Belief in the credit union mission inspires 53 years of volunteer service at Minnesota’s Central Hanna ECU

KEEWATIN, MI (December 3, 2013) — Take it from a person who’s spent half a lifetime serving credit unions: They truly exemplify the idea of community and the “people helping people” philosophy.

Mildred Sorenson knows this. She believes in it.

After 53 years of volunteer service, Sorenson retired last month from the Board of Directors at Central Hanna Employees Credit Union in Keewatin.

Growing up, Sorenson, known as “Millie” by her longtime friends and coworkers, didn’t have much exposure to credit unions until hired as the manager of Minnesota Ore Operations Credit Union. But through that work, Sorenson developed a love for credit unions and their mission of dedicated service to members and communities.

“I believe in credit unions so faithfully and wanted the best for them,” Sorenson said. “When asked to serve on the board (for Central Hanna), I didn’t even give it a thought. I just believed in the theory; I was 100 percent for it. That’s why I continued to serve (on the board). It was always credit union first; everything we did was for the members.”

Central Hanna Manager Sally Barrato worked with Sorenson for more than eight years, and she summarized that working relationship with one word.

“Fondness,” Baratto said. “When thinking of Millie and the way she served us, I’m very fond of everything she does.”

Sorenson said one of her biggest achievements while serving at Central Hanna was the conversion of the credit union to a community charter. Barrato described Sorenson as being very “instrumental” in the conversion process, all for the benefit of Central Hanna members.

Barrato also cited Sorenson’s loyalty as an attribute to Central Hanna. Her personal philosophy mimicked that of the credit union movement, Barrato said, adding that Sorenson exemplifies “the importance of dedication to people, respect within the credit union, and the commitment to serving the underserved.”

Sorenson’s belief in the credit union difference influenced her family, as well. Her children are credit union members, and she influenced her daughter-in-law, Carol Marlow, to also serve on the Central Hanna Board of Directors, a commitment that has now spanned more than 30 years.

“Credit unions are like a close-knit family, and Central Hanna is indicative of that. Very seldom do people serve (on the board) for only a term or two, because you become close to the people you serve with and the people that you serve,” Marlow said.

Sorenson was especially fond of the idea that there was no back-stage agenda going on with credit unions. The relationships within credit union boards often develop into friendships. Since the board members meet often and in personal settings, the comparison to family is not unusual. As in many credit unions, Central Hanna acted as a family with its openness and communication between the employees of the credit union and the members it served.

Although she’s officially retired from serving on the credit union’s board, Sorenson’s enthusiasm for credit unions, and her feelings toward the credit union family, haven’t faltered.

“It’s simple: Credit unions are for the people, the members,” Sorenson said. “The credit union is all for the purpose of serving the community. Everyone wants the best for each other.”

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