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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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Principle 7: Self-Help Credit Union enters lending partnership for women entrepreneurs

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Monday, March 31, 2014
Updated: Monday, March 31, 2014

Principle Seven: Concern for community. Since credit unions are locally owned financial institutions, they are committed to investing in the community.

Self-Help Credit Union announced a partnership with Bank of America and the Tory Burch Foundation to provide loans to female entrepreneurs in North Carolina and three South Carolina counties. The initiative is part of a two-year, $10 million lending effort in selected regions & cities across the country.

Called Elizabeth Street Capital, the funding initiative will provide loans of $1,000 and up to women-owned businesses. Loan recipients will also benefit from mentoring and networking opportunities. Self-Help will administer the loans. 

According to a page posted on the Self-Help web site, businesses all 100 counties in North Carolina, as well as Chester, Lancaster and York Counties in South Carolina are eligible to apply. The Charlotte Observer explored the partnership between Bank of America, the Foundation and the credit union, in its Monday March 31 edition.    

Tags:  Principle Seven  Self-Help Credit Union 

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Guest Post: Amanda Crawford learns CU social purpose at CUDE class in Chapel Hill

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, March 25, 2014

(Editor's note: Amanda Crawford, the marketing manager at Carolina Foothills FCU, attended the Winter DE program in Chapel Hill, NC in January. Amanda shares her thoughts about CUDE and the role of credit unions in the financial system.) 

Amanda Crawford (second from right) is pictured at her CUDE graduation with Lois Kitsch (National CU Foundation), Sue Douglas (State Employees' CU) and Gerry Singleton (CUNA Mutual Group).
"Amanda, do you want to go to CUDE training?” "Sure” I said with hesitation in my voice because I didn’t really know what DE was. But that would change my whole outlook on how I do my job and how I look at the credit union industry as a whole.

My DE experience was amazing, fun filled, enlightening and something I will never forget. I went in not knowing what I had gotten myself into but came out with a brand new outlook on what we are here for as credit union professionals! Learning the core operating principles of why credit unions were created changed the way I look at day-to-day practices. I was fortunate enough to have Sue Douglas from State Employees' CU as my mentor. She was a great mentor and a wealth of knowledge. She drove our group to really think outside the box and to look at the credit union movement with different eyes.

Credit unions were created with a social purpose and if we lose that, we lose our identity as credit unions. I believe that everyone from the tellers to CEOs should experience DE so that they can witness the real differences of a credit union and bank. Unfortunately, I think we as CU professionals rest on the statement of "we have lower loan rates, high dividend rates and great service” when people ask what is the difference in credit unions and banks; an as credit unions we are so much more than that! Another highlight was learning the "secret DE handshake” (my other DE counterparts will get that)!

Amanda Crawford was born in Greenville, SC on July 31, 1982. Raised in Taylors, SC, Amanda graduated from Greenville Technical College in 2006 with a AA in Graphic Design. She began working for Liberty Federal Credit Union right out of high school in 2000, found her way to Carolina Foothills FCU in March of 2001, and while finishing her degree worked as a teller. After finishing her degree, Amanda was hired in the marketing department as the marketing assistant and in 2008 was given the opportunity to become the marketing manager.

Amanda says she loves being involved in the community and providing financial education. She is currently involved with Junior Achievement in the Upstate and American Cancer Society. Amanda participated in the 2013 SCCUL (now CUaware) Protégé competition as the Upstate Representative. Amanda currently serves as CUaware’s Communications Director. She received her CUDE designation in January 2014! Amanda says she loves her credit union, the movement it represents ... as well as the Clemson Tigers!

Tags:  Carolina Foothills FCU  CUDE 

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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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Guest Post: The Second Principle - Democratic Member Control - by Nikki Ewing, GKCU

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Thursday, February 27, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 27, 2014

Principle Two: Democratic member control. Each member has equal say in the operation of the credit union (one member, one vote).

(Editor’s note: Georgetown Kraft CU Marketing Director Nikki Ewing recaps the credit union's annual membership meeting, which took place February 24 in Georgetown.)

Chairman Dennis Loadholt presented
Anna Marsh with a 25 year service award
at the GKCU Annual Meeting.

A person’s financial institution should be as unique to them as their finances themselves.  For over 62 years, GKCU has showcased a unique financial experience where the members are the owners/shareholders and can actively participate, elect and demonstrate their one voice, one vote power at the annual membership  meeting.

Held February 24 at Georgetown Middle School, the annual meeting is an opportunity for the members to meet and review the financial condition and future plans for the credit union.

Chairman Dennis Loadholt opened the meeting by reviewing reports from the 2013 Annual Report including the Treasurer’s and Supervisory Committee reports which outlined the financial condition and internal and external audits of the credit union.

Chairman Loadholt reiterated to importance of democratic, member-owned structure of the credit union. Because of the loyalty and trust of its members, GKCU continued to provide a safe and stable financial option with saving, investment, and lending options in 2013. Finally, he commended the staff and volunteers for their commitment to service to the credit union members.  

Jeff Hardin, Director of Cooperative Initiatives for the Carolinas Credit Union League was the guest speaker for the meeting. He shared the fundamental principles of cooperatives and described each principle as it still adheres to the foundation of credit unions across our country and to the actions and services of GKCU. From the cooperative spirit to the democratic process to education and community service, he reviewed the ways that GKCU is a living example of the seven principles of cooperatives within the communities we serve today. He concluded that the members should be proud of the commitment GKCU has to credit union philosophy in all its day to day operations and one vote, one voice process.

Elections for several volunteer committees were held. The following volunteers were elected: Board of Directors: Raymond Pearigen, Patsy Ethridge and Richard Martin. (3-year terms); and Supervisory Committee: Wade Marsh (3-year term)

The evening included special staff recognitions and presentations. For their years of service to the credit union the following employees were recognized. For 25 years of service:  Anna Marsh, Loan Recovery Dept Manager.  For 15 years of service:  Alexa Jenkins, Operations Dept. Manager.  For 5 years of service:  David Graham, President, Charlene Leigh, Quality Services,  and Sherry Sutton,  Head Teller (Georgetown).  Nicole Tyson, Call Center Coordinator, was recognized as the 2014 Employee of the Year, as voted on by the employees. The evening concluded with door prizes and drawings for the members.

As outlined in the 2013 Annual Report, GKCU reported asset growth over $5 million, with member deposits growing more than $7 million and loans to members up by over $1 million.  GKCU welcomed over 1,500 new members and added new products like mortgage lending and shared branching. GKCU also outlined strong community involvement with over $36,000 in donations and sponsorship, as well as countless volunteer hours.  

GKCU is a full-service, member-owned financial cooperative where profits are returned to the members through lower rates on loans and higher returns on investments. GKCU offers a range of financial services and is open to anyone who lives, works or attends school in Georgetown and Williamsburg counties. GKCU employs over 50 staff and has four full-service branches. For information about joining or to view the annual report, visit our website at

Nikki Ewing has served as the Marketing Director for Georgetown Kraft Credit Union (GKCU) for the past 12 years. A graduate of the College of Charleston with a degree in Corporate Communications, Nikki began her career with the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce. From the time she moved to Georgetown County she fell in love with the history and the people, and her work at the credit union allows her to give back to the place she loves to call home and the people she loves to call neighbors. Her greatest passion is helping educate students and adults on the basics of money management to give them a strong foundation for future success. She is a strong advocate for the credit union "people helping people” philosophy and works hard to live up to the community partnerships that GKCU has formed over the past 62 years. She lives in Georgetown with her husband and 12 year old daughter.

Tags:  GKCU  Principle One  Principle Two 

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Principle 6: Frank Stasio on Durham's "impossible" co-op

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

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

Frank Stasio's program, The State of Things,
may be heard on WUNC-FM weekdays at Noon.

Frank Stasio, the host of WUNC-FM's State of Things, penned a guest column in the Durham Herald-Sun celebrating the planned Durham Central Market (DCM). The Durham Central Market, a cooperative grocery store to be located near the downtown area of the Bull City, is being built thanks in part to a loan provided by Self-Help Credit Union.

Stasio's column, published February 15, shares the long track record of Durham doing "impossible" things. Included in the mix is the unlikely election of a Jewish mayor in 1951, as well as an entertaining account about a beaver dam that detoured a planned interstate highway.

"So when people said that it was impossible to get enough community financing to build a co-op grocery store in this city, I knew that the Durham Central Market would be open very soon," Stasio wrote. "Once again, Durham is on the verge of doing the impossible. People in this city are buying memberships in a store that that right now is only a hill of dirt at Kent Corner. And they’re making larger financial investments in the form of preferred shares, to buy a piece of an impossible dream -- a locally owned natural foods store that will encourage sustainable farming, responsible development, community engagement and job growth."

You may read Stasio's column Durham, where people do impossible things, by clicking here.


Tags:  Principle Six  Self-Help Credit Union 

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