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Guest Post: The Sixth Principle - Will Crosswell recaps Crash the GAC

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, March 18, 2014

(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 Wednesday.”

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.

Through The 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.

Tags:  CUNA GAC  Palmetto First FCU  Principle Six 

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