by: Christopher Morris, Director of Communications, National Credit Union Foundation
Louise Herring was amazing. Commonly referred to as the “mother of credit unions,” the young woman started over 500 credit unions in our movement’s early days among numerous other achievements.
She lived and breathed credit unions and spent a lot of time with fellow pioneers Roy Bergengren and Ed Filene. She often traveled by herself in those days, visiting factories, schools, churches, and so on across the Midwest, sometimes starting 2-3 credit unions each day. Why? She once said that “the purpose of the credit union is to reform the financial system, so that everyone can have his place in the sun.” She never stopped helping people see the light… so to speak.
In fact, I recently heard a great story about her that illustrates this from her son, Bill Herring, at the Credit Union Development Education (DE) training here in Madison a few weeks ago. Bill, also involved in credit unions as President/CEO of Cincinnati Central CU in Ohio, said that one time in those early days the police stopped her for going through a red light. Louise thought there were “many shades of red” and contested it to the officer. She was taken to the local police station. After some small talk she was asked what she was doing so far from home. Louise then told the officers about credit unions. It was all over.
Before long, more and more officers started putting money in a hat. Because of Louise’s fervor and passion about the credit union idea, these officers banded together and paid her ticket – as long as she promised to come back and start a credit union for them.
Louise was an evangelist for credit unions. I have a hunch that it would be hard to have known her and not be a member of a credit union. Now think about you, your employees or co-workers. Are they that excited about the credit union idea?
Credit union pioneers like Louise radiated passion for credit unions and led the charge for furthering credit union development. It wasn’t just a job. It was a cause, a social mission and a torch to carry.
Where are our modern day Louise Herrings? Credit Union Development Educators (CUDES)? Bank Transfer Day founder Kristen Christian? CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney? Members of the Cooperative Trust?
I don’t know. But I do know we need more evangelists.
For starters, get your employees excited about credit unions. Revamp that new employee orientation. Have an all-staff training about credit union philosophy, history and the cooperative principles. Talk and explore our rich and noble history. Talk about how we change people’s lives and are part of a global credit union and cooperative movement. Talk about why credit unions can offer such great rates and no or low fees.
We have a lot to be excited about. We have a lot to talk about. And we are just getting started. Go make Louise proud.
Christopher Morris is currently the Director of Communications for the National Credit Union Foundation, which is widely recognized as the national charitable arm of America’s credit union movement under the mission of “making financial freedom achievable through credit unions.” Previously, he was Communications & Web Resources Manager for the CUNA Councils, a national organization for credit union professionals. www.ncuf.coop
Christopher blogs on a number of industry sites, is an editor at CUwatercooler.com and was a member of Filene Research Institute’s 30 under 30 group. Before entering the credit union system, Christopher was a high school English teacher and is a veteran of the United States Army.
When he is not working, Christopher is playing and writing music as 1/2 of The Disclosures, an acoustic “thrift-rock” music group from the land of credit unions. Their first album, “(Hey, We’re) The Disclosures” was released in March, 2011.