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Seven Principles Blog
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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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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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Principle 7: Fort Bragg FCU provides "thank you" cards to local Fisher House

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Friday, February 07, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014
Pictured: David Elliott (FBFCU) and Fisher House Manager Lorie Southerland.

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

Fort Bragg Federal Credit Union (FBFCU) and the Armed Forces Financial Network (AFFN) gave $1,000 in prepaid AFFN ‘Thank You’ Cards to military families at the Fort Bragg Fisher House. These cards are in $50.00 denominations and may be used everywhere AFFN point-of-sale is accepted worldwide.

The cards will help military family members with everyday living expenses as they reside in their "home away from home” at the Fisher House. The Fisher House is designed and decorated just like a real home, which brings comfort to those who stay there.

"The Fisher House accommodates people who are in need while their families are receiving medical care from Womack Army Medical Center,” stated FBFCU President/CEO David Elliott. To learn more about the Fisher House, visit

Tags:  Fort Bragg FCU  Principle Seven 

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Guest Post: The Fifth Principle – Education, Training and Information – by Terri Hendrix, SC Telco FCU

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 04, 2014

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

(Editor’s note: SC Telco FCU Community Relations Manager Terri Hendrix recently traveled to Brazil as part of the World Council of Credit Unions’ International CU Leadership Program (ICULP). Hendrix shares her key takeaways from this visit, which took place January 13-24, 2014 at numerous SICREDI credit union locations in the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Parana, Brazil.)

Terri Hendrix (far left) of SC Telco FCU is pictured with Brazilian & US credit union representatives during her recent visit to Sicredi Central, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Participating in World Council of Credit Unions’ International Credit Union Leadership Program exchange with Brazil opened my eyes to the value of providing cooperative education and training to members.

In Brazil, credit unions view themselves as cooperatives first and financial institutions second. For example, after joining each member is invited back to the branch for an orientation on cooperative principles and is versed on the responsibilities of being a credit union member (and not just products/services/rates of the credit union).

After the orientation, if the member likes this ‘cooperative’ method and wants further involvement, they can sign up for additional courses that prepare them to serve as nuclei coordinators. These coordinators share information from the management and board throughout the membership base, and provide feedback to credit union management. Depending on the size of the credit union, a nuclei coordinator group could have as many as 800 or 900 members.

The nuclei coordinators take their tasks very seriously. Despite term limits for this volunteer position, credit unions have a steady pipeline of educated members willing to serve. Credit unions in Brazil don’t neglect the children either. They are in hundreds of classrooms each year teaching the next generation the benefits of exercising the cooperative principles.

This sounds like a really good idea, one that we should implement immediately. But then other thoughts began to creep in: ‘Why would we want to educate our members on what a cooperative is?, ’ and ‘Would members accept the responsibility of ownership in the credit cooperative?’

Those are interesting questions, but I wonder what our credit union system be like if we all concentrated on educating members regarding the rights and privileges of cooperative ownership? It seems to me one benefit would be a more engaged membership when it comes to legislative threats. Members who understood what a cooperative is and how it is different would be lighting up the phones, email, Twitter and Facebook demanding THEIR cooperative not be federally taxed! Our efforts nationally would be enhanced 10-fold!

This education can also help with strategic planning and direction. Wouldn’t it be easier for credit union boards and management to outline a strategic path when the membership itself has communicated upwards what they need and want? Members would better understand what the credit union is capable of offering to them in the form of services and products. And don’t forget individual member growth and advancement because of this sense of duty to learn and make better financial choices for themselves and their families. A strong, knowledgeable membership base can only make the credit union itself stronger.

Many credit unions do an excellent job of educating and informing their members, but we need to teach the cooperative principles – to members and non-members alike. Our young people need to know there is a better alternative for financial services, one that puts them in the driver’s seat and offers a fair shake in return for making a commitment to cooperate.

Credit unions that live by this principal of cooperative education and expect members to take ownership seriously will in my view be the better for it. Maybe like the Brazilians we need to say, "A vida é melhor quando é cooperativa”Life is better when we cooperate.

Growing up in the rural northwestern corner of Spartanburg County, Terri learned at an early age the positive impact that credit unions could have on the average working family. Her mother, an industrial nurse at the local carpet plant, was a member of the credit union. Through the years this small, local credit union financed her first car, made college expenses manageable through savings, and gave her a solid financial foundation on which to build a life.

Since those early years, she has spent most of her adult life promoting the benefits of credit union membership. In addition to her job duties on the state and local level to promote SC Telco in a positive image, Terri, a Credit Union Development Educator/ International Credit Union Development Educator has participated in the World Council of Credit Unions' International Credit Union Leadership Program in Brazil; served as a technical adviser to credit societies in Malawi, Africa, and hosted credit union interns from Latvia, Lithuania and the Dominican Republic. Terri is also a credit union advocate, serving on the Governmental Affairs Committee for the Carolinas CU League. She also serves as the CULAC trustee for South Carolina.

Tags:  Cooperation  Principle Five  SC Telco FCU  World Council of Credit Unions 

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Principle 5: High school students get a dose of financial reality from Members CU

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 16, 2014

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

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

 Jon Hamby tells students what their food options are at
the "Gotta Eat” station. It is up to the students to decide
how much to spend on groceries and dining out.
Davie High School hosted four Financial Reality Fairs for a total of 174 High School Students. The program called Mad City Money, sponsored by the Winston-Salem based Members Credit Union, is a two hour interactive simulation that provides students with a glimpse of what it’s like to be an adult managing personal and family finances.

The program first took place on Monday, January 6 for 48 students and then was repeated three times on Thursday, January 9 for 40 to 46 students at a time. Each student was given a new identity with a family, occupation, salary, debt, and medical insurance co-payments and challenged to make financial decisions to meet their family’s needs. (Note: see event coverage in the Winston-Salem Journal by clicking here.)

"Financial literacy is important for high school students because in the very near future they will be responsible for their own finances, and many of them have very little knowledge of how to manage money or what their everyday expenses will consist of,” remarked Paula O’Rorke, Business Education Teacher at Davie High School. "The pressure from direct marketing solicitations to take on credit card debt, and the trend in student loan obligations make it even more important for students to understand the impact debt will make on their lives.”

To demonstrate how debt affects their lives in the simulation, students were instructed to visit nine stations regarding housing, transportation, clothing, food, day care, entertainment, discretionary items, savings contributions, and credit card payments to buy what their family needed while staying within a budget. They were also required to purchase items based on the size of their family and the age of their children. At each event there were 20 to 24 volunteers and many of them played the high-pressure sales person role at a station, encouraging students to buy higher priced items.

According to Jon Hamby, a volunteer who sold grocery and dining out options at the "Gotta Eat” station, students were surprised at the cost to feed a family. "Most of the students realized that feeding their family is more expensive than they thought and chose the least expensive option in order to stretch their monthly budget,” said Hamby.

The goal for participants was to stay within their budget but have no more than $100 in their checking account after they completed all of the reality fair requirements. During the simulation, students were encouraged to visit the Members Credit Union station to make contributions to a savings account, open a retirement account, pay down credit card debt, and seek advice if they experienced financial trouble or had more than $100 left in their checking account. Eric Stiff, VP at Members Credit Union volunteered at this station.

"One student started out at the entertainment station and bought over $3,000 worth of vacations. I explained to him why he needed to return some entertainment items and live within his budget,” recalled Stiff. "I think the light bulb went off and he realized that he must pay his obligations before spending money on entertainment. When he returned to the credit union station at the end of the session he had over $1,000 to put into savings and he paid off his credit card debt.”

Members Public Relations Director Carla Kimel shared that these events provide several takeaways for students. "The hands on experience provided by the Financial Reality Fair made budgeting a tangible concept for students. Students from the financial management and math classes that participated were able to take what they have learned all year in school and apply that knowledge to a real life situation. Many students were surprised about the cost to raise a family and considered expenses that they have yet to deal with in real life."

Members Credit Union has also coordinated financial reality fairs with High School Students at Surry Central High School and seventh graders at North Davie Middle School. There is also an in-class financial literacy seminar program available for educators that can’t offer two hours for a reality fair during the school day. To find out how you can work with Members Credit Union to bring financial literacy to your school or youth program call 336-748-4594.

Tags:  Members Credit Union  Principle Five  Principle Seven 

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