Northwest CUDEs Impact the Lives of Others During 2021 DE Day of Service

Helping members achieve brighter financial futures is just one part of credit unions’ “People Helping People” mission. Another major priority for these not-for-profit cooperatives is supporting organizations that are committed to improving and enriching their communities.

Recently, Northwest Credit Union Development Educators (CUDEs) focused their efforts on those organizations during the 2021 DE Day of Service on June 9. Introduced in 2016, this annual event unifies Development Educators across the globe to individually and collectively complete projects that improve the lives of others.

The week of the 9th, Debbie Wege, Cooperative Community Advocate for BECU’s Co-op Affairs Department, organized a variety of guests from local nonprofits to speak at the bimonthly Northwest CUDE Networking meeting, including the Q Center in Portland, the Lavender Rights Project in Washington, the North Idaho Pride Alliance, and CUPride.

“Because we advocate diversity, equity, and inclusion, and with June being Pride Month, we wanted to take the opportunity to engage one another on LGBTQ topics,” said Wege.

During the meeting, CUDEs completed an activity where they created cards adorned with compelling, positive messages that the North Idaho Pride Alliance could use in their initiatives.

“It was an opportunity for credit unions to think about how we might serve the LGBTQ community,” Wege said.

In Oregon, CUDEs from three different credit unions teamed up to make a difference for populations facing food insecurity.

Sarah Buck, Director of Experiences with Forrit Credit Union, completed DE training this past April and was happy to participate in her first Day of Service. Buck, along with credit union colleagues Ronna Idzenga and Chantelle Castle from Cutting Edge Federal Credit Union and Haley Andrews from Rivermark Community Credit Union, worked with Oregon Food Bank’s Free Food Market to distribute fresh produce to the greater Portland Community.

“It was a beautiful day, and while we were out there, we were sure to explain the Credit Union Difference,” said Buck. “We wanted to explain what the educators do and how they focus on issues within the community.”

Gesa Credit Union, headquartered in Richland, Washington, donated 100 backpacks filled with nutritional, nonperishable food items to Rod’s House in Yakima, an organization dedicated to serving young adults experiencing homelessness.

“We chose Rod’s House because they focus on holistic health for young adults — mental, nutritional, and physical — and because they meet these kids where they are, just as we meet our members wherever they are in their financial journey,” said Angie Brotherton, Assistant Vice President of Community Relations, Sponsorship, and Education.

CUDEs earn certification by completing an intensive DE Training program, which focuses on the credit union mission to serve members and communities in the best ways possible. The passionate Development Educators then share what they learned and create projects that benefit their communities and the world beyond.

“I believe so strongly in what the CUDE program does — all of our Community Relations team members take the training,” said Brotherton. “It’s really at the heart of why we [credit unions] do what we do.”

The most recent group of DE Training graduates, who completed the program in May, include four Northwest credit union professionals:

  • Jessica Ongstad, Cutting Edge Credit Union
  • Ken Riedel, Unitus Community Credit Union
  • Natasha Damian, WSECU
  • Tina Davis, TwinStar Credit Union

For Riedel, Unitus’ AVP, Regional Branch Manager, becoming a DE was an incredible and eye-opening journey.

“This experience has changed my perspective on why credit unions are so important to our communities, and has reinforced my belief that when people come together to support a common idea anything is possible!” he said. “No matter what the development issue is, from hunger to the environment, our credit union purpose of ‘People Helping People’ serves as our compass as we create what our future looks like.”

Posted in CU Difference.