Executive Director Mike Jacobson and his team had a clear vision that required the support of a financial institution with both the expertise and the passion for collaborating with the organization on multiple levels," said First Niagara Eastern New York Retail Banking Director and Market Leader Nina E. Tyzik. "We were immediately drawn to HfHCD's innovative approach to expanding the traditional role of Habitat operations in urban areas in the Northeast, and our partnership has been an amazing rallying point for our people, epitomizing the First Niagara culture to be effectively engaged in the communities we serve."