Oregon Community Credit Union Brings Home Hardware For Advocacy, Community Service

True to its name, Oregon Community Credit Union (OCCU) was recognized last month for its community-focused approach and its contributions to the credit union movement. OCCU, based in Eugene, Ore., was presented with a state-level Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Award and also received both Capitol Advocacy honors and Top of the Hill honors from the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) for its work advocating for credit union issues on a local and national level.

OCCU received CUNA’s Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award in the $500 million-plus asset-size category for its community service efforts. On President’s Day, all of the credit union’s branches were closed, but its more-than-200 employees took part in an all-staff volunteer day, donating a combined total of more than 600 hours to nine different organizations.

Mandy Jones, President/CEO of OCCU, started the conversation with her senior team about creating annual volunteer day as a response to the growing challenges facing local community-service agencies in light of the struggling economy.

“As a credit union, we are ‘people helping people,’ so finding a way to help is in our DNA,” Jones said. “We worked through United Way to identify six non-profits in the area that could use some volunteer help for several hours. We brought our two-hundred-plus staff together for some inspirational and educational time and then sent them out in six teams to do the specific assignments created by the non-profits. The good news is that our employees got as much out of the day as the non-profits did!”

Dora Maxwell was a pioneer in the credit union movement, and in 1931, she helped to organize the Credit Union National Extension Bureau, which is now known as CUNA. 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.

And in the true spirit of the award, OCCU’s community involvement is hardly limited to one holiday a year. In fact, Jones explained that OCCU has specific programs and policies in place to encourage employees to give back. The credit union’s C.O.R.E. (Community Outreach for Employees) Program was created as a way for employees to volunteer on company time for the organizations of their choice. Similarly, OCCU’s board of directors specifically stated in its strategic plan that OCCU would be more than just a thriving credit union and would serve as a true community leader, and OCCU is acting out its commitment to that ideal on a regular basis.

“I believe many employees work at Oregon Community Credit Union precisely because we value community service and encourage and support it,” said Rosie Pryor, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer for OCCU. “Having the opportunity to work for a business with values that mirror one’s own is sometimes a luxury, and many, many of our employees talk about how they value this aspect of OCCU.

Since Oct. 1, 2010, 83 out of a possible 228 OCCU employees have utilized 962 hours of “C.O.R.E. time” above and beyond volunteer day hours. And it’s clearly not going unnoticed, as Pryor said that OCCU was recently voted one of the 100 Best Companies to work for in Oregon. She explained that this service-oriented mentality starts at the top.

“Oregon Community is led by a CEO who believes deeply in the spirit of the credit union movement: people helping people,” Pryor said. “She lives the value; she models the behavior; she inspires all around her to care as deeply for their co-workers, members, friends and neighbors as she does. I think she’s a large part of what makes OCCU so community-focused and successful.”

A more subtle version of community service—advocacy on behalf of the credit union movement—earned OCCU its Capitol Advocacy and Top of the Hill honors. Thirty-seven credit unions from Oregon and Washington received Capitol Advocacy honors this year for having met high benchmarks for legislative and regulatory grassroots efforts. Twelve credit unions—six each from Oregon and Washington—were recognized with Top of the Hill honors.

Top of the Hill winners are chosen for having gone above and beyond the standards set for Capitol Advocacy recognition. OCCU casts a wide political net, participating annually in International Credit Union Day at the state capital, raising funds internally for CULAC, responding “religiously,” in the words of Jones, to NWCUA Action Alerts, building relationships with elected officials, and educating employees about the burdens of over-regulation so as to create more opportunities for grassroots advocacy among the staff.

“For anyone who has spent very much time in the credit union movement, advocacy just comes naturally,” Jones said. “Our board has an expectation that we will be an industry—as well as a community—leader; advocacy is an important part of that. We’re not content to be a victim of ill-informed regulation—we prefer to work hard to bring information to those who represent us in Congress and in Oregon so they will continue to support credit unions.”

Rogue Federal Credit Union Brings Credit Union Difference to Kids
Miniature teller windows, kiosks, and even a money vault are just a few of the hands-on experiences kids now enjoy at Jackson County’s Discovery Museum thanks to the efforts of Rogue Federal Credit Union.

Taking the responsibility of teaching financial literacy to a new level, Rogue has been recognized for their effort as this year’s winner of the Dora Maxwell Award for community service for credit unions with over $500 million in assets. Rogue received the award at the recent Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) Convention and Annual Business Meeting held in Tacoma, Wash.

Branded as the “Rogue Federal Kid Time Credit Union,” this credit union is the brainchild of the staff at Rogue Federal Credit Union, who sought creative ways to teach young children about money and saving in a hands-on learning-center environment.

“Our entire staff really got behind this and are very excited about what they have accomplished,” said Kerrie Davis, Community and Education Outreach Coordinator for Rogue Federal Credit Union. “The Discovery Museum caters to children from one to ten years of age and provides multiple interactive activities. We felt helping kids learn about the flow of money and the credit union philosophy early in their lives would be valuable for them as they move to adulthood.”

More than 50,000 people visit the museum each year, making it a perfect venue for the credit union to reach a large number of children and help them navigate the basics of financial literacy.

“We have great guy on our staff, Jim DeBoer, who in a previous career had a business that created things from architectural foam,” Davis said. “Jim created the teller window, the vault and all the other props that kids can play with while learning valuable lessons.”

The staff chipped in by helping paint walls, create and paint murals and provide the credit union display with its whimsical feel. They are now developing a fake automated teller machine (ATM) complete with fake cards for access and fake money for withdrawals and deposits. It is all part of a vision to give kids a complete picture related to spending, saving and managing money.

“The kids’ credit union is attached to a play grocery store, so kids can put their money managing skills to use and gain a better understanding of how things work,” Davis said.

Educational materials are also available to parents, offering tips on how to better manage money and how to teach their children the basics of finances. Help is provided to parents in need in the form of scholarships for museum membership dues to ensure every child has access to the entire museum experience.

Funding for the project came from The Oregon Credit Union Foundation and was matched by Rogue Federal Credit Union.


Questions or Concerns? Contact Matt Halvorson, Anthem Editor: mhalvorson@nwcua.org.

Posted in Advocacy News, Awards, Federal.