Although most of us associate Thanksgiving with a long weekend, feasting on our favorite fall dishes, gathering with family and friends, watching football, going to parades, early morning shopping sprees, and officially kicking off the holiday season, Thanksgiving is more than that. More importantly, it is a time to give thanks for the special people and good things in our lives. It is a time to think of those less fortunate who may be suffering from hunger, hardship, illness, or loneliness, and to share our wealth with them as an expression of gratitude for all that we do have.
For credit unions, the true meaning of Thanksgiving is a familiar one reflected in their age-old mantra, “People Helping People.” This philosophy is one that credit unions strive to emulate 365 days a year but is especially poignant as the holiday season approaches, and even more so in these recent years of economic distress. To this end, credit unions around the country open their hearts and doors to ensure that all of those in the communities they serve have the chance to enjoy a happy Thanksgiving. From preparing hot meals to supplying local food pantries to organizing coat and toy drives, and more, credit unions are doing their part to give to those most in need and say ‘thanks’ as the 2012 holiday season begins.
Veridian Credit Union (Waterloo, IA) was hosted the 30th Annual Mike and Leona Adams Thanksgiving Dinner on Monday, November 19 in Waterloo. In an October 29 press release, the credit union stated that union retirees and credit union volunteers expect to cook and serve the feast for more than 700 people seeking a free hot meal and companionship. The Hawkeye Valley Area Agency on Aging will deliver another 300 dinners to its current Meals-on-Wheels recipients.
The credit union’s Thanksgiving tradition began when former Veridian board member Mike Adams and his wife Leona established this free annual meal in 1982. At this time, tough economic times were hitting many Iowans. Thirty years later, though both Mike and Leona have passed, the tradition that still bares their name has grown. Now those attending can also receive a free haircut from Clip Art Corner, a free blood pressure check from Cedar Valley Hospice and free transportation from anywhere within Black Hawk County from Met Transit.
“This event aligns with the credit union philosophy of people helping people,” said Jean Trainor, President and CEO of Veridian. “We’re proud to play a part in a tradition that benefits so many in our community.”
Security Service Federal Credit Union (San Antonio, TX), working with the San Antonio Food Bank, San Antonio Express-News, NBC TV affiliate News 4 WOAI, Cox radio station Magic 105, and other community partners, sponsors “Food 4 SA” throughout the month of November. Now in its tenth year, the campaign’s goal is to collect 1 million pounds of food for the Food Bank. All of the 26 San Antonio area SSFCU branches serve as collection stations for food donations from members and the general public. According to SSFCU’s John Worthington, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, with continuous radio, print, and television promotions, along with extensive use of social media, the campaign has always been successful and at the halfway point this year, the credit union is again on track to meet or exceed its goal.
“One of SSFCU’s enduring goals is community service,” explained Worthington. “As the largest credit union in San Antonio, and Texas, and the eight largest in the country, we want to give back to the communities where we work and live that have helped us be the successful enterprise that we are.” Community service is an integral part of the credit union’s corporate culture and employees enjoy getting to participate in community events and support deserving organizations that work to improve the quality of life for the community.
“Response to the “Food 4 SA” campaign and the numerous other events and activities that we support has been overwhelmingly positive from our members and from the community,” reported Worthington. “There is a constant flow of non-perishable food items coming to our locations, in some cases overflowing the containers the Food Bank provides at every location -- we receive unsolicited comments from our members and other community members thanking us for the community outreach activities we support.” SSFCU is well recognized as a successful enterprise that places a high priority on community service and is recognized as a strong corporate citizen that gives back to its community.
Every November, for the past 8 years, Evergreen Credit Union (Neenah, WI) celebrates its 'BIG BUCK$' Season during which fundraising events are scheduled throughout the month to benefit the year’s annual holiday Giving Tree recipients. For 2012 those groups include YOUTH GO and ARC of Neenah-Menasha. There will also be a collection barrel for the Neenah Animal Shelter at the credit union throughout the holiday season.
Evergreen carries out these fundraising events with help from its volunteer team, H.U.G.S. (Help Us Give to Others), which organizes all of the credit union’s community outreach projects. “We hold fund-raising events throughout the year and support many community charities and outreach organizations,” said Debra K. Bruley, VP-Operations. “We are always so very thankful for the generosity of our members and the communities we serve -- most people choose to give to others freely and generously.” The credit union provides a community outlet and their 'wish lists' and every year at holiday time, their lobby fills up with donations of all kinds.
Derby said that by hosting fund-raising events at the credit union, Evergreen is able to spotlight smaller organizations that provide critical services to many people within its communities. “Our audience then gets 'plugged into' what has been sometimes silently happening for years…volunteers are 'born' by simple gestures and these organizations get the support they so desperately need.” It is very fulfilling for the credit union’s staff to be a part of this process.
Likewise, each holiday season for the past decade, San Francisco Federal Credit Union (San Francisco, CA) holds a toy drive and a coat drive throughout its branches to benefit the San Francisco Firefighter’s Toy Drive and the Women’s Community Clinic, respectively. According to Courtney P. Derby, Marketing Manager, in addition to collecting toys for the Firefighter’s Toy Drive, credit union staff also visit the Toy Drive Headquarters to sort toys, stock shelves, and hand out toys to needy families.”
San Francisco FCU is committed to the community they serve. “Through our CommunityShare Program we give back to the San Francisco community through donations, employee volunteerism, and fundraising activities,” said Derby.
Thinking about taking a break from that pumpkin pie to express your gratitude this Thanksgiving? Find out how your credit union or a CU in your area is getting into the holiday spirit by checking out their newsletter, website, or social media channels. You can also contact local shelters or soup kitchens for info on volunteering goods or your time. Keep in mind there are many ways to help – it’s all about giving what you can and staying true to meaning of ‘giving thanks.’By Cyndi Cohen