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In 1844, a small group of weavers from Rochdale, England created the blueprint for how their newly-formed cooperative would operate and serve the local community. These values, known as the Seven Cooperative Principles, serve as the operating guidebook for credit unions and cooperatives throughout the world. This blog was created to honor that legacy and to showcase the everyday efforts of credit unions in the Carolinas that embody the cooperative mission and purpose.


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The extra mile: helping senior members when it matters most

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Friday, April 17, 2015

A truly shocking story crossed my desk this morning and I thought it worthy of sharing: Bank of America tried to foreclose on an older woman who was having health problems. While that (sadly) doesn't sound terribly unusual, this fact is: unbeknownst to Laura Biggs, the woman in question, the mortgage was insured and she had continued to pay the premiums on the policy for years after her husband had died.

The bank moved to seize a widow's home. But it didn't tell her the loan was insured.

For more than a decade after her husband died, Laura Coleman Biggs paid her mortgage to a Bank of America subsidiary. She was never told...that her husband had actually protected her against foreclosure.

The story itself is really complex and worth an investment of your time.

The point of this post is not to go on the attack, however this is not a good look for the bank. It seems pretty clear that no one servicing the mortgage bothered to ask a very simple question along the way: what if Ms. Biggs was my mother? 

When I conduct Learning Map events with credit union staff and we discuss the issue of women in finance, the issue of a surviving spouse encountering all sorts of financial difficulties really resonates. For some widows (and in some cases, widowers) it may be understanding the basics: where are all the accounts and how do I access the money? Others might face a more serious challenge like fraud, foreclosure or elder abuse.

Teaching an 80-year-old how to write a check for the first time is one thing, and then you see cases like Ms. Biggs and you realize the difference you can make in someone's life. Just by asking the right questions.

We're all busy and helping members untangle their finances isn't always easy - especially when the member doesn't fully grasp their own financial picture. But I do hope Laura Biggs' story serves to remind us that while the financial questions are important to get to, the human questions matter as well.

Be the person that asks, "What if this member was my mother?"

Tags:  People Helping People 

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Credit unions provide "real life" budgeting experience

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Thursday, April 16, 2015

Principle Five: Education, training, and information. Credit unions provide education to their employees, members and the communities they serve.

Principle Six: Cooperation among cooperatives. Credit unions work together to improve services to members and build sustainable communities.

Sights, sounds and thoughts from the reality fair events in Columbia and Raleigh.

As part of Financial Literacy Month, the League partnered with credit unions across the Carolinas to provide an eye-opening financial lesson to more than 160 students. The events took place in Raleigh (April 14) and Columbia (April 15). You can read more about these events in this linked news story.

While the students learned critical budgeting and life lessons that will serve them well in the years to come, credit union volunteers got to see how valuable these "reality fair" events can be. There are a variety of reality fair models available, including Mad City Money (used in the Raleigh event) and the Reality of Money (used in Columbia). 

The Reality of Money was created by a group of Credit Union Development Educators in North Carolina and South Carolina three years ago, and is available for credit unions in the Carolinas to use free-of-charge. You can find out more about the Reality of Money by visiting the linked page on the League web site. To download the materials, you simply need to log in to the web site, go to the linked page and download the materials that appear at the bottom. 

Thanks to all the credit unions that took time to partner together to create these meaningful and valuable events this week - and thank you to all credit unions that honor the Fifth Cooperative Principle by providing financial education to members and communities across the Carolinas!  

Tags:  Credit Unions  Principle Five  Principle Six  Reality of Money 

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Members Credit Union to hold internal Protégé competition

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Monday, April 13, 2015
Updated: Friday, April 10, 2015

The CUaware Protégé Competition is underway for 2015, and young professionals in North Carolina and South Carolina are taking the first steps toward preparing for the chapter level competitions. Members Credit Union is ensuring its candidate in the Northwest Chapter competition is as prepared as possible, as the credit union announced it is hosting its own internal competition.

At least five employees at the credit union have committed to the competition, which will be held May 20. In addition to possibly earning a chance to shine in the CUaware Protégé Competition finals later this year, Members Credit Union Protégés are learning more about their credit union through the internal competition.

Participants in the credit union Protégé competition take a short written test on credit union history and Members Credit Union history. They must also prepare and deliver a five minute or less presentation on an MCU product or service the day of the competition. 

“The MCU Protégé competition will identify emerging leaders at our credit union and help us select the best person to represent Members CU in the chapter-level CUaware Protégé competition," shared Public Relations Director Carla Kimel.

To help Protégé candidates prepare for the written examination, and
provide all staff with credit union history and philosophy training,
Members Credit Union is holding a series of training events in
April and May.

Much of the history that will be on the written test was covered by training sessions provided by the League and credit union staff on April 7 and April 8. A total of more than 40 staff members, many of whom are eligible to apply to be Protégé candidates, participated in a day long training session covering the history and philosophy of credit unions.

It's also a great way to educate all staff about the history and philosophy of credit unions through the training sessions. A third training session on philosophy & history is scheduled for May, which will allow another 30 staff to learn about the uniqueness of credit unions as well as the Members Credit Union story.   

“We are very pleased with the participation from our employees," said Kimel "and look forward to sending our MCU Protégé to the chapter level CUaware Protégé competition.”

Tags:  CUaware Protégé  Members Credit Union 

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Durham Co-op Market holds grand opening celebration

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Monday, April 13, 2015
Updated: Monday, April 13, 2015

After years of strategic planning, fundraising, community organizing ... and quite a bit of elbow grease ... the board and staff of the Durham Co-op Market (DCM) celebrated its grand opening with the community on Saturday, April 11, 2015. North Carolina's newest food cooperative, which officially opened for business in March, used the event to thank the many people along the way who were intimately involved with making it happen.

The original planning for the DCM goes back to 2006, according to General Manager Leila Wolfrum. "A handful of people got together and had this slightly crazy idea that they were going to build a grocery store," Wolfrum shared, "with no particular resources that really lent themselves to making a grocery store."  

Wolfrum added that this original group of volunteers wanted to build a store that not only met the needs of people, but also reflected the values of the community. So they got busy conducting research, pounding the pavement, raising a small amount of money as well as a groundswell of support. 

Then the financial crash of 2008 happened, which slowed the group's progress in one key way: obtaining the financing necessary to turn their well thought out concept into brick and mortar. However, neighbor-by-neighbor the dream continued moving forward as a truly community-focused initiative.

Self-Help Credit Union got involved and provided critical planning and the needed funding of the project, which is part of the revitalization of West Chapel Hill Street. The DCM is one tenant in the development that is bringing new business, as well as affordable housing to the neighborhood.

The key focus of the DCM is providing locally-sourced products to the community. The co-op has developed working relationships with a variety of local producers. DCM also looks for cooperative partnerships, with fellow food co-op Weaver Street Market providing breads and other fresh-baked goods to the store. 

The co-op is also focused on providing food access in the county's food deserts through programs like Food for All. The Food for All program offers Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients discounted memberships and sale prices on most products.

Another important program to benefit low-wealth households is Co-op Staples. This program allows a family of four to shop for a week's worth of core food items for about $50 according to DCM Treasurer Chuck Clifton. "It's important for us to reach out (to food deserts in the county) and make this good food - this local food - available to as many people as possible."    

If you'd like to check out the DCM, it is located at 1111 West Chapel Hill Street, just west of the Durham Freeway. The co-op is open 7:00 am - 9:00 pm seven days a week.



Tags:  Durham Co-op Market  Food Cooperatives 

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CUaware groups host successful educational events

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Monday, April 13, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, April 14, 2015

With a spotlight on education in the first quarter, the CUaware Councils in North Carolina and South Carolina engaged hundreds of credit union professionals. The following are recaps of the events provided by the councils to the League.

CUaware Low Country

Troy Hall (South Carolina FCU) and Jeff Hardin (CCUL) at the
CUaware Low Country event March 10.

More than 45 credit union staff from credit unions in the Low Country gathered March 10 for a session focused on credit union principles & philosophy. Jeff Hardin, the director of cooperative initiatives for the Carolinas Credit Union League, facilitated the session. Troy Hall (South Carolina FCU) who serves as the chapter president, opened with inspirational remarks focused on embracing a vision that is larger than yourself.

Each person at the meeting was encouraged to research their credit union's origin story ahead of time,and these histories were shared with the larger group. Many of the credit unions represented began with fewer than 10 members, and have gone on to serve much larger member bases than at the beginning.

Hardin gave a brief history and Seven Cooperative Principles lesson to the audience, which then discussed one principle at their table and shared their key discussion points with the audience. Table groups were assigned in order to get people from different credit unions together to mix and mingle.

The group also shared how their credit unions continue to honor these founding principles. In a follow-up survey, one attendee remarked that it was great that “early credit union movement history was shared. So often younger staff do not hear why the movement started.” Overall it was a fun, engaging hour of self-discovery about the principles that make credit unions special!

CUaware Triad

Sue Douglas (State Employees' CU) facilitated a
presentation on the Seven Cooperative Principles at the
CUaware Triad meeting.

The Triad Council also focused on Credit Union Principles & Philosophy. Sue Douglas of State Employees' Credit Union facilitated the educational event at the lunch meeting, which was held March 19. A record 50 credit union professionals attended this inspiring lunch and learn session.

The Triad attendees began by breaking into small groups and discussing how credit unions differ from banks. These key differences and discussion points  were then shared with the larger group.  

Douglas then defined what a cooperative is, gave examples of well-known cooperatives, and discussed credit unions as financial cooperatives.

The session also included a guided tour through the Seven Cooperative Principles, and a closing discussion around some key questions for the audience to consider. Central to this discussion was what credit unions are doing to honor the principles - and what they might need to change.

CUaware Triangle

The Triangle Council joined forces with the Tarheel Chapter to host an educational event focused on credit union philosophy in action. Mark Curran, President/CEO of Lion's Share FCU, shared the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation's new partnership with Victory Junction. Called REACH, the project connects credit union staff with children at local hospitals in both Carolinas. Curran, who has volunteered at Victory Junction for many years, shared the impact the camp as on kids and their families, while encouraging credit unions to get involved with REACH. It's a unique partnership that will provide a fun and uplifting volunteer event for credit unions, while brightening the day of kids and families going through tough times. You can see more about REACH in the video at left.

The group also heard from 2014 CUaware Tarheel Chapter Protégé Jennifer Moore (Local Government FCU) about the impact the Protégé program has made on her life and career. Moore's account was timely since the chapter announced it is once again participating in the CUaware Protégé Competition this year!

Jeff Hardin and Ashley Ruffin (Local Government FCU) also shared opportunities for volunteering abroad with credit unions through the programs of the World Council. Ruffin & Hardin recapped their experiences from a trip they made to Mexico nearly three years ago.

About 40 people from the Triangle region attended the informative presentations.

CUaware PeeDee

The PeeDee Council hosted a panel discussion sharing a variety of credit union perspectives and opportunities. Robert Harris, President/CEO of Health Faclities FCU, shared his personal history of working in the financial services sector. Harris inspired the group by sharing why credit unions were the best fit for him after working in banks and other service providers. 

Brandon Pugh, the CCUL VP of PR/communications, shared the programs of the Carolinas Credit Union League. Pugh was joined by Jeff Hardin on the panel, who focused on opportunities for credit union staff to learn about Credit Union Principles & Philosophy. Hardin also shared updates about how new co-ops are forming to address the issue of access to healthy sources of food for low-wealth communities.

Upcoming Events

CUaware will turn the spotlight to volunteerism in the months ahead. Plans are being made by councils to organize volunteer initiatives. If you would like to get involved or find out more information, please contact Jeff Hardin or Brandon McAdams. Please click here to see the 2015 CUaware calendar. 




Tags:  CUaware 

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