News & Notes: Here’s What’s Happening Around the Northwest

Rural Vashon Island Gets Second Credit Union with Opening of Our Community Branch

“We’re excited to get to know the people of Vashon and develop relationships with the families and businesses in the community.”Bert Fisher, president and CEO of Our Community Credit Union

Our Community Credit Union will open a full-service branch on Washington’s Vashon Island next week, becoming the island’s second credit union when it sets up shop in a building vacated by Bank of America last fall.

“We were approached with a unique opportunity that we felt was a great fit for the credit union,” says Bert Fisher, OCCU’s president and CEO. “We’re excited to get to know the people of Vashon and develop relationships with the families and businesses in the community.”

The credit union has renovated space in the Vashon East Shopping Center near a Thriftway store and hired four islanders to staff the branch, which will open Jan. 27. Margi Amstrup, a former Bank of America and US Bank employee, will serve as branch manager; Carole Sussman will be the assistant manager; and Kirsten Bachant and Jacquie Perry will work as member service representatives.

OCCU currently operates six branches in Shelton, Union, McCleary, Elma and Montesano, and board Chair Curt Stracke says there are a lot of similarities between Vashon and those markets. “This is a great opportunity to expand,” he says, “while not losing sight of our commitment to small-town personal service.”

Vashon Island, located between Tacoma and Seattle, is a rural community with a population of just under 11,000. Its only connection to the mainland is via Washington State Ferries.

The full-service branch will be open six days a week, offering loans, credit cards, checking and savings accounts, businesses services and more. It’s the second credit union branch on the island, joining a Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union location that opened in 2011.

PSCCU came to Vashon after being approached by a group of businessmen who were considering starting their own credit union, “so our ties with the island run deep,” says Shannon Ellis-Brock, the credit union’s vice president for business development. “I think you’ll see both competition and cooperation, but I believe we can find ways to work together to benefit the community.”

PSCCU doesn’t offer commercial accounts, for example, “but Our Community offers a wide variety of business accounts and services. That’s going to be very helpful,” Ellis-Brock says.

Our Community Credit Union serves 25,000 members and has assets of $280 million. Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union operates branches in downtown Bellevue, Renton, Tacoma and Vashon, with more than 9,000 members and nearly $79 million in assets. Membership in both credit unions is open to anyone who lives, works or attends school in Washington state.

Valley Credit Union Raises Funds, Collects Supplies for Crime Victims and Struggling Families

On hand for the donation of diapers and other hygiene products to Family Building Blocks (from left): Jean Wheat-Palm, president and CEO of Valley Credit Union; Patrice Altenhifen, executive director of Family Building Blocks; and Rob Kansky, general manager of Green Acres Landscaping.

Valley Credit Union may not be the biggest financial institution in the Salem area, but it has a huge impact on the lives of the people who live in the mid-Willamette Valley. That was certainly true in January, when two events sponsored by Valley helped raise more than $14,000 for victims of violent crime and collected much-needed supplies for struggling families.

On New Year’s Day, Valley President/CEO Jean Wheat-Palm and 350 others joined CrossWalk organizer Mary Lucas for a walk around the Salem park where Lucas was attacked on Jan. 1, 2011. Their goal: to raise funds for the Marion County Victim Assistance Fund.

Lucas was 10 minutes into her walk along the Willamette River on New Year’s Day 2011 when she was grabbed from behind and dragged down the embankment. Fortunately, three men heard her screams and came to her rescue. CrossWalk, she says, is her way of bringing a positive event to a place that could have ended in tragedy.

It’s also a chance to help other victims of violent crime. Funds raised by the walk help the Marion County District Attorney’s Victim Assistance Division provide direct victim services, advocate for victims’ rights and promote public awareness. The program also provides 24-hour on-call response for the victims of sexual assault and for the surviving loved ones of homicide victims.

Valley Credit Union is a presenting sponsor of the event, which this year raised more than $14,000, and Wheat-Palm says she looks forward to walking with the Lucas family again next year.

“Events like CrossWalk make Salem a unique place to live,” Wheat-Palm says. “Sure, other places have fundraisers, but the kind of support we saw on Wednesday doesn’t happen in other places.” 

But it does happen in Salem, where another Valley-sponsored fundraising effort collected 2,408 diapers and hundreds of other hygiene products — baby wipes, shampoo, soap and laundry detergent — for local children and their families.

Valley joined with Roberson Motors and Green Acres Landscaping to promote the fourth annual Family Building Blocks Diaper Drive. Family Building Blocks operates facilities in Salem and Stayton; its primary mission, the organization says, is to keep children safe and families together.

“Family Building Blocks continues to help struggling families find their footing in our community, and we know they’ll put these supplies to great use,” Wheat-Palm says.

Providence Federal Credit Union Forms ‘Community Impact’ Committee — With Immediate Results

Providence Federal Credit Union President/CEO Shirley Cate joins DJs Scott Tom and Jim E. Chonga at the Providence Child Center Foundation Radiothon, which raised more than $121,500.

When Providence Federal Credit Union recently decided to form a “Community Impact” committee to generate fundraising ideas and find ways to make a difference in the lives of its neighbors, nearly half of the credit union’s 22 employees signed up. And they didn’t waste any time.

“Our neighbor, Clackamas Fire District #1, recognized the great need to give toys and food baskets to those less fortunate,” says Kelly Hottenroth, Providence Federal’s collections officer and chair of the Community Impact committee. “Not only did our employees give to their Operation Santa Claus, but the credit union also donated $460 to purchase additional gifts for the families.”

Two large gift baskets — one with a Portland Trail Blazers theme, the other with a ski theme — were raffled just before Christmas. “Our members loved the baskets,” says Shirley Cate, Providence Federal’s president and CEO. “But more importantly, they loved helping us raise money for our charitable funds program.”

That program helped Providence Federal sponsor and donate $20,000 to the Providence Child Center Foundation Radiothon, which supports critical care, therapy services and programming for non-verbal children at the Providence Center for Medically Fragile Children. The 12-hour radiothon on 106.7 FM raised more than $121,500.

Cate took to the airwaves to challenge other credit unions and banks to make donations. She also promised $50 VISA gift cards to the first 10 callers who pledged at least $100.

“It was a day filled with generosity and inspirational stories,” Cate says, “and the ringing of phones was definitely music to my ears. Providence Federal Credit Union is grateful to once again be the Phone Bank sponsor. Our employees not only had a blast taking calls from listeners, but they also generously opened their own pocketbooks. It was clearly a feel-good day for us.”

Young Credit Union Professionals Meeting to Focus on Grassroots Advocacy

Advocacy is about more than writing checks and shaking hands; it’s also about thinking out of the box and getting involved at the grassroots level. That’s why Young Credit Union Professionals will take “a different look at credit union advocacy” when the group gathers at the Lucky Lab Brewpub in Portland next week.

There’s no cost to attend the meeting, which is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 29, but Steve Pagenstecher is taking reservations at The Lucky Lab is located at 915 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. in Portland.

Jennifer Wagner, the Northwest Credit Union Association’s vice president for legislative advocacy, and Samantha Beeler, the Association’s new political and grassroots manager, will share their experiences on the Hill and in the field. They’ll also talk about a host of ways to get involved at the grassroots level.

YCUP was created for credit union professionals under the age of 40, but Pagenstecher says that anyone who is “young at heart” is welcome to join. The group’s mission: to engage young credit union professionals in social, educational, charitable and advocacy events to attract and retain the future leaders of the credit union movement.


Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216,

Posted in Advocacy News, Federal.