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CUs ready, willing, able to start Fin. Lit. month Tuesday

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MADISON, Wis. (3/31/14)--National Financial Literacy Month kicks off tomorrow, and credit unions throughout the country have a loaded schedule of events and programs planned to demonstrate their prowess in financial education, a critical component of the credit union movement year-round.

In addition to the monthlong celebration, April 5-12 is Money Smart Week, a public awareness campaign designed to help consumers of all shapes and sizes better manage their financial situations.

Later this month will bring National Credit Union Youth Week, April 20-26, when kids will be encouraged to set up savings accounts and learn the ins and outs of managing money.

Here's a glimpse of what credit unions have in store early on this month:
  • A credit union in Virginia has put its own spin on the month, as it's ordained April as Financial Freedom Month. Virginia Credit Union, Richmond, Va., with $2.6 billion in assets, will spend its Financial Freedom Month--or financial literacy month--offering free seminars, financial check-ups, and other resources and tools to help members increase their savings and reduce debt. Its simple tips and educational resources include how to prepare a budget, evaluate personal debts, sign up for automatic savings and get a free copy of a credit report.
  • The Credit Union National Association's National Youth Saving Challenge returns this year, with a few new incentives for young people to save throughout April. The new incentives come in the form of prizes, contributed by GreenPath Debt Solutions, a nonprofit credit counseling organization. In concert with National Credit Union Youth Week, the youth saving challenge helps build long-lasting financial savvy and strong relationships between youth and their credit unions. GreenPath's contributions provide 15 extra $100 cash prizes--25 total--and additional prizes for credit unions participating and supporting the program. More than 117,000 young people deposited $25.2 million into their savings accounts last year through the saving challenge program. 

    So far, 240 credit unions have pledged to participate in the saving challenge, according to Jan Garkey, CUNA Youth Week coordinator.
  • In the financial literacy spirit, Cornerstone Credit Union League will offer a free webinar hosted by the National Credit Union Administration Thursday to kick off its National Financial Literacy Month festivities. The webinar, called "Financial Literacy: Putting Your Mission into Action," will feature four speakers: Gail Laster, NCUA office of consumer protection director; Louisa Quittman, office of financial education director, U.S. Department of Treasury; Gigi Hyland, executive director, National Credit Union Foundation; and Katie Bryan, communications director, Consumer Federation of America.

    League leaders are also encouraging credit unions to hold a "Financial Fitness Day" fundraiser Wednesday to help kick off financial literacy month. The initiative will raise funds for the Cornerstone Foundation and National Credit Union Foundation in support of their financial education programs. For more information visit
  • Communities throughout the Badger State will celebrate "Money Smart Week Wisconsin" April 5-12, with a multitude of events focused on improving personal financial awareness. Money Smart Week is the cornerstone event for Wisconsinites participating in National Financial Literacy Month. While many programs scheduled have been catered to serve elementary school-age children, Wisconsin communities have put together many free events that will teach consumers of all ages about personal finance. A list of events can be found at
  • While the Wisconsin Credit Union League, too, will offer a variety of programs and events to help consumers improve their financial wellness, it emphasizes that credit unions are teaching these financial skills year-round. For example, credit unions frequently offer youth-run, in-school credit unions--the implementation of which is considered a "best practice" for youth financial education--savings programs and classroom learning; experimental learning such as online life simulations that challenge teens to balance their life along with their finances; and free financial counseling.
  •  An Illinois-based credit union will offer its own take on a financial literacy-minded event April 10; one that will dive into the psychology of why, what and when consumers buy, in order to help people make better decisions with their money down the road. Consumers CU, Round Lake Beach, Ill., with $584 million in assets, is one of the presenters of the free workshop "The Psychology of Spending." The event, which will be held in Gurnee, Ill., is open to the public and credit union members. Those in attendance will learn about spending habits, impulse buying, bargain hunting and the role of advertising in today's society. "We've all been there before," said Consumer CU President Sean M. Rathjen. "We enter a store intending to purchase one specific item or maybe nothing at all, then leave with numerous items that weren't even on our radar before we walked in." 
  • Phoenix-based Arizona State CU will host next week the first in a series of seven Shred-a-Thon events where community members can come shred up their old, sensitive documents. The events will take place throughout the $1.6 billion-asset credit union's Northern Arizona branch locations starting with Chino Valley April 8. The event is free for all members of the community and aims to raise awareness about the importance of shredding personal documents to stave off identity theft. Documents can be anything from bank statements and tax returns to medical bills and credit card statements. This is the fifth year running that Arizona State CU has hosted these events.

CU System briefs (03/31/2014)

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  • WASHINGTON (3/31/14)--Harriet May, former CEO of GECU, El Paso, Texas, will be inducted into the Cooperative Development Foundation's Cooperative Hall of Fame May 7. The foundation calls the honor the highest that the U.S. cooperative community can bestow on men and women who have made "genuinely heroic contributions" in support of cooperatives. May retired as CEO of the then-$1.8 billion-asset credit union in 2012, after nearly 40 years in the credit union movement. She also served as board chair for the Credit Union National Association and received the Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Individual Achievement. May and the other three inductees will be part of a panel discussion during the Fourth Annual Cooperative Issues Forum at The National Press Club from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. May 7 ...
  • HELENA, Mont. (3/31/14)--Children of Helena (Mont.) Community CU employees spent the day at the credit union after the school district closed schools March 21 (Weekly Report March 28). The schools were first evacuated because of a bomb threat then closed for the day. Because the $151 million-asset credit union opened its doors to the students, the parents were able to continue to work while their children were safe. Employees posted their gratitude on the credit union's Facebook page, which led to additional positive comments such as "A true testament to the community nature of the credit union" (Montana Credit Union Network photo) ...
  • SPARTANBURG, S.C. (3/31/14)--After 50 years, Spartanburg (S.C.) Regional FCU is celebrating its strength by taking on the name VITAL FCU. "VITAL FCU signals the credit union evolving to serve our members for the next 50 years and beyond," said Pat West, CEO of the $37 million-asset credit union, which was founded to serve hospital employees ...
  • HARRISBURG, Pa. (3/31/14)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association noted the March 27 death of Curt Chamberlin, founding member and longtime manager of Brockway Glass FCU, now Priority First FCU, Du Bois, Pa. (Life is a Highway March 28). Chamberlin, who was 79, was instrumental in organizing the league's Shortway Chapter of Credit Unions, serving as president for many years ...

Mich. CUs get electronic vehicle titling update at GAC

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LANSING, Mich. (3/31/14)--During the Michigan Credit Union League's Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) last week, credit union representatives were updated on electronic vehicle titling (EVT).
Click to view larger image Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said her office is working with the Legislature on electronic vehicle titling. (Michigan Credit Union League photo)
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson told GAC attendees Tuesday that an EVT system will reduce fraud. "The sophisticated level of some of (people who commit title fraud) is just incredible," Johnson said (Monitor March 26).
The state Legislature is drafting a four-bill package on EVT, according to Chris Hackbarth, director of the office of policy initiatives for the Secretary of State.
The GAC was held just before lawmakers started their spring recess.
Credit union advocates also visited lawmakers from their districts Wednesday, following a debate between the chairmen of Michigan's Republican and Democratic parties (Monitor May 27). The GOP's Bobby Schostak and the Democrats' Lon Johnson spoke about the state economic environment.  

PCUA honors state Herring, Maxwell, Desjardins winners

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (3/31/14)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association announced the statewide winners of the Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility, Louise Herring Philosophy in Action and Alphonse Desjardins Financial Education awards.

Awards will be distributed at the league's annual convention in Atlantic City, N.J., May 20 (Life is a Highway March 24).

The Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Community Service award winners by asset size include:
  • $50 million to $100 million, HealthCare First CU, Johnstown;
  • $100 million to $200 million, WEST-AIRCOMM FCU, Beaver;
  • $200 million to $500 million, Merck Sharp & Dohme FCU, Chalfont; and
  • More than $1 billion, TruMark Financial CU, Trevose.
 Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action Award winners included:
  • Less than $50 million, City Co FCU, Pittsburgh;
  • $50 million to $250 million, HealthCare First CU;
  • $250 million to $1 billion, Merck Sharp & Dohme FCU; and
  • More than $1 billion, TruMark Financial CU.
 First-place awards for the Alphonse Desjardins Youth Financial Award went to:
  • $50 million to $150 million, HealthCare First CU;
  • $150 million to $500 million, Merck Sharp & Dohme FCU; and
  • More than $500 million, TruMark Financial CU.
 The winner of the Alphonse Desjardins Adult Financial Award is Merck Sharp & Dohme FCU in the $150 million to $500 million category.

Move toward cultural connection includes CUs, says Horowitz

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MADISON, Wis. (3/31/14)--As founder and executive director of the Freelancers Union and the CEO of the Freelancers Insurance Co. (FIC), Sara Horowitz seeks to create social change by serving America's independent workers. Among the ways she advises independent workers to create value in their lives is by putting their money in credit unions.
In a recent interview with NBC journalist Mara Shriver, Horowitz described the value consumers can find in credit unions and cooperatives.
"People start to think about food and where their food comes from," Horowitz said. "They think about their expenses, and they say, 'You know, it starts to make sense for me to want to put my money in a credit union or to go to a food co-op.'"
Horowitz espouses a "Quiet Revolution," a social movement away from consumption and toward connection, away from individual acquisition and toward collective action. "It's a million small choices that, together, add up to big change," she writes on her website.
In a blog post written for the Freelancers Union, Lindsay Van Thoen urged independent workers to "put your money where your values are."
"Credit unions offer the same services as banks, but they are structured differently," Van Thoen explained, adding, "Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives. Any profit made by the credit union goes back to the members in the form of higher-yield savings accounts and lower loan rates.  
"Because the credit union is controlled by members in the service of other members, it doesn't have any incentive to make profit at the expense of its members," Van Thoen continued. "The credit union wouldn't exist without its members."
Van Thoen specifically mentions San Francisco FCU and California CU, Glendale, as options for alternative banking.
Horowitz urges freelancers to spend both their time and money thoughtfully. "That's what the Quiet Revolution is all about--choosing to spend your life, time and money in ways that build something better for you and the people around you."

Another record set for CMNH: This time in Okla.

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (3/31/14)--Oklahoma-based credit unions pooled almost $200,000 for a donation to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals through its Credit Unions for Kids program (Leaguer March 27).

The fundraising was accomplished by 16 participating credit unions throughout 2013. A check for a record $197,825 was presented by the credit unions to CMN on March 21.

Credit Union for Kids, a nonprofit collaboration of credit unions, chapters and business partners donated a grand total of $1.3 million to CMN Hospitals in 2013.

Funds for the recent donation were raised through candy sales, coin drives, several golf tournaments, car shows and even a 5K race.

All funds donated by credit union members go to the Children's Hospital Foundation, an organization that ensures children in Oklahoma receive the best pediatric care possible.

Under the umbrella of Credit Unions for Kids, the credit union movement is the third-largest corporate contributor to CMN Hospitals, behind only Wal-Mart and Costco. Credit Unions for Kids has raised more than $110 million for CMN Hospitals since its inception in 1996.

VSECU adds community aid to annual meeting

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (3/31/14)--Leveraging the communication value of both new-age social media and the traditional annual meeting, VSECU has made its membership part of the credit union's charitable contribution decision-making process.
VSECU's member-giving program, We Care 2, began in 2011 as a CUNA Diamond Award-winning social media experiment.
The Montpelier, Vt.-based $618 million-asset credit union's Contributions Committee staff allotted $5,000 to the VSECU staff and asked employees to decide where the money should be donated. With assistance from the marketing department, staff reached out through the credit union's Facebook page and Twitter account asking members to make recommendations and help decide where the funds should go. In one month, the credit union's Facebook following grew by 639 people and accumulated more than 32,300 post views for the We Care 2 program, with no paid advertising.
The VSECU board of directors expanded the program over the next two years to engage the membership in the voting process and increased the amount of donation funds to $23,000. This year, VSECU members determined the recipients by voting for the top two of five finalist organizations selected by the Contributions Committee. More than 7,000 members cast votes to direct the $23,000 in charitable donations as part of the annual meeting election.
"Although the committee vetted the five finalists, it was meaningful that our membership had the final vote," said Kate Paine, VSECU Contributions Committee chair. "Our membership has always embraced the Vermont mentality of helping one another. This program is a great way for them to express that conviction."
VSECU received 49 applications from charities around the state of Vermont. Representatives from the final five charities attended VSECU's annual meeting March 11 to answer questions about the services they provide. VSECU presented a check for $10,000 to each of the two winners and the three runners-up were each presented with a $1,000 donation.