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Credit Unions Pitch In for Back-to-School

Credit Unions Pitch In for Back-to-School By Gina Ragusa
Published August 22, 2012
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For many parents, sending their children back to school often rivals expenses incurred during the holidays--and sometimes the same emotion. From having to purchase backpacks and supplies to clothing, uniforms and books; returning to school has never been so expensive.

A survey by Deloitte reported that 27% of back-to-school shoppers anticipate that they will spend at least $500 on supplies, clothing and more this year. Additionally, the National Retail Federation predicts that parents of school-aged children will pay an average of $688 this academic school year--a 14% increase from last year.

Although some families simply cringe and bear it when the VISA bill bearing back-to-school supply expenses arrives, others may not have the means to even purchase more than a notebook for their student.

Luckily, community non profits like credit unions often band together year after year to ensure that all students return to school armed with necessary supplies and clothing in order to start the year off right.

“For parents going through financial crisis, back-to-school time can be stressful,” says George Poitou, SCE Federal Credit Union’s ($580 million, Irwindale, CA) Chief Operating Officer and Vice Chair of the SCE FCU Foundation. “It’s overwhelming to think of buying backpacks, notebook paper, erasers and more when you’re struggling just to make ends meet. By providing these items, we lessen the burden for the parents and give students the supplies they need to succeed in school.”

Credit Union Back-to-School Assistance Arrives in a Variety of Ways

Credit unions across the country offer assistance to parents and students in numerous ways. Some generate backpacks stuffed with supplies and others provide scholarship and donation money to various non-profit community groups that support students.

For example, Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union ($5.1 billion, Tampa FL) donated $5,000 to the Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO), which provides an estimated 250 students with a voucher for clothing and supplies from the organization’s closet.

“ECHO’s Back to School Program aligns with our mission to provide children and families with the basic tools to excel in school,” says Mary Tlachac, executive director of Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union Foundation. “Students can feel confident going back to school this year with proper necessities such as book bags, shoes, socks, clothing and food.”

Like Suncoast, Indiana Members Credit Union ($1.1 billion, Indianapolis, IN) raised cash to make sure area children went back to school with the necessary supplies.

Members and employees from the credit union banded together to raise over $77,000 to provide 3,500 backpacks and school supplies for children in need.

The credit union rallied through branch promotions and donations from its annual “Bowl-A-Thon” fundraising event, IMCU Yard Sale and annual Golf Open fundraiser.

Ron Collier, CEO of Indiana Members Credit Union stated, “Having the support of IMCU members, employees, board of directors and volunteers year after year, for this worthwhile cause, is remarkable. I am proud of our organization and the community for being a part of this initiative and assisting to provide the pertinent tools for students to be successful in their education. There is a great need, which can be met with the support of local businesses. IMCU was founded in education, on the campus of IUPUI, and on the principles of helping others succeed. We are committed to giving back to the communities in which we serve and I would like to thank everyone for their generous support. We encourage others to help us in this effort to aid our children with their education.”

Credit Union Volunteer Time Is Appreciated

In addition to making financial donations, credit unions are also donating their time to back-to-school causes.

Executives and employees at Heritage Federal Credit Union ($407 million, Newburgh, IN) rolled up their sleeves and assembled backpacks stuffed with school supplies for area students. The credit union partnered with the Salvation Army to fill and distribute over 300 backpacks for students throughout the credit union’s market footprint.

Ruth Jenkins, CCE, President and Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Federal Credit Union stated, “The back-to-school season is a busy, sometimes very costly, time of year. This cooperative effort of the Salvation Army and Heritage Federal Credit Union ensures that students in need in our community do not get overlooked. The willingness of these employees to give of their personal time to support the work of the Salvation Army exemplifies the Credit Union’s People Helping People philosophy.”

And it’s not just backpacks and supplies being donated--credit unions are making sure local children look the part before heading back to school. For seven years, Erie General Electric Federal Credit Union ($172 million, Erie, PA) has held its annual “Back to School Free Haircut Day” with this year’s event slated for August 25 at a local elementary school. Last year the event provided more than 300 children with haircuts and 600 children with book bags. Credit union employees will grill hot dogs, hand out sodas and play games with the children.

Back-to-School Credit Union Efforts Are a Hand Up Not a Hand Out

SCE Federal Credit Union has a long history of dedication to the communities it serves, especially those underserved by mainstream financial institutions, Poitou explains. “The creation of the SCE FCU Foundation provided an ideal way to ensure that much-needed financial education, assistance, and improvement programs reaches the underserved in Southern Nevada and Southern California - giving people the power to make better financial choices and achieve an improved quality of life,” he says. “This particular outreach effort, our school supply donation drive at our Las Vegas area branches, began August 1, 2012 and will run through the end of the month. We chose to help Western High School in Las Vegas after learning of the extreme need there. Western High has a large percentage of low-income and poverty-level students, and more than 50% of Western High students don’t graduate. Also, a significant number of the students are homeless and depend on the school for their daily meals.”

Like SCE FCU, Oregon Community Credit Union ($911 million, Eugene, OR) looks to help families who need assistance the most. The credit union has partnered with local news station, KMTR to provide backpacks and supplies to students in need during its annual “Backpacks for Back to School” campaign. Last year 1,800 backpacks were handed out to families in need of assistance.

"If it wasn't for the support of places like the Brattain House, then I don't know that I would be able to go back to school," Bonnie Hylton told the news station. "It's just, you can sleep at night, knowing that your kids are getting their needs met."

On the other side of the country, Community Resource Federal Credit Union ($66 million, Latham, NY) partnered with Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless to fill more than 50 backpacks with school supplies on the last day the non profit’s summer youth program. The credit union accepted backpack supplies in its lobbies leading up to the event with members singing the credit union’s praises on Facebook.

In response to the latest post surrounding the event, one Community Resource credit union member wrote, “Hands down best credit union anywhere. Best people who really care about their members....”

Join your credit union’s back-to-school efforts or inquire about starting an initiative to help students in your area today.

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