Excellence in financial education draws Minnesota Commerce Commissioner to Cook Area Credit Union

COOK, MN (October 24, 2013) — Cook Area Credit Union hosted a meeting on Tuesday with the Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman to discuss the credit union’s recent successes and future plans in providing financial education to students and the community.

Cook Area Credit Union was an important stop on the Commissioner’s fall “outreach tour,” in which he is visiting credit unions, banks, community organizations and local businesses across the state.

In recent years, financial literacy and financial capability have been a major focus for Commissioner Rothman and the Department of Commerce. Through the outreach tour, the Commissioner is learning more about the efforts of organizations across the state to help improve the lives of consumers by stressing the importance of personal financial management.

The Commissioner applauded Cook Area Credit Union for its financial counseling and educational programs for members and the community, and for its involvement in the North Woods School, a K-12 school in Cook.

“Really amazing and terrific to see how they have reached out to the local school district and kids – to be able to show the value of personal finance and financial education,” Commissioner Rothman said. “I commend them for doing that.”

Credit union staff spent the afternoon discussing their various programs, including:

  • educational workshops and financial counseling through a partnership with Lutheran Social Services;
  • contributions to schools as guest speakers on topics such as buying a car, balancing a checkbook and obtaining student loans;
  • a partnership with BizKid$, the PBS financial education TV show and curriculum that CACU offers to all five schools in their district – free of charge;
  • CACU’s Credit Builder Loan Program, which helps members with poor credit or no credit reduce debt, improve their credit rating, and establish good savings habits;
  • participation in National Credit Union Youth Week in April, which works to engage students of all ages and teach them basics of personal finance;
  • college scholarships for high school students, a program that was established in 1982; and
  • an annual Family Fun Night in October, which welcomes hundreds of kids, ages 0-12, and uses the opportunity to teach financial education to attendees.

“With the financial education we provide, people know that we’re here to help them,” said Rich Crettol, CEO of Cook Area Credit Union. “This is how we take care of our members.”

The afternoon meeting also involved members of Cook Area Credit Union’s new student focus group, called the B.O.S.S. (which stands for “bunch of students saving”). This group was formed in September to advise the credit union on financial education initiatives, to perform peers education on personal finance, and to provide the credit union with guidance on opening a student-run, in-school branch during the 2013-2014 school year.

Cook Area Credit Union also has a student internship program for high school junior and seniors.

“We see the internship program as a critical step in what we’re doing,” Crettol said. “As students get work experience and learn the importance of ‘people skills,’ we can continue to provide education in a hands-on way. And in the near future, we’ll be able to utilize the in-school branch to educate all students about saving.”

Crettol became CEO of Cook Area Credit Union in 2006 and immediately set to work on establishing financial education a key focus for the credit union. Now a full-service financial institution, CACU’s assets and membership have grown substantially over the last five years. They now serve 2,900 members living within a 30 mile radius of the credit union.

“Credit unions offer a huge advantage to consumers,” Commissioner Rothman said, referencing the valuable products and services offered and the impact they have on communities.

“Credit unions have an opportunity to be leaders and help communities grow jobs,” the Commissioner added. “Credit unions and community banks are the financial backbone of communities, and we want to ensure that can continue.”

Commissioner Rothman will continue his outreach tour in the coming months.

The Minnesota Credit Union Network is an organization representing the state’s 134 not-for-profit cooperative credit unions serving more than 1.5 million member-owners in Minnesota. For more information, visit

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