Northwest Credit Unions Invited to Stage Joint Events During International Year of the Cooperative

The Northwest’s nearly 4 million credit union members know well the advantages of belonging to a cooperative financial institution: a local voice, free checking, lower loan rates, better returns on investments; the list goes on. The United Nations’ “International Year of the Cooperative” presents opportunities for community events that will shine the light not only on credit unions but potentially on dozens of other regional cooperatives.

The Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) is working to organize and encourage opportunities for credit union employees to come together in cooperative community events throughout the year.

“When employees from different credit unions are working together, it shines such a positive light on the whole movement,” said Lynn Heider, Assistant Vice President of Public Relations and Communications for the NWCUA. “We are looking at events which are both mission-aligned—such as financial literacy—as well as at events that showcase all cooperatives. Examples might include food, utility and clothing co-ops that save consumers money, or worker cooperatives that allow individual professionals to pool their resources so they can offer more sophisticated services to consumers.”

The Association hopes to see events in many communities in Washington and Oregon, from Yakima to Spokane, Eugene and the Seattle and Portland metro areas.

There has already been some outreach from Junior Achievement, Heider said, which would allow credit union employees to participate in day-long financial literacy events targeting middle and high school-aged students.

In the Seattle metro area, as many as 23 credit union volunteers are needed April 3 at Junior Achievement’s Finance Park. More than 100 secondary students are expected at the facility that day, and they will be tasked with applying their newly-gained knowledge in financial literacy to make decisions for a family and build a budget.

The other Seattle area opportunity is presented at Junior Achievement’s BizTown on April 17. That program targets elementary students, who are always excited to come to the “mini city” and assume roles as wage earners, consumers, business owners and citizens.

Junior Achievement of Oregon & Southwest Washington  is also preparing to offer an April date for local credit union volunteers to help at BizTown or Financial Park. Training for adult volunteers takes only 90 minutes, according to Junior Achievement officials, and can be offered before or often on the morning of the event. The dates for the cooperative events in April will coincide with “Financial Literacy Month,” and according to Heider, the Association will distribute a call for volunteer participants later this month.

Food banks, which supply most of the food pantries in Oregon and Washington, could also present great opportunities for credit union employees to come together. Those organizations can often use dozens of volunteers to sort the food to be distributed to the local food closets, Heider said.

Aside from credit unions, food cooperatives have perhaps the highest awareness levels with consumers. Already brainstorming ideas to leverage the International Year of the Cooperative are members of the Community Food Co-op in Bellingham, Wash. The 12,000 member-strong organization is researching bringing local co-ops together. Possibilities being discussed include farm work-parties and other community awareness events, according to Laura Steiger, the co-op’s community affairs coordinator.

In addition to events, government proclamations and media reports can raise awareness of cooperatives. is a website offering numerous resources to the cooperative community, including toolkits for regional networks, media releases and language for government proclamations.


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Posted in Events, NWCUA.