(Editor's note: Will Crosswell, business development officer at Palmetto First FCU, recently returned from Crash the GAC. Will and Laura Engle of Piedmont Advantage CU both received scholarships to attend Crash the GAC. Will recaps his experience of the event.)
Principle Six: Cooperation among cooperatives. Credit unions work together to improve services to members and build sustainable communities.
It’s been almost 2 weeks since I’ve
been back from "Crash the GAC” and I’m still reeling from the experience. It is
difficult to summarize the week into a blog post, but I am going to try my best
to do it. I found out in January that I had been chosen to represent South
Carolina as a Crasher for the 2014 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference. From
the moment I set foot into the first session for Crash the GAC on Sunday, you
could feel the energy and excitement of those in the room.
For many of us, it
was a revelation of who we were: "So, I’m not the only one who feels so
passionate about what I do.” And for others, it was a reassurance: "I knew I
wasn’t the only one out there!” But for me, I felt a sense of empowerment.
While each of us holds different titles and are either Credit Union "young” or
experienced, throughout the week we were able to learn from one another, help one
another, and like me, help me feel more empowered to go back to my state and my
community and become a better advocate for my Credit Union.
While the networking and the
bonding with the #crashers was amazing, the main focus of the trip was to equip
us to learn the important of issues pertaining to Credit Unions and figure out
how we can better advocate and convey those to our legislators, our co-workers,
and our colleagues.
One of the most powerful moments came when Chad Helminak,
vice president, development of the Wisconsin Credit Union League, led a session
about how to prepare us to walk the hill. I can remember grabbing my pen and paper,
ready to take countless notes and tips about hot button legislation and what
each House and Senate Resolution contained in them.
While we touched on those
and discussed the issues, Chad asked each of us to go discuss among our groups
(Go Team Chris!) about a moving or impactful story that happened at our Credit
Unions. Around the room, you could hear 46+ people from 46+ states tell
touching and heart-felt stories about how their Credit Unions helped a
particular member or how they affected their community. After 10-15 minutes,
Chad asked a few of us to share those impassioned stories with the rest of the
group. After three or four of us told our stories, Chad then looked at us and
said, "That is what you need to tell
you Congressman, Congresswoman, or Senator when you hike the hill on
Yes, we need to know the legislation and we need our states’
delegation to be on our side, but what they need to know is how we help their
constituents and convey that if we’re not there to help, then who will be there
to help them? That was one of my biggest takeaways from the entire week: We
have to tell our story to keep our
movement moving forward.
On Friday, when I woke up in my bed
in Florence, SC, I was hoarse. I was still tired and I was sore. But I wouldn’t
have wanted it any other way. Truly, the entire week was amazing: from the
fellowship with my fellow crashers (#46newbestfriends), to the sessions at the
GAC, listening to such great speakers and leaders like Fmr. Prime Minister Tony
Blair and Fmr. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, to Thunderpunch, and then
being able to Hike the Hill and advocate for our cause, the experience was one
I will always treasure.
Something we all learned though was that our movement
is ready for us, Generation Y/Millenials, to lead. We are no longer "Generation
Next”; we’re "Generation Now.” But in order for us to lead effectively, our
passion and excitement will only take us so far. We have to be united in the
Credit Union message and story and be able to promote the issues that pertain
to the sustainability and the viability of our movement.
Cooperative Trust, Filene, and within our own communities, we can find the
avenues to unite and help each other grow within the movement. It feel
privileged to have been selected for this opportunity and I feel more enabled
and ready to lead with my #46newbestfriends by my side.
Born in Orangeburg, SC on February 14, 1984, Will grew up in Florence. He graduated from Clemson University in 2006 with a BA in History. Will worked in
political campaigns for five years in Washington, DC; Denver, Colorado, and
Greenville, SC before joining the credit union ranks.
Wil has been the business development officer for Palmetto First FCU in
Florence for the past three years. He coordinates the credit union's community
involvement and financial education efforts. In addition to his service to credit unions, Will sits on the Chamber
of Commerce executive committee, Parks & Beautification Commission Member
for the City of Florence, and is the 2013 Palmetto Protégé. Will also serves on the CUaware board of directors. Married since 2012, Will and his wife Lindsay are
expecting their first child in September.