Credit unions inherently support the communities in which they operate. It’s in our DNA. In times of trouble or natural disaster, credit unions have always taken on the role of financial first responder. It’s second nature to work to reopen impacted buildings and ATM machines as quickly as possible, to offer ways to help affected members with payment options, short-term loans and other creative solutions. But the unprecedented times in which we are living have prompted credit unions to step up their game and do even more. And boy, have they!
In the Mountain West region, which includes Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming, credit unions have shifted into high gear to help not only their members, but their greater communities. Because the shut down and shelter-in-place orders have impacted numerous local businesses, essential workers and credit union members and employees, Mountain West member credit unions have developed unique and impactful ways of helping others. Here are just a few examples:
- Denver, CO-based Westerra Credit Union created the Yes, Denver, We’re Open website where small, locally-owned businesses can complete a short questionnaire about their business – and Westerra then creates a social media campaign by sharing a post about their business with the credit union’s 125,000 members and social media followers. Westerra is putting its own marketing dollars behind boosting the Facebook posts in the targeted areas where the businesses are located. Yes, Denver, We’re Open also provides a tool kit for the small business with signs, graphics and social media templates for getting the word out that they are open for business.
- Colorado Springs, CO-based Ent Credit Union is asking people across Colorado to nominate any worthy Front Range small business for a cash infusion. Anyone can nominate their favorite (non-franchise) independently-owned, local business which is within the 14 counties Ent serves, via the credit union’s Facebook page. Twenty semi-finalists will be randomly selected from all nominations and from this group a panel of Ent judges will select four finalists. The public will then be invited to vote for their favorite business. Prizes will be awarded per Facebook vote totals: $20,000 – First place; $15,000 – Second place; $10,000 – Third place; and $5,000 – Fourth place.
- Tucson, AZ-based –Tucson Federal Credit Union (TCFU) has donated a total of $65,000 to four local nonprofit groups in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. With an increase in food requests from those in need, TFCU will gift $20,000 to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, to continue providing emergency food to the community. TFCU will also gift $15,000 to Old Pueblo Community Services, supporting programs for those who’ve been incarcerated so that they can make a successful transition to becoming contributing members to society. Another $15,000 will be gifted to Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, to provide support and services to individuals experiencing domestic abuse. And $15,000 to the Children’s Clinics’ Comprehensive Services For Children And Teens, to provide primary care services and more for families.
- Members of Boulder, CO-based Elevations Credit Union have donated $75,000 to assist those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The credit union has matched those donations for a total of $150,000 that will be granted through the Elevations Community Relief Fund.
- Cheyenne, WY-based Blue Federal Credit Union made a difference for healthcare professionals and first responders impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the communities they serve. Blue delivered over 700 COVID Survival Kits to these professionals throughout Wyoming and Colorado. Blue recognizes what a huge impact these professionals have in our communities and have focused on spreading their mission of doing good and changing lives during these unprecedented times.
- Tempe, AZ-based Landings Credit Union has been purchasing meals in local restaurants for its staff who are working hard to serve members during the pandemic. The gesture not only boosts the morale of the credit union’s employees, but it is a great way to support and promote local businesses trying to survive in this unusual climate.
- Centennial, CO-based Columbine Federal Credit Union wanted to make an impact in the local communities so heavily impacted with closures and scaled back services. Each team member was given a $50 bill and asked to spend it at a local merchant/restaurant etc. Team members then took photos at the local businesses when they made their purchases which turned into a popular social media campaign highlighting the local business. The program not only helped local businesses, but helped the credit union’s team members and their families as well.
- Phoenix, AZ-based OneAZ Credit Union and OneAZ Community Foundation will award $200,000 in emergency COVID-19 Community Impact Grants. The goal is to provide emergency funding for nonprofit organizations that serve one or more of OneAZ’s five key community focus areas, including (1) children’s health, (2) food banks, (3) financial literacy, (4) military, veterans’ and first responders’ interests, and (5) local youth programs. Grants will be awarded in $2,000 increments with applications reviewed weekly until all $200,000 is awarded or May 1, 2020, whichever comes first.
While the uncertainty of the times we are in may cause many to be fearful, credit unions have done what they always do in crisis. They have rolled up their sleeves, looked around at the need and asked, “what can we do to help?” And then they put plans and programs in place to do just that. There’s no doubt that we will continue to see credit unions across the nation find unique and meaningful ways to help those in their communities who need it the most.