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

Cowlitz Credit Union Members Approve Merger with Red Canoe Credit Union

Cowlitz Credit Union members have voted to approve a merger with Red Canoe Credit Union and the consolidation is now expected to be finalized on May 1, the credit unions announced this week.

“We are excited for the opportunity to serve the Cowlitz Credit Union membership,” says David Spaulding, Red Canoe’s president and CEO, “and for their members to join our Red Canoe family.”

The voting results were ratified April 23 at a special membership meeting and announced by Larry Anderson, Cowlitz Credit Union’s chairman of the board. State regulators have been notified of the approval, the credit unions said. The merger is expected to be finalized on May 1, and a full data migration completed toward the end of August.

Spaulding will serve as president of the combined organization, which will now serve more than 59,500 members at nine branches throughout the Northwest and have total assets of more than $638 million. Cowlitz Credit Union will retain one seat on Red Canoe’s board of directors, and all Cowlitz employees will remain employed by Red Canoe.

Cowlitz Credit Union was established in 1957 as Cowlitz County Employees Credit Union. During its early days, the credit union was managed by Red Canoe (then known as Weyerhaeuser Credit Union), although the two credit unions kept their assets separate. As Cowlitz grew, it hired its own CEO to oversee operations, but Red Canoe “has always been a strong local partner and friend,” Anderson says.

In a letter to Cowlitz members earlier this year, Anderson said that growth at the credit union had remained “fairly flat,” and that its ability to keep pace with the ever-changing regulatory and technological environments had been challenging.

“The consolidation of assets will result in more-efficient operations and capital management, which is a better use of our members’ money,” Anderson said. “Plus, we will be able to offer a wider array of products and services, including technology conveniences that can be cost-prohibitive for smaller credit unions to offer. Overall, this is a win-win for both credit unions.”

With more than 4,500 members and assets of more than $40 million, Cowlitz Credit Union is open to anyone who lives or works in Cowlitz County or is employed by any qualified school district in Washington. Red Canoe Credit Union serves more than 55,000 members who live, work or worship in Washington; the $598-million credit union operates branches in Longview, Kelso, Castle Rock, Federal Way and Puyallup, Wash., and in Albany, Ore.

STCU’s ‘Hundred-Dollar Project’ Awards $5,000 to Help Teens Make a Difference

Watch the videos from the three winning teams at

One group of teenagers raised money for baby supplies and collected diapers for a community food bank. Another put together “support bags” filled with necessities for a homeless shelter. A third delivered books and stuffed animals to hospitalized children.

Together, the teens made a huge impact on the communities where they live. And this month, they were rewarded for the efforts with cash prizes from STCU that will help them all continue their good works.

The Hundred Dollar Project, which is now in its third year, encourages teens to “start a movement, launch an innovation, brighten a life or change the world.” Earlier this year, 35 teams of teens from Washington and Idaho submitted project ideas, and judges narrowed those down to 10 that received $100 each.

Each of the 10 finalists was then invited to report back with a video showing how they used the $100 to do good. From April 14 through April 18, visitors to watched the videos and submitted more than 1,600 votes for the project they felt was most deserving of further prizes. (Check out the videos from the three winning teams at the website.)

Sandpoint High School’s Interact Club received the most votes, winning $2,500 for its work providing baby supplies to a local food bank. The club worked with the local Key Club to raise $682 for baby supplies and collected more than 1,400 diapers (worth $800) for the Bonner Community Food Bank. Among other things, the club hosted a “baby Olympics” and sold doughnuts to raise awareness for the project.

“We asked ourselves ‘What is something in our community that people need?’ and the food bank said it was baby supplies,” says Paul Meyer, president of the Interact Club, which is affiliated with the Rotary Club in Sandpoint, Idaho.

A three-person team from Rogers High School in Spokane received $1,500 to help provide supplies to homeless women and children. The “Kindness in a Bag” project was launched by Tavia Powell, Kaitlynn Ingram and Nick Robinson, all members of the school’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America group.

The team sought donations from local businesses to fill bags with tooth brushes, toiletries and other necessities. The bags were then donated to the women and children at St. Margaret’s Homeless Shelter.

“Through this project,” Ingram says, “we’ve learned that even the littlest things can touch people’s hearts.”

The “Snuggle Project” earned $1,000 for students from Dishman Hills High School in Spokane, who helped brighten the lives of hospitalized children. The team sought donations of new stuffed animals and children’s books to create 130 brightly colored “snuggle-time” kits for patients at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Spokane.

“The most rewarding part of the project,” says team captain Andru Maughan, “was delivering all the kits and seeing the children’s faces light up.”

WECU Donates $42,775 to Local Nonprofits in First Quarter of 2014

Whatcom Educational Credit Union (WECU) donated $42,775 to community groups and nonprofit organizations in the Bellingham area in April, and applications are now being accepted for funding that will be awarded quarterly throughout the rest of 2014.

Dine Out for Maple Alley Inn, Rebound of Whatcom County, Womencare, Ferndale School District and the Behind the Badge Foundation were among the organizations that received first-quarter donations from the credit union, which strives to support education, health and other community projects. (The full list of first-quarter donations, which ranged from $250 to $4,660, is available here.)

Requests for monetary donations must be made through an application process. Deadlines for the rest of 2014 include:

  • May 8: Second-quarter donations will be distributed in late June or early July;
  • Aug. 7: Third-quarter donations will be distributed in late September or early October; and
  • Nov. 6: Fourth-quarter donations will be distributed in late December or early January.

Applications and more information about WECU’s Social Responsibility Committee are available at or by contacting Maya Hartford by email at

With more than 72,200 members, WECU is Whatcom County’s largest nonprofit financial cooperative, serving all residents of Whatcom County. In addition to financial contributions, the credit union supports the Volunteer Center’s Human Race, the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run, the Opportunity Council’s School Supply Drive and other local projects.

Red Canoe Credit Union Wins ‘Best of Show’ at HR/TD Council’s Annual Conference

Red Canoe Credit Union’s CO-Opetition with Empower Federal Credit Union has earned both financial institutions the Best of Show award from the CUNA HR/TD Council. Nine credit unions were honored with eight Excellence Awards at the council’s annual convention this week in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Longview-based Red Canoe and Empower, which is headquartered in Syracuse, N.Y.,  realized they used similar approaches to building a sales and service environment while attending CUNA’s Experience Learning Live conference in 2012, so they teamed up to create CO-OPetition. The three-month contest — a cooperative, collaborative, first-of-its-kind contest to increase the number of buyouts at each credit union — helped members save more than $2 million in future interest payments by moving loans to each respective credit union. A website bridged the two staffs; teams, with individual and team incentives, were made up of employees from both credit unions.

“The HR/TD Council Excellence Award recognizes and honors credit unions that exemplify excellence in human resources and training & development in the credit union industry,” says Jennifer Huggard, the Northwest Credit Union Association’s vice president of administration and chair of the HR/TD Council’s awards committee. “These awards are important to our council because they allow us to celebrate what our peers are accomplishing and learning from it. All our winners are very deserving.”

For more information on the 2014 Excellence Awards, visit and click on the “Award & Recognition Program” link, located on the “Events” pull-down menu.

Oregon Community Credit Union Adds Chief Marketing Officer, Vice President of Lending

Deborah Mersino has joined Oregon Community Credit Union as its chief marketing officer and Ethan Nelson has been promoted to vice president of lending, the credit union announced this week.

Mersino, who has more than 17 years of marketing communications experience, will oversee all aspects of marketing and strategic communications, including brand management, ecommerce, traditional and digital marketing, social media and community relations. She will also lead product research, design and development, as well as growth initiatives for the credit union.

Mersino  holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Most recently, she served as chief marketing officer for an organization dedicated to serving education leaders and influencing public policy regarding the effective use of technology to improve education.

In his new position, Nelson will oversee real estate/mortgage lending, collections, underwriting, indirect lending and process improvement. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Oregon State University and has worked in the credit union industry for more than 15 years. 

Nicole Wait Joins Solarity Credit Union as Remote Services Manager

Nicole Wait has been named remote services manager at Solarity Credit Union, where she will oversee the Member Contact Center that handles members’ phone calls and online banking needs.  

Wait has more than nine years of experience in financial institutions. She most recently served as an assistant branch manager for AmericanWest Bank. Before joining AmericanWest, she also worked as a universal banker.

Wait holds an associate’s degree in general studies and is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in education.

Questions about this story? Contact Gary M. Stein: 503.350.2216,

Posted in Marketing & Communications.