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CU System Briefs (03/08/2013)

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  • MERIDEN, Conn. (3/8/13)--The Connecticut Credit Union Charitable Foundation has presented a check for $18,450 to The Avielle Foundation of Sandy Hook, Conn.  The foundation, hosted by the Credit Union League of Connecticut, collected donations from across the U.S. and Canada after the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, Newtown, Conn. The Avielle Foundation was established in memory of Avielle Rose Richman, who died in the shootings, by Jennifer Hensel and her husband, Jeremy Richman. Its mission is to reduce violence in communities. "This donation is going to help us fund cutting-edge mental health research and help develop stronger communities in the hope of protecting our loved ones from acts of violence," said Richman. "This will serve as a lasting legacy in honor of our beautiful daughter, Avielle." "We will watch and try to support this project over the next months and years," said Paul Dorner, chief administrative officer, First Bristol FCU, and chairman of the credit union foundation. Pictured are, from left: Dorner; Richman; and Tony Emerson, league president/CEO.  Emerson noted the Avielle Foundation will "promote a long-lasting, positive effect for those affected by the Newtown shooting, as well as other communities." (Photo provided by the Credit Union League of Connecticut) …
  • GOLDEN, Colo. (3/8/13)--A former assistant branch manager at Golden, Colo.-based Credit Union of the Rockies pleaded guilty in the theft of more than $250,000 from its Black Hawk branch.Autumn Rene Guillot, 30, of Central City pleaded guilty to one count of theft over $20,000 on March 1 and faces a possible prison sentence of four to 12 years. The theft occurred in 2011 and was discovered after an unannounced audit uncovered discrepancies in a ledger allegedly maintained by Guillot, one of two full-time employees at the branch. Two deposits listed had not been received by the clearinghouse. Sentencing was set for April 26 (9news.com March 6) …
  • CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (3/8/13)--Cheryl Watson, a former bookkeeper at Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Southern CU was sentenced in a U.S. District Court in Chattanooga to 15 months in a federal prison in connection with a $396,000 theft from the credit union.  She was employed with the credit union from October 2005 until March 2010. The embezzlement allegedly involved 200 transactions over four years (The Chattanoogan.com March 6) …
  • LEXINGTON, S.C. (3/8/13)--Philip Eugene "Gene" Richardson, a longtime chairman of the SAFE FCU board of directors, died Sunday. He was 89.  Richardson  spent more than 35 years working with credit unions, all but three as an unpaid volunteer. He served as chairman of the Sumer, S.C., $824 million asset credit union for 21 years. He also served on the May Plant CU board for three years and as its paid manager for three years. A memorial service will be in Camden, S.C., today at 1 p.m. at Bethesda Presbyterian Church. He is survived by his wife, Clara; three daughters; one son; 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren (Greensboro News & Record March 6) …

Severe Weather Week Focused On Preparedness

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MADISON, Wis. (3/8/13)--Several state credit union leagues are taking steps to help credit unions prepare for tornados and severe weather this spring. This week is National Severe Weather Week, and April is National Tornado Preparedness Month.

"The Texas Credit Union League has a Disaster Preparation section on its league website, which is not specific to just tornados but for any type of disaster," Linda Webb-Manon, TCUL vice president of public relations and communications, told News Now.

In that section, TCUL provides a 21-page Disaster Planning Guide that credit unions can use to create their own continuity plans. The guide includes a planning process, plan development, awareness, preparation, mitigation response, recovery, an emergency plan checklist, a credit union disaster preparedness operations checklist, an emergency contact list, and a list of state and national resources.

The TCUL website section also features an American Red Cross disaster supplies kit, three Federal Emergency Management Association guides, brochures on how to deal with hurricanes, and several links to other resources.

The Southeastern League of Credit Unions--which represents Florida and Alabama credit unions--works with its member credit unions to make sure they are prepared for any type of disaster or threat, Mike Bridges, league vice president of marketing and communications, told News Now.  

"We have two Disaster Recovery Conferences, one in Alabama and one in Florida, to help our credit unions prepare for an impending disaster and to make sure they have the most up-to-date information for their disaster recovery plan," Bridges explained. "The league has an 800 number available for credit unions to use to record a message for their employees in case of a major disaster. This phone line helps to keep the lines of communication open when a credit union sustains major damage or an extended power outage, especially in this cellphone age.

"The league recently acquired a mobile branch from Pen Air FCU [Pensacola. Fla.]," he added. "This mobile branch, which has been dispatched to two Alabama credit unions following tornados, allows credit unions to continue offering services to members even though one of its locations is not functional."

The Southeastern league also administers many planning sessions for credit unions. The planning session covers disaster recovery and the need for a plan. That allows credit unions to stay compliant with their plan and to revisit it yearly to ensure it's optimal, Bridges said.  

Tropical Financial CU, based in Miramar, Fla., with $547 million in assets, as part of its disaster recovery/business continuity plan program, has written procedures for action to be taken prior to, during and after hurricanes, tornadoes and/or high wind events, along with other types of disasters or events, Alfredo Goenaga, vice president administration for Tropical Financial, told News Now.

"Additionally, individual business units have their own emergency contact listings along with specific instructions on evacuation and areas to meet at in the event of an emergency situation," Goenaga added. "After hours communication is available through our employee hotline, for general communication, and through more specific channels for key personnel. I am also a member of the Emergency Operations Center for Dade County. This gives us an on-site presence with the Office of Emergency Management prior to, during, or after any crisis." 

The Kansas Credit Union Association monitors weather conditions and responds to credit union needs on an individual basis, Susan Dyer, KCUA communications director, told News Now.  "Because the majority of Kansas is rural, we are lucky in that past tornadoes seemed to have missed our credit unions, for the most part," she added.

The Credit Union National Association has resources for credit unions to deal with severe weather damage and other disasters, including a severe weather webinar on Wednesday. See the links below.

Gentile Gives Savings Tips In FOXBusiness

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WASHINGTON (3/8/13)--FOXBusiness turned to the Credit Union National Association to provide tips to consumers in an article Thursday on re-evaluating or creating a savings plan.

Paul Gentile, CUNA executive vice president, strategic communications and engagement, gave this advice in the article, "How to Create a Successful Savings Plan":

  • "No matter what, put something away each month. Do it automatically and forget about it. Then one day you'll wake up and be surprised by how much you have."
  • Refinance your mortgage since rates are so low. He noted the average rate consumers pay on mortgages is still around 7%, but rates have been below 4% for more than a year. The money saved should go directly into savings.
  • Try to get a lower interest rate on your car loan and apply the difference to savings. "We are seeing lending opening up a little bit more."
  • Call your telecom provider bill to try to get a reduction in your bill. "More often than not, you'll get off the phone with your carrier with a cheaper plan because they don't want you to turn to another provider."  He noted he received $40 off a $190 a month bill that way.
To read the entire article, use the link.

HGTV Star, Lake Michigan CU Offer Home Makeover Sweepstakes

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (3/8/13)--Lake Michigan CU has landed Home and Garden TV host Carter Oosterhouse as its spokesman. The credit union is featuring Oosterhouse in a $25,000 home makeover sweepstakes.

Oosterhouse, the host of the new HGTV network show "Million Dollar Rooms," is a native of Traverse City, Mich., and a member of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based credit union.

The sweepstakes runs through April 30. A drawing will be May 17. The winner will receive $25,000 in cash for renovations and design advice from Oosterhouse.

Oosterhouse has a friend who works in Lake Michigan CU's mortgage department, Don Bratt, director of marketing for the $3 billion credit union, told News Now.  Lake Michigan CU President/CEO Sandy Jelinski is a fan of Oosterhouse, who has hosted several shows about home renovation and design, and is known for his community outreach work, Bratt said.

In addition to his production company, Oosterhouse runs a nonprofit that builds and develops community parks and playground to promote fitness among youth.

"Sandy thought Carter would be the perfect person to communicate the values of our credit union to the community," Bratt said.

The credit union will feature Oosterhouse on radio, TV, outdoor and print advertising and through social media and mailings. Oosterhouse's image also is featured prominently in the credit union's branches. "Cardboard displays in branches are very popular," Bratt said.

Oosterhouse provides a blend of both celebrity and local appeal, he added.

"His appeal stretches beyond our membership," Bratt said. "People who were not members have inquired about the sweepstakes. That's an opportunity for us to extend our value proposition."

Nominations Due Monday For WOCCU Distinguished Service Award

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Click to view larger image At the 2012 World Credit Union Conference in Gdańsk, Poland, World Council of Credit Union's Chair Manuel Rabines (left) presented the Distinguished Service Award to Barry Jolette, a former regulator, World Council chair and president/ CEO of San Mateo CU, Redwood City, Calif.  (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
MADISON, Wis. (3/8/13)--Monday is the deadline to nominate individuals and organizations for the World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) Distinguished Service Award (DSA), the credit union industry's top honor.

Awards will be presented at the World Credit Union Conference in Ottawa, Canada, July 14-17.

The DSA honors individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the international credit union movement and who have furthered World Council's vision of "building a global community."

Individual recipients may be WOCCU member organization officers, directors or  representatives; international credit union pioneers; field technicians; or individuals whose actions have  benefitted global credit union development.

Institutional recipients may be organizations or agencies that have provided financial or technical assistance to develop international credit union movements and their service infrastructures over an extended period.

Nominations must be from a WOCCU member organization.

To download a nomination form and see a list of past winners, use the link.

Three Hurt When Car Crashes Into NY CU

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GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (3/8/13)--Three people were injured Thursday morning when a car plowed through the entrance of Grand Island (N.Y.)  FCU and into a teller counter before it came to rest fully inside the building.

The impact pinned a member and an employee inside the building for some time, said Grand Island Fire Co. Chief Kevin Coch (WIVB.com and WGRZ.com March 7). They and the driver of the car were taken to the hospital, and their injuries are not serious. The employee and driver had leg injuries.

Two elderly women were inside the car, and the driver could not recall exactly what happened, said the fire department spokesman.  The incident occurred around 9 a.m. ET.

Since the car went perfectly through the front door of the building, crews at the site said the building didn't suffer structural damage beyond the front door and the counter.

The credit union closed and is still closed today. According to a notice on the $12.8 million asset credit union's website, "The office will be closed Thursday and Friday… due to damage to our building. Check back over the weekend for updates. The hope is that Monday, March 11th, will see us back in business. Thank you for your understanding."

Defense CU Council Marks Golden Anniversary

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WASHINGTON (3/8/13)--For credit unions nationwide serving members of the military and their families, February marked the golden anniversary of the Defense Credit Union Council. DCUC is a niche membership association representing the interests of credit unions operating on military installations worldwide.

"Back in the 1960s, credit unions serving the military came to the realization that their needs and challenges were unique when compared to their counterparts outside of the military gate," explained Roland "Arty" Arteaga, DCUC president/CEO.

"Defense credit unions served a very mobile membership while others, a fixed-membership, defined by their special employment groups. Also, since defense credit unions were operating on Department of Defense military installations, they were subject to DOD policies governing those installations," Arteaga said.

To kick-off the year-long observance, council board members gathered at The Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., while attending DCUC's Defense Issues 2013 Roundtable session. The Mayflower hosted the council's first national conference, where its organizational structure and by-laws were unveiled and ratified by attending military credit unions.

Formed in 1963 as a separate and distinct trade association, DCUC remains faithful to its core mission, serving as the primary liaison to the Pentagon for credit unions operating on military bases worldwide. Arteaga noted the importance of establishing a niche trade association dedicated exclusively to the needs of military-affiliated credit unions, and one sanctioned to act as their liaison to the Pentagon. "They needed that liaison," he said.

A pivotal accomplishment of DCUC was succeeding in getting the Department of Defense (DOD) to develop a regulation for credit unions, providing logistical support from DOD, for operating on military bases.

The golden anniversary observance will include special events during the months leading up to the association's annual conference in August at the Greenbrier in West Virginia.

Festivities will continue in April with DCUC's sponsorship of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom's 10-mile sister race for troops deployed overseas. The race is slated to be held in Kuwait on April 7, the same day it takes place in the nation's capital. Proceeds will help fund the Children's Miracle Network.

The year also will include supporting a number of charities and several subcouncil meetings.

Reality Fair At GAC An Eye-opener For Teens

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MADISON, Wis. (3/8/13)--A financial Reality Fair held in conjunction with the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) last week provided an "eye-opening" experience for Washington D.C. teens.

Click to view larger image Last week, the National Credit Union Foundation held a financial reality fair in conjunction with the Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. Pictured, volunteer Lisa Totaro talks to teens at the transportation booth. (Photo provided by National Credit Union Foundation)
So said Tanya Thomson, art teacher at Washington Metropolitan High School, one of the three schools that participated in the event, organized by the National Credit Union Foundation.

A reality fair is an interactive financial literacy tool for high school students.

"It feels like the students learned a semester's worth of meaningful material in just two hours at the Reality Fair," said Landon Southerly, Math Teacher at Capital City Public Charter School.

The fair was held at the Rayburn House Office Building on Feb. 27. In addition to Washington Metropolitan and Capital City, students from Luke Charles Moore Academy participated in the event.

Many others, including members of Congress and GAC attendees en route to visits with their congressional representatives, stopped by to observe the fair,.

"We encourage even more credit unions and leagues to hold their own Reality Fairs across the country, said Lois Kitsch, NCUF national program director. "An estimated 10,000 students attended a fair in 2012 and that number is expected to grow substantially in 2013."

The GAC event was sponsored by NCUF with support and expertise from:

  • The Credit Union League of Connecticut;
  • Maryland & DC Credit Union Association;
  • Congressional FCU; Oakton, Va..;
  • HEW FCU, Alexandria, Va.; and
  • GPO FCU, New Hartford, N.Y.