As a small credit union, we were constantly advised by examiners and strategic planners from 2005-2014 to find our niche in our community. We are surrounded by large credit unions and banks headquartered here in Olympia, Washington, so the opinion was that we needed to find our market niche to survive as a viable credit union. We were told our superior member service and strong belief in the credit union mission of “people helping people” was not enough. Many small credit unions were moving toward low-income communities as their niche. We looked at that but wanted something more. We needed something more unique. Little did we know, we were already unique. The journey we were about to undergo revealed who we have always been, helped us embrace it and be better at it going forward.
In Olympia, we live in a community bubble that welcomes diversity—projecting an almost utopian feel of nondiscriminatory acceptance. In December 2014, the now-defunct organization Equality Washington reached out to us, talking about its founders’ vision of starting a credit union that would focus on serving members of the LGBTQ community and sharing stories of discrimination. Our utopian bubble popped.
This discrimination was not just on a national level, but even here locally, where we see ourselves as more accepting of diversity. Those in the LGBTQ community often face many forms of marginalization. Many have to deal with harassment, losing friend(s) to suicide, being disowned by their family and/or becoming homeless when coming out, or being made to feel they were never good enough no matter how hard they worked to be the best.
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