Charity doesn’t just start at home; it can start at work, too
Whether you have ever personally found yourself in need of assistance from a charitable organization, there are times when people need a helping hand. While all PSCU offices actively support a variety of non-profit charitable organizations in their communities, we have also witnessed a need to support our own coworkers due to an unforeseen financial emergency. Instead of directing those “at risk” employees to other organizations, embedded in our culture is a responsibility and a desire to help take care of our own. At the height of the economic turbulence in 2009, past PSCU President and CEO David Serlo started the non-profit Employee Hardship Foundation to serve the needs of PSCU employees.
From the outset, the Foundation’s goal was to reduce the stress created by financial emergencies and to ensure that PSCU employees knew they could rely on each other in times of need. Since it was created in 2009, the Foundation has dispersed $336,000 in grants to over 185 employees.
The David J. Serlo Employee Hardship Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation funded entirely by voluntary donations from employees and several yearly fundraising events, such as a holiday silent auction and raffles. Very few employers offer this type of benefit and, unlike hardship loans that some companies offer, the grants distributed by the Foundation do not have to be paid back and do not count as income.
Any employee with a minimum of 90 days of service may apply for a grant from the Foundation to cover unforeseen financial hardship expenses. Examples of these hardships include acute illness, a family emergency, loss of benefits or income, or danger of foreclosure or eviction. When the application is submitted, a blind application analysis by a funding committee, made up of PSCU employees, ensures an unbiased process and provides a level playing field for access. Anonymity also gives employees the security to take advantage of this benefit. Members of the funding committee serve on a rotating basis and are selected from all PSCU locations.
The level of voluntary contributions to the Foundation by PSCU employees is very impressive. In 2015, 18 percent of PSCU’s 1800+ employees donated to the Foundation. In addition, many other employees give through the other fundraising events that benefit the Foundation. These contributions not only give employees a tax break, but they more importantly also cultivate a culture of caring for coworkers and foster a sense of community, employee engagement and improved morale. Yearly contributions collected since 2012 have averaged nearly $70,000.
Dave Serlo resisted the idea of having his name on the Foundation when it was created. However, with his passing in 2010, the Foundation was renamed to honor his work for PSCU, its employees and the credit union movement as a whole. Those that knew Dave Serlo understood he did not quietly abide standing idle when a person or organization needed help. He was a man characterized by strong words and beliefs, and even stronger actions that spoke volumes about his caring and humanity for people and the credit unions to which he devoted his entire career.
When the Foundation was launched, Dave said, “I feel strongly that it is our responsibility as individuals to help our fellow employees…whenever they encounter dire financial situations that require immediate assistance.”
The testimonials from current and former employees helped by this employee-funded Foundation are numerous and powerful and represent a strong narrative in the difference this relatively small gesture has made in their lives. One recent recipient said that she would never be able to show enough appreciation for the assistance she received, stating that the Foundation was truly her guardian angel, and that it saved her from giving up. Another said that the gift was a tremendous blessing to him during a very difficult time, and that it lightened his burden considerably as though a huge weight has been lifted off his shoulders. Yet another recipient said that receiving the assistance made her feel like she was part of a big, loving, extended PSCU family.
Dave always understood the true spirit of the credit union industry was about people helping people. The Foundation that lives on as his legacy is a fitting embodiment of this spirit.
For more information about the David J. Serlo Employee Hardship Foundation, contact Merry Pateuk via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.