Credit Unions Make the Holiday Season Sparkle by Giving Back
By Cyndi Cohen Credit Unions Online
Credit unions believe in giving back to the communities they serve, especially during the holiday season. The holidays can be a busy time when people tend to focus on parties, shopping, and decorations, often losing sight of the true meaning behind this time. Credit unions, however, in the spirit of “People Helping People,” remember it is about giving to others, spreading joy, and helping those less fortunate.
Tis the Season…to Reach Out and Help Make Memories
During the month of December many credit unions sponsor and/or participate in events and activities aimed at bringing the spirit of the season to their communities and benefitting charitable organizations who work to make the holidays special for those most in need.
According to Sherry Cordonnier, CUDE, Director, Corporate Relations for Travis Credit Union (Vacaville, CA), this holiday season Travis members and employees are reaching out to the community and people in need by taking part in the following efforts:
2012 Solano and Contra Costa Food Banks Annual food drive which helps the working poor, seniors, single parents, and the homeless in Solano County, Yolo, Napa, Merced and Contra Costa Counties.
2012 Annual Festival of Trees, which benefits area shelters. Each year the festival presents a forest of beautiful Christmas trees, which are auctioned off to the highest bidder.
2012 Christmas Wish in which TCU again helped children on AFDC/Cal Works, including local children of the working poor and foster children. Children place their wishes on ornaments so that sponsors may buy an appropriate gift for them, or may also make a cash donation that will be used to purchase gifts.
2012 Children's Miracle Network Holiday Stocking Campaign where Travis CU employees and members can purchase and sign as many paper stockings as they want for $1 each to support the health needs of children.
2012 Employee Craft Fair in which credit union employees raised more than $1,000 on November 15 for the Heather House Homeless Shelter by providing holiday craft items to be raffled off.
In addition, many of the branch employees have elected to contribute to the needs of their neighbors by partnering with other programs that will provide holiday memories for those less fortunate, including Adopt-A-Family, Toys for Tots, tree lighting festivals and wreath laying events.
Likewise, Elaine Wallace, Member Education Outreach Specialist at State Employees’ Credit Union (Raleigh, NC) said that many of SECU’s 245 branches participate in local community holiday efforts. Some of these include the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program; clothing, toy and wish list items for children/families through local county school systems and Department of Social Services; food drives for local food pantries; angel trees; adopt-a family programs; participating in holiday parades (often with floats), and many more.
“These projects truly embody the philosophy of ‘People Helping People,’” explained Wallace. “Members and others in the community have been and continue to be very generous with holiday projects that benefit the needs of local families, communities, and charitable organizations statewide.” Plus, in order to carry out their holiday giving, SECU has approximately 3,000 volunteers who serve on local Advisory Boards and various committees across the state that are very involved in many of SECU’s holiday efforts.
Sioux Empire Federal Credit Union (Sioux Falls, SD) is excited to be working with a local auto dealership and their CUSO partner CU Mortgage Direct, LLC to help collect toys this year for the Sioux Falls Area Toys for Tots program. “To get the get the campaign kicked off, our dealership partner, Extreme Automotive, donated tickets for a Sioux Falls Skyforce game (our local NBA development team) to give away to the first three people to bring in their toy donation,” said Collin Long, Marketing Specialist.
Also, throughout the end of the year, and culminating in December, the credit union is selling 2013 calendars featuring member-submitted photos. Proceeds of these calendars will go to three great local causes: Make-a-Wish Foundation, Children's Home Society, Sioux Falls Area Humane Society, and the Feeding South Dakota BackPack Program. Long said that these organizations will also benefit from Sioux Empire FCU’s new program called ‘Dividend Donations,’ which allows members to automatically donate the dividends or interest they earn on savings products to one of these local causes.
“While we all enjoy giving back during the holiday season, we believe Holiday giving is just one aspect of our community involvement philosophy,” said Long. “We continually work to find innovative and engaging ways to build a culture of cooperation and giving among our staff, membership and community throughout the year; If our targets aren't always set on ways we can work together to improve the quality of life for members of our community, then we are missing a major part of our mission as a Credit Union.”
Bringing Holiday Happiness to Those Who Serve
As many military families are spending another holiday season separated from a loved one or family members, many are wishing they were home.
Therefore, Travis Credit Union, in addition to their other holiday efforts, is also offering active and retired military families an opportunity to take a few minutes to let them know how much they care. Military families can make their deployed loved one’s holiday come alive by surprising them with a personally recorded Internet Video Greeting Card courtesy of Travis Credit Union’s Operation Best Wishes.
“Operation Best Wishes is an annual campaign held during the holiday season to help military families stay connected in a very memorable way,” stated Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, Travis CU President and CEO. “This is a great program not only for our deployed military members but for anyone who is geographically separated from their loved ones who are currently or who have previously served.”
“Many military members are stationed far away from their hometowns and family members may be anywhere in the world -- we are proud to be able to support our military community in this way and happy to be able to bring Operation Best Wishes to Travis Credit Union here in Northern California,” said Van Ouwerkerk.
Similarly, SECU holds an annual statewide holiday initiative called “SECU Supports the Troops” to benefit North Carolina deployed soldiers. Now in its third year and open to members and others in the community, the project provides 5,000 gift boxes for North Carolina soldiers deployed throughout the world.
“For SECU Supports the Troops, all 245 branches collect donations of various wish list items to be included in the soldiers’ gift boxes, such as soap, deodorant, dental items, socks, snacks, travel games, special thank you letters from NC school children, as well as monetary contributions to assist with shipping costs,” said Wallace.
Show Your Spirit this Holiday Season
With the holidays right around the corner, why not join your credit union and get in the spirit of giving? Check out their newsletter, website, and social media outlets for information on upcoming holiday events, volunteer opportunities, and charitable missions.
Give up one shopping day to bring some holiday sparkle to those whose season seems less magical this year. You’ll feel truly connected to the meaning of the holidays and your credit union will welcome your help as well. Have fun and happy holidays!