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Minn. foundation honors Pierce with CU Builder Award

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (8/28/12)--James Pierce, former volunteer at Postal CU, Woodbury, Minn., has been honored with the Minnesota Credit Union Foundation's Credit Union Builder Award.

The award recognizes individuals who have dedicated time and energy to building the credit union movement. Individuals are nominated for the award by credit unions and organizations that make contributions in honor of or in memory of a significant individual who has been instrumental in their success.

Pierce was a strong credit union supporter who gave his time and resources to the credit union movement, said the foundation. He was first elected in 1976 to the Credit Committee of St. Paul Postal Employees CU and served as its chairman from 1977 to 1978. In 1982, he was elected to the credit union's board of directors. He became board secretary in 1988. He retired from the board in 2002 after more than two decades of volunteer service.

In 1995, Pierce was named the Minnesota League of Credit Unions' (now Minnesota Credit Union Network) first "Outstanding Credit Union Volunteer of the Year" award recipient. 

He joins 12 other individuals honored in the past five years with the Credit Union Builder Award.  His name and the name of the donating credit union is permanently displayed in the network's lobby.

Gulf Coast leagues CUs prepare for hurricane

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MADISON, Wis. (8/28/12)--Leagues and credit unions in several Gulf Coast states were busy Monday preparing for Hurricane Isaac, set to hit landfall late tonight as a possible Category 1 hurricane on a path similar to that of Katrina in 2005. However, it is expected to deliver less punch.

Hurricane warnings for tonight range from Destin, Fla., to west Louisiana, with landfall expected near New Orleans. Leagues in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were already taking precautions as was CUNA Mutual Group, which insures many credit unions in the hurricane's projected path.

On Monday, Tropical Storm Isaac moved west of Tampa, Fla., and impacted the area mostly with rain, delaying activities at the Republican National Convention there (See related story, "RNC delays don't slow CU convention work" in today's News Now)

"We have not heard of any damage done to credit unions so far," said Mike Bridges, vice president of marketing and communications with the League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU), which serves credit unions in two states along Isaac's projected path--Florida and Alabama. "We have been sending daily and sometimes twice a day e-mails to our credit unions about Isaac, its path and to make preparations early," he told News Now.

LSCU's website lists closures and includes information such as what credit unions should do before a storm hits.

Pen Air FCU, based in Pensacola, Fla., said all branches would close today at noon and all are scheduled to reopen for regular business hours on Thursday, provided there was no damage from the storm.

Tropical FCU's West Palm Beach, North Dade and Fort Lauderdale branches closed at 3 p.m. Monday and will remain closed until further notice, said the league site.

LSCU reported several closings Monday. Alabama CU's Orange Beach and Gulf Shores locations will be closed until further notice. The region is under a mandatory evacuation by the governor. Tampa Bay FCU's shared service location, Sarasota Municipal Employees CU, Pinellas FCU's Pasco office, and Grow Financial FCU's Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton branches all expected to open today.

Of particular interest is how well the New Orleans area, which bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina and broken levees, will fare. Much of the area is under mandatory evacuation.

"A few of our credit unions located in the Greater New Orleans and surrounding areas plan on closing Tuesday and reopening on late Wednesday or possible Thursday morning, depending on staff availability and potential damages," said Lacey Hyer, vice president of  communications and public relations at the Louisiana Credit Union League.

The league closed its office Monday and will reopen as soon as possible, Hyer told News Now. "Our office is located in the southeastern part of the state, and many mandatory evacuations have been put in place. The league decided to close so that staff could plan properly and evacuate their families. However, league staff will be working around the clock and will continue to communicate with credit unions," she added.

The Louisiana league is driving credit unions to its website,, for updates, league contacts, shared branching information, disaster preparedness resources and more, she added.  "It is clear that shared branching continues to play a pivotal role in disaster preparedness for our credit unions."

A number of Louisiana credit unions have announced closures for either today and Wednesday, or closing later this afternoon and Wednesday. They include:

  • Coastland FCU;
  • Eagle FCU;
  • Fleur De Lis FCU;
  • Jefferson Financial CU;
  • GNO FCU;
  • Internal Revenue FCU;
  • LES FCU;
  • Louisiana FCU;
  • Louisiana USA FCU;
  • Neighbors FCU;
  • New Orleans Firemen's FCU;
  • Pelican State CU, Shell NO FCU; and
  • Tulane Loyola FCU.
In Mississippi, "the Mississippi Credit Union Association has been in communication with our members to exchange emergency contact information as well as learn their plans and preparation," said MSCUA President/CEO Charles Elliott.

"Mississippi credit unions are taking this storm seriously, with most coastal area credit unions already confirming plans for limited hours or closings on Tuesday and Wednesday," he told News Now Monday afternoon.  "Other credit unions in the state are being mindful of the potential for power outages, heavy rainfall and tornadic activity that could result from the storm." He noted MSCUA "will remain open and is prepared to provide or coordinate any resources our members may need."

CUNA Mutual Group also was preparing to assist credit unions with the aftermath of Isaac.  "CUNA Mutual Group has developed a comprehensive and coordinated process for responding to disasters through its Property and Casualty Disaster Claims Team, which has been activated to assist credit unions threatened by Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac," said Phil Tschudy, media relations manager at CUNA Mutual.

"Isaac is currently located in the Gulf of Mexico, just west of Tampa," he told News Now Monday afternoon. "All forecast models have this storm heading toward the Louisiana coastline, which would be first major storm in that area since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Isaac is expected to grow into a level one hurricane sometime later today and strike near or just west of New Orleans late Tuesday.  

"As a precaution, CUNA Mutual Group has contacted the state leagues and potentially affected policyholder credit unions located within 10 miles of the Louisiana/Mississippi coast," Tschudy said.

"We advised them we will continue to monitor the storm and have asked them to phone us using our toll-free emergency number (800-637-2676) if their credit union sustains any damages or if they are aware of any other credit unions that have been damaged. That number is answered live, 24/7. Once the storm passes, we will follow up with credit unions we believe may have been impacted," he said.

CU System briefs (08/27/2012)

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  • ST. GEORGE, Utah (8/28/12)--A federal grand jury in Utah indicted Christopher Harris, formerly of St. George, Utah, on fraud, bribery and money lending charges for his alleged role in a rigged contracting scheme that bilked the U.S. Army out of $20 million during a security transfer in Afghanistan. The scheme was revealed after Harris allegedly made seven withdrawals of $9,000 each from May 20098 to February 2010 from a St. George credit union, according to the Salt Lake Tribune (Aug. 24). The amounts were just under the $10,000 limit that triggers a report to the Internal Revenue Service. Harris was arrested on July 31 in Salt Lake City. Harris and co-defendants David Young of Florida and Michael Taylor of Boston are accused of allegedly used protected information to land a contract to manage supplies and equipment and to train Afghan commando troops. The charges also name American International Security Corp. of Boston, Taylor's military contracting company ...
  • SANTA ROSA, Calif. (8/28/12)--Two men have been arrested in connection with the Thursday afternoon robbery of Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Redwood CU's Point Arena branch, according to the Mendocino County (Calif.) Sheriff's Office (Ukiah Daily Journal Aug. 25). The office said that two men, one with a revolver, entered the credit union before 1 p.m. and demanded that the tellers empty their cash drawers. The two allegedly threated harm if employees or members tried to leave the credit union. The men fled with about $50,000 in a Jeep. Witnesses provided license number to police. After a chase, Raymon Ojeda, 39, of Pico Rivera, and Fred Orlando, 55, Magalia, were arrested on suspicion of armed robbery and conspiracy. Authorities recovered the cash and a revolver …
  • WICHITA, Kan. (8/28/12)--The Meritrust CU board of directors announced that Byron Stout IV, vice president of human resources, has been appointed interim president/CEO of the Wichita, Kan.-based credit union. His new role will be effective Sept. 28, upon the resignation of current Meritrust President/CEO Bob Corwin. Corwin will leave to become president/CEO of Advantis CU in Portland, Ore. Stout has been employed with $830 million asset Meritrust for the past five years, specializing in employment law, corporate wellness, training and development, corporate culture, and employee compensation and benefits. Before arriving at Meritrust, he worked 12 years in HR management for Love Box Co. …
  • SAGINAW, Mich. (8/28/12)--Catholic FCU, based in Saginaw, Mich., has lost its longest-serving volunteer with the death of Donald Gallant on Aug. 19. Gallant served on Catholic Federal's board of directors from Nov. 7, 1969, until his death. During that time he has served as chairman, vice chairman, treasurer and secretary. In 2005, the credit union recognized all his years of service by naming its Board Room in his honor. Funeral services were held Friday at St. Stephen's Catholic Church in Saginaw …

Police shoot man who took 12 hostages at CU

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LAKEWOOD, Wash. (8/28/12)--Police officers shot and critically wounded a man as he attempted to flee after he held a dozen people hostage, including his estranged wife, at gunpoint inside a Washington state credit union Saturday.

Lakewood, Wash. police were dispatched to a Washington State Employees CU branch about noon on Saturday after receiving a report of a man with a gun holding 12 hostages.

Officers surrounded the building and a crisis negotiator unsuccessfully attempted to communicate with the suspect.

After about 45 minutes, the suspect allegedly walked into a glass enclosed foyer holding his wife at gunpoint. Fearing for the safety of the hostages, two officers fired one round each, disabling the suspect (The News Tribune Aug. 27).

After apprehending him, officers secured the premises. He was transported to Tacoma General Hospital, where he is listed in critical condition.

The suspect is a 48-year-old man from Tacoma, Wash. He and his wife were married for more than 15 years and were recently separated with a history of domestic violence, according to Lakewood police.

The man allegedly met his wife at the credit union to resolve financial matters. Once inside the credit union, he allegedly grabbed his wife and pulled out a semi-automatic weapon (Komo News Aug. 27).

MWCUA names Maxwell Herring Desjardins winners

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PHOENIX (8/28/12)--The Mountain West Credit Union Association recognized Arizona and Colorado credit unions for their work in social responsibility, philosophy, and financial education.

The Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Recognition Award Program honors credit unions for their involvement in community projects and activities.

The Louise Herring Philosophy-in-Action Member Service Award honors credit unions for their practical application of the people-helping-people philosophy.

The Desjardins Youth/Adult Financial Education Award recognizes leadership within the credit union movement on behalf of youth/adult financial literacy.

In Colorado, Space Age FCU, Aurora, earned a first-place Dora Maxwell Award in the $100 million to $200 million asset category for its Box Tops for Lowry Elementary School fundraising program.

Boulder (Colo.) Valley CU earned a first-place Louise Herring Philosophy in Action Award in the $200 million to $500 million category for its work with Future Business Leaders of America Distributive Education Clubs of America.

Arapahoe CU, Centennial, Colo., received a first-place Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award in the $50 million to $100 million category.  This is the fourth consecutive year Arapahoe CU has been recognized for its national award-winning Seeds for Financial Success program. 

Among Arizona credit unions, Desert Schools FCU, Phoenix, received first-place recognition in Dora Maxell, Louise Herring and Desjardin Youth and Adult Awards in the $1 billion plus category.  Desert Schools' word-of-mouth efforts reached more than 15,441 students up to grade 12 and 207 adults in the community.

First CU, Chandler, Ariz., earned a first-place Dora Maxwell Award in the $200 million to $500 million asset category. First CU's partnership with the local elementary school, Aguilar Elementary School, and its Homework Scholarship Program was recognized.

TruWest CU, Tempe, Ariz., received a first-place Dora Maxwell Award in the $500 million to $1billion asset category for its annual diaper drive supporting St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance. Pima FCU, Tucson, Ariz., received a first-place Desjardins Youth Award in the $150 million to $500 million asset category for its youth financial literacy curriculum, focusing on age-specific features, rewards and goals. 

Honorees will compete with other credit unions for national-level awards presented by the Credit Union National Association.

NCUF grantees fin. coaching part of bigger picture

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CHELSEA, Mass. (8/28/12)--Metro CU, Chelsea, Mass., is partnering with a local nonprofit organization to help low-income households establish a path to financial stability and mobility.

Metro CU--which received a $40,000 Financial Education Grant from the National Credit Union Foundation--is partnering with Chelsea Neighborhood Developers to develop and implement a new Family Economic Center.

Chelsea, located north of Boston, with a population of about 40,000, has one of the largest concentrations of working poor in Massachusetts. About 59% of households are low-income.

Metro CU offers financial services to center clients, provides materials and teachers for financial education classes, and volunteers its staff as financial coaches to provide technical assistance to local residents working to repair their credit, to own a home or build their assets.

As part of the program Metro CU will use the Credit Union National Association's financial counseling and training program.

Coaching is a critical element of the program, called Connect. Families are paired with life coaches who work with participants one-on-one to solve problems and develop habits that lead to financial stability ( Aug. 27).

It's a mentoring approach inspired by Weight Watchers, said the Boston Globe. Many of the women in the program work more than one job while caring for children. Keeping a financial regimen is difficult with their busy schedules. Coaches hold them accountable.

But coaches offer more than budgeting advice. Rene Brimmage, 48, was living on disability payments when she enrolled in a financial management class at the center three years ago. Her coach, Carol Rijo, helped her find a job as a cleaner at Boston Sports Club. Brimmage soon earned a promotion to the front desk. She eventually moved on to become a full-time personal care assistant working with disabled children.

The U.S. Department of Labor recently recently awarded Chelsea Neighborhood Developers a $3 million grant, which will help the nonprofit increase the number of people it serves --to 4,000 a year, from 900.

CUSoup event provides micro grants for startups

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LANSING, Mich. (8/28/12)--A Michigan Credit Union Foundation Community Reinvestment Initiative Grant and support from a Michigan credit union will help a local entrepreneur build a play center for children with autism.

From left, Mary Killian, Shell Jones and Chimena Nelson of Play Place for Autistic Children were winners of Christian Financial CU's 2012 CU@Soup business pitching competition. Jones received $1,400 in startup funds for the project, including a $1,000 grant from the Michigan Credit Union Foundation. (Photo provided by the Michigan Credit Union League.)
Budding entrepreneurs pitched their business plans at Christian Financial CU's (CFCU) second annual CU@Soup event, said the Michigan Credit Union League (Michigan Monitor Aug. 27).

CU@Soup is a community dinner hosted by Christian Financial CU that provides community members a chance to start or expand their businesses. The winning pitch received a $1,000 MCUF micro-grant plus the proceeds from the event.

CFCU selected three finalists from the field of applicants, and attendees of the CU@Soup event voted for their favorite business plan.

Shell Jones, who plans to open the Play Place for Autistic Children, presented the winning pitch.   She earned $1,400 to open the facility.

Jones calls her future business "a Chuck E. Cheese for special needs kids," and she said she hopes to offer a therapeutic play space to promote emotional, social and cognitive development. The space would include a theater, a laser light chalkboard room, a cyber café, and a party area.

Jones plans to open her business next spring.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and credit unions are urging Congress to increase credit unions' member business lending (MBL) cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%. Doing so would open up more opportunity to offer MBLs, inject $13 billion in business loans into the economy and create as many as 140,000 new jobs, with no cost to taxpayers, CUNA said.