During the past year, optimism has been often difficult to find. Conversations, minds, and hearts have been heavy. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, the fragility of our diversity has been exposed. If we open our eyes, there are many examples of unfortunate realities surrounding equity and inclusion. Our individual credit unions, the Credit Union National Association, not even the Royal Family are able to ignore the need to respond to these challenges.
While softened by economic impact payments, as well as the many other mitigations included in Covid-19 relief bills including the current American Rescue Plan, the recovery period will have a lasting impact on small businesses as well as people’s household financial budgets. To combat inequities and provide help for our members and communities, including Hispanic, Native Americans, African Americans, or Asian Americans, we must continue our mission as credit unions. We need to pursue “Financial Well Being for All” as was recently called out at the 2021 CUNA GAC.
In 2005, Peninsula Credit Union established a core set of values and listed “We are inclusive” as the very first one. These are just words unless we take the time to rededicate ourselves to ensure this is true. The awareness raised by the past year’s events gives us pause to determine how we can be part of solutions rather than by-standers. We know there is a problem and we need to keep growing and learning to actively address inequities.
Last year, the Chad Helminak wrote an article, “National Credit Union Foundation: What do we stand for?” Peninsula Credit Union strives to this inclusive approach to the cooperative operating principles upon which we are built:
- Voluntary and Open Membership – There will be no discrimination in who we hire or who we serve. The financial stability of ALL people is important…always!
- Democratic Member Control – Last September, our Board of Directors expressed interest in increasing diversity of thought and experience as well as ethnic and age diversity on the Board. We continue to solicit interest from those who represent our entire membership to serve as leaders and advisors to the credit union. And, when it comes time to elect these representatives, regardless of how much you have on deposit, as a credit union member you have one vote, just the same as the next member…always!
- Member Economic Participation – The credit union uses its net income to build capital reserves. We make decisions to establish the best opportunity for your financial success. This capital is there to use during good times and bad…always!
- Autonomy and Independence – Our primary interest is our members. We will always make decisions based upon the financial well-being of our members and our team that supports you…always!
- Education, Training and Information – The people we hire are trained to be empathetic listeners. We cannot help you improve your financial lives unless we first listen…always!
- Cooperation among Cooperatives – Peninsula Credit Union works with and learns from other credit unions. We strive to advocate for the structure of financial cooperatives…always!
- Concern for Community – When our members and communities suffer, Peninsula Credit Union seeks out opportunities to provide optimism for the future…always!
Financial Well Being for All built upon credit union cooperative operating principles brings me hope for a brighter 2021 and beyond. It motivates me to believe our credit union serving the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State can address any of the challenges brought to light over the past year. Stories from our credit union’s conversations with members provide a glimpse at just a few examples as to how we see many members feel our approach to ALL after we express our empathy for their financial lives.
- Jessica ran into some unforeseen expenses and was unsure how to handle the situation. She sat down with a member relationship consultant, Mary Ellen, who was able to identify that a VISA card with a limit to satisfy her immediate needs could be addressed so that Jessica would not need to stress about that during the holidays.
- Tony had been trapped in a payday loan cycle for several months. Keiko, another membership relationship consultant, took the time to understand what was happening and provide some financial counseling. He applied for an unsecured loan to get caught up on his bills, including his power bills. He will now be able to pay his rent on time February 1st which will save another $100 late fee.
- Shawna was faced with falling just short on her credit score in order to get a mortgage loan. Our mortgage loan officer, Michael, put Shawna in touch with our community financial educator Scot who was able to educate her on the usefulness of a share secured loan – no credit check, low interest, and the result would be to improve her credit score. Shawna was able to build up some savings, apply for a VISA platinum card, improve her score and qualify for a mortgage loan.
Over the upcoming year, our credit union will be here to continue to do our best to help ALL of our members to pursue the next step on their financial journey.