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Columbia CU helping high school band go to inauguration

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VANCOUVER, Wash. (1/12/09)--Columbia CU is helping the Evergreen High School band and color guard raise funds to pay for their trip to the presidential inauguration by challenging businesses and community members to make contributions. The $768.5 million asset, Vancouver, Wash.-based Columbia will match all donations up to $5,000. The challenge is open to donations made between now and Feb. 14. “This is a great opportunity for our area youth to be represented at this historic inauguration and we want all band members to be able to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Laurie Kusch, Columbia senior vice president of member services/chief ambassador, said in a press release. Fundraising efforts to date have come up short $25,000. The band needs that amount to send a 150-student contingent to Washington, D.C. Every band member has to pay $862 each for the five-day trip (The Columbian Jan. 7). “It’s so great that Columbia stepped up to help--they were the first to call me this morning,” said Connie Ewart, Evergreen High School band booster club president. “I’m positive that we’ll meet our goal!” Donations may be made to the Evergreen High School Booster Club using a secure connection through its website.

Texas league CEO to host Blog Talk Radio program

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (1/12/09)--Dick Ensweiler, Texas Credit Union League CEO, will host a live monthly radio program on Blog Talk Radio, a social radio network that allows users to connect quickly and directly with their audience. The program, which will have a worldwide audience, will begin Wednesday (LoneStar Leaguer Jan. 9). “Credit unions have been America’s best kept secret for far too long,” Ensweiler told the league. “We are a stabilizing force in the U.S. economy, but we are often overshadowed by our for-profit counterparts. We have a great story to tell and we need to do more to let the public know that we are here, we are financially sound, and we’re ready to serve.” Ensweiler’s “Your Money, Your Matters” program will inform and educate the public on issues related to personal finance, such as asset building, retirement planning and investments. Also, he will address current issues, including the economy, financial marketplace and credit unions in general. “If we want to be a part of the conversation, we can’t wait for an invitation. We have to inject ourselves into the conversation. Social media is a valuable business tool and a cost-effective way for us to reach the masses,” Ensweiler continued. “Hosting a program on Blog Talk Radio affords us the opportunity to let the world know who we are, and gain insight into how we are empowering families and impacting communities.” Joining Ensweiler in his debut program, “Credit Unions Help American Families Ride out the Economic Storm,” is John Tippets, CEO, American Airlines CU, Dallas. The two will weigh in on today’s economic climate and how it’s impacting American families, and explore how credit unions are serving as a stabilizing force in the financial sector, the league said. Specifically, they will discuss how the credit union structure has enabled the industry to weather the economic storm, and how consumers benefit from credit unions’ presence in the financial services industry. Ensweiler and Tippets will invite listeners to learn how credit unions strengthen families and communities, and what differentiates credit unions from their for-profit counterparts. The 30-minute program begins at 4 p.m. Jan. 14. It is a live program. To tune in, use the link. The program allows chatting amongst listeners, as well as posing questions either online or via call-in, at (646) 929-1020.

BrightStar CU student program on IFox NewsI

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (1/12/09)--BrightStar CU, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was recently featured by Fox News for having three student branches inside of Florida schools. BrightStar has two high school branches and one elementary school branch. The story focused on the branch inside of Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla. The branch helps students learn the importance of saving, Fox News said. Fox interviewed several individuals, including one Flanagan High School senior, who admitted that many young people and adults don’t know how to manage their money. Florida is one of many states that does not require students to take a money management class to graduate from high school. BrightStar CU hopes to open more student branches in the future, Fox said. To see the news story, use the link.

CU System briefs (01/09/2009)

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* LAKELAND, Fla. (1/12/09)--MIDFLORIDA FCU, Lakeland, Fla., committed to be the title sponsor of the Polk Museum of Art’s Mayfaire-by-the-Lake, an annual art festival on Mother’s Day Weekend. MIDFLORIDA will sponsor the event until 2018. The title sponsorship was previously held by Volvo for five years. This year’s event will be held May 9-10 ... * LAS VEGAS (1/12/09)--Despite a troubled local economy, Clark County CU members will receive an average dividend of $75 this year. Clark County is located in Las Vegas. The bonus is smaller than it has been in recent years. Members received about $179 last year, the credit union said (Las Vegas Review-Journal Jan. 8). Despite member bankruptcies and car repossessions in 2008, the credit union garnered positive revenues, it said. Clark County CU has $641 million in assets ... * HARRISBURG, Pa. (1/12/09)--Freedom CU, Warminster, Pa., said its LivePerson chat service has averaged about 30 chats per day and 4,200 hits on the Frequently Asked Questions section (Life is a Highway Jan. 9). The live text chat provides members real-time access to credit union employees to expedite service. The service was launched Nov. 19 ...

CUNA economist rates economy on IBloomberg RadioI

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MADISON, Wis. (1/12/09)--The U.S. is in a severe recession--which “doesn’t bode well for the future,” although there are some silver linings, a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist told Bloomberg Radio Friday. Steve Rick, CUNA senior economist, commented on the Labor Department’s unemployment numbers for December and President-elect Barack Obama’s stimulus package on the “Bloomberg Countdown” show. Employers cut another 524,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department reported Friday. The economy lost 2.6 million jobs in 2008--the most since the end of World War II in 1945. The nation’s unemployment rate jumped to 7.2% in December, from 6.8% the previous month and the highest level in almost 16 years (The Wall Street Journal Online Jan. 9). “A lot of economists expected a more severe drop [in employment),” Rick said. “But we’re seeing an extreme downturn of the labor market. We’re in a severe recession, which doesn’t bode well for the future--it indicates a drop in spending.” Will the layoffs continue? “Yes,” Rick replied. “We’re in a self-reinforcing downward spiral. That means consumers are spending less, so there’s less production and jobs are being shed. The December unemployment numbers didn’t surprise people--it shouldn’t affect the market that much.” However, Rick said there is a psychological effect of the layoffs on people, and consumer confidence is at a nearly record low. Also, things will likely get worse before they get better--economists expect a 9.5% national unemployment rate sometime in 2010, he added. On the bright side, the consumer savings rate is up to nearly 2.8%, Rick said. “And people are paying off credit cards in case they are the next to be laid off.” Obama’s federal stimulus package now stands at about $800 billion to $900 billion and “hopefully will pass” before Congress recesses around the middle of February, Rick said. “It may take awhile for the stimulus plan to get going, so it probably won’t have much effect in the first half of the year,” he added. To restore jobs now, the federal government should give out “state block grants,” that states can use as they see fit, because many states are in financial trouble. The grants would help them refrain from having to cut some spending, Rick explained. Some industries are way down--such as residential construction--because of too much unsold inventory. “Not too many new homes will be built this year,” Rick said, However, other industries--such as government jobs, health care and education--are picking up, he said. “In a recession, people go back to school to learn new skills, and with an aging population, it helps the health care industry,” Rick explained.

CU leader volunteers in Central America

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BEAVERTON, Ore. (1/12/09)--Bill Woods, vice president of lending at Northwest Community CU, Springfield, Ore., traveled to El Salvador and Guatemala to volunteer for “The International Stove Team,” a Rotary project.
Bill Woods, vice president of lending at Northwest Community CU, Springfield, Ore., traveled to Central America to participate in a stove-building project that benefited Central American families. (Photo provided by the Credit Union Association of Oregon)
While in El Salvador, Woods built cooking stoves in a factory that were provided to Central American families. The stoves replace open fires in homes, thus improving air quality and reducing the risk of children in the home being burned by fire, according to the Credit Union Association of Oregon. The stoves cost $29 to manufacture, and were provided to families for $30. The average Central American family uses wood for their fires to cook and heat their homes, which costs between $10 and $30 per week (Oregon Outlook January 2009). Woods also traveled to Guatemala to build a factory similar to the one in El Salvador. “The people of El Salvador and Guatemala were tidy, polite, happy and very innovative,” Woods said. “They were stars at making do, such as making a hammer cut out of steel and a piece of rebar. “They seemed most appreciative of all efforts to help them, making the trip very worthwhile,” he added.

Actor Childrens Miracle Network co-founder to speak at GAC

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WASHINGTON (1/12/09)--Actor/singer John Schneider, a co-founder of Children’s Miracle Network, is scheduled to speak at the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) Feb. 23 in Washington, D.C. Schneider will be the guest speaker during the Annual General Meeting at the GAC. Schenider co-founded Children’s Miracle Network with singer and actress Marie Osmond, who spoke at the GAC last year. The network raises funds for 170 children’s’ hospitals in the U.S. Credit unions are connected to Schneider through Children’s Miracle Network. Programs such as Credit Unions for Kids and the annual CU Cherry Blossom 10-mile run position credit unions as one of the network’s top contributors. Schneider, known for his role as Bo Duke on the television show, “The Dukes of Hazzard,” and for his role as Jonathon Kent on “Smallville,” also is an accomplished country singer and guitarist. He has released 11 solo country music albums, and has performed on Broadway in “The Grand Hotel,” “The Will Rogers Follies,” “Brigadoon,” “Chicago” and “The Music Man.”