Social service and responsibility are knitted into the fabric of the credit union movement, both through credit unions’ inherent focus on member service and through the sort of generous community involvement that pervades the industry. In recognition of its superior level of commitment—of having gone beyond conventional outreach to achieve truly outstanding results—Linn-Co Federal Credit Union of Lebanon, Ore., was honored with two state-level Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Awards during the 2011 Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) Convention and Annual Business Meeting.
Linn-Co received the Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award in the $50-$100 million asset-size category for having established a community-fund program to provide a host of services for at-risk youth. In acknowledgment of its having organized two educational carnivals promoting financial literacy and responsibility for kids, Linn-Co was also given the Desjardins Award in the $50 to $150 million category.
In winning the Dora Award, Linn-Co continued to grow KidzShop, a program that the credit union established to serve underprivileged children in the Lebanon area. The program provides kids with food, new clothing and backpacks filled with school supplies, as well as a one-year membership to the Boys & Girls club in their local neighborhood.
Dora Maxwell helped pioneer the credit union movement, and in 1931, she helped to organize CUNA, which was then known as the Credit Union National Extension Bureau. In addition to helping form hundreds of individual credit unions, Maxwell developed volunteer credit union organizations to help improve living standards for the poor and needy.
With the dedicated volunteer support of its credit union staff, Linn-Co has now established a long-standing program that is able to annually assess and address the needs of 300 young people in their community—a project that truly reflects the spirit of Dora Maxwell.
“We definitely plan to continue the KidzShop program,” Linn-Co Director of Public Relations Kathleen Burt said. “This was our twelfth year being involved with these wonderful kids. The opportunity to see those amazing smiling faces is something we really look forward to each year.”
Burt went on to note that the program has truly become a community-wide effort.
“It takes a whole community—much participation—to have such a successful event each year,” she said. “Many businesses and organizations love to help; you just have to get out and tell them all about the fantastic program and why you love it so much.”
Continuing the theme of serving local youth, Linn-Co was presented with the Desjardins Award for having found a creative, fun venue in which to teach financial responsibility to kids. At Linn-Co’s two educational carnivals, members of the Lebanon community had the opportunity to visit five booths, each of which represented core practices and topics, including the importance of saving, ATM safety, cash counting and responsible check-writing.
“The education carnival idea came from our Youth/Marketing department brainstorming for a ‘fun’ way to teach kids about finances and also to celebrate National Youth Week,” Burt said. “We have done many classroom presentations and interacted with kids at many events, so [we] could see the things that excited them about learning financial topics.”
The Desjardins award gets its name from Alphonse Desjardins, who founded the first credit unions in North America and pioneered youth savings clubs and in-school credit unions. That tradition remains vital to the movement, as it has since expanded laterally to reach more young people than ever while also growing to include an adult financial literacy component. Credit union volunteers are now not only teaching in elementary, middle and high schools; they are also developing financial education programs for adults as well.
“It started small, with just one evening carnival for our youth members,” Burt said of the award-winning project. “We have now expanded that to two carnivals, and the whole community is invited to come and learn. It is a great, fun time for kids and their parents, too.”
But Burt emphasized that the core of the program’s success—and the inspiration for all the hard work—is still the opportunity to interact with the children.
“The most amazing takeaway is always the kids—their dancing eyes, their beautiful smiles and their excitement for learning great things!”
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