“Leveraging the CU Difference” Workshop Reignites a Passion for the Credit Union Movement in the Northwest


Early this month at the serene Islandwood retreat center on Washington’s Bainbridge Island, credit union professionals enjoyed an immersive professional development experience unlike any other. During its inaugural year in the Northwest, the “Leveraging the Credit Union Difference” workshop was successful in helping credit union professionals unplug from the daily grind, and in reconnecting them with the credit union difference.

Facilitated by Debbie Wege, Cooperative Community Advocate at BECU, and Lois Kitsch, National Program Director for the National Credit Union Foundation, the two-day workshop was designed to enable credit union professionals explore the credit union framework more deeply, with the goal of helping them see themselves as agents for positive change in their communities. It gave attendees a taste of the Development Educator experience and introduced them to a strong network of credit union professionals they can now contact for ideas and advice.

Attendees ranged from professionals new to the Credit Union Movement to veteran credit union employees.

The activities and curriculum helped participants relate to the needs of current and potential credit union members, revisit the purpose and foundation of credit unions, and create action plans to take back to their credit unions.

“This workshop is an opportunity to step away from the day to day and focus on what we can do to make credit unions stronger,” said Wege. “It gives credit union professionals the opportunity to reignite — or ignite for the first time — a real passion for what they’re part of. It gets people excited, gets them feeling a connection to the Credit Union Movement that they don’t necessarily feel every day.”

The workshop’s speakers included Mark Lynch, Senior Program Manager at the National Credit Union Foundation, who shared insights on financial health from a national and local perspective, as well as several examples of how credit unions serve those in need across the country.

NWCUA President and CEO Troy Stang spoke about #CUobsessed, emphasizing the importance of telling stories that illustrate how credit unions are obsessed with serving their members and communities.

In addition, the workshop incorporated elements of credit unions’ “People Helping People” philosophy. Participants completed a service project, creating 80 emergency needs kits and donating 25 fleece blankets to the homeless or those in transition at Helpline House. Ann Ellis, a strong supporter of Helpline House and current board member of Housing Resources Bainbridge, shared her personal story of financial instability with attendees, and how a credit union came through for her with a small auto loan that helped her keep her job, and made it possible to take her kids to daycare.

The workshop also enabled professionals to connect with local certified CUDE mentors and passionate leaders in the Northwest credit union community, including Jim Morrell, President/CEO of Peninsula CU; Mary Beth Spuck, President/CEO of Resource One CU; Suzanne Klenk, Financial Educator & Community Relations Coordinator, WSECU; Erin Pearson, Administrative Services Manager, WSECU, and Evergreen Chapter Chair; and Mitzi Smith, Community Development Officer, Maps CU.

These mentors were motivated by a desire to expand the impact of credit unions and strengthen CU professionals’ connection to the purpose and potential of the Credit Union Movement.

“This was my first time being a mentor of a workshop like this,” said Erin Pearson. “It was a wonderful experience to share the credit union difference with those who had varying levels of exposure to the Movement already. I hope the participants walked away with ideas on how to serve their members and their communities in new and different ways.”

A similar workshop is being planned for 2018. Stay tuned for details, and your chance to register to participate in this unique, immersive training.

Questions about the Leveraging the CU Difference Workshop?  Contact Carmen Vigil, NWCUA’s Community Manager, at cvigil@nwcua.org.

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