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Coop Trust Community Loan

A little over a year ago the community at the Cooperative Trust was floating around what our ideal credit union would look like and how we could turn this vision into a reality. Because we didn’t have the millions in startup capital and lawyers to charter our own credit union we had to come up with an alternative. The community wanted to discover what it was like for a few liked-minded people to pool their money together, make a loan that helped a community member and offered a positive rate of return for investors.

Thirteen community members chipped in $100 each to create a loan pool of $1,300. We priced the loan terms at 3% APR with a 12 month repayment period – a great deal for our yet to be determined borrower but also a great return for our community members given the current rate environment.

Enter in community member, Matt, whose growing family was expecting their second child, Lucy. Matt’s wife, Juile is a Mother/Baby Nurse that knows and studies the importance of mother/baby bonding in those early developmental months. Julie’s goal was to spend as much time at home with Lucy as possible, this meant Julie would take 4 months off of work, unpaid, to be at home with Lucy and their son Carter.

“If we could afford to, my wife would stay at home with the kid’s full time – our kids are her joy. Alas, that’s not a reality and I knew it was going to be difficult for us financially to have her out of work for 4 months. When I saw the idea of a Coop Trust loan get tossed out on the community I knew right away that would be the perfect way to help us make ends meet those 4 months. Receiving the Coop Trust loan really helped ease the financial burden and strain from being a 1 paycheck family those 4 months. Most importantly it meant my wife was able to spend more time with Lucy and not be forced to rush back to work. The extra time they were able to spend together and bond was invaluable and it wouldn’t have been able to happen the full 4 months without the Coop Trust loan.” -Matt Vance

The impact on the lending participants was just as significant -

I took part in the project because it represented the cooperative spirit at its most basic and pure level. It was “People Helping People” in a way that often times get lost in the credit union industry. It was very gratifying to see that my small part could mean a lot to a fellow Trust member and friend. -Nate Muniz

Since first hearing about micro-lending a few years ago, I’ve been fascinated by the idea. Of course, it seemed like a great concept but not something I’d have an opportunity to participate in — something done in developing countries, not something that our culture really used.
The micro-loan through the Cooperative Trust was a perfect opportunity to participate in micro-lending first hand and get a realistic sense of what it was like. It was meaningful to know that I could say farewell to a small amount of money for a year and have it make a big difference for a member of my community. I’d do it again in a heartbeat! -Sasha Kemble


Individually we are limited but collectively or working as a cooperative we had true impact in making a difference.

I enjoyed what the funds were used for. Credit unions generally fund cars and homes – material possessions – which are necessary and important to our members. However this was special because the funds were used to help a mother spend more time with her new baby. That is priceless. -Harmony Paulley


In the end, we weren’t able to charter our own credit union but we were still able to act on credit union principles and philosophy to assist a community member and get a small taste of what our industry pioneers experienced many years ago.

As a community the Coop Trust looks forward to more opportunities similar to our first community loan. If you have any ideas about future projects please toss them our way….or if you care to be our sugar daddy/momma and float us a few million to start up that credit union we were dreaming about, let us know .

And…what would a blog post about family be without a few family pictures of those helped by this loan.

Happy Family

Julie & Lucy


Celebration 2012

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNHs) were founded with two simple goals in mind.

  1. Help as many children as possible by raising funds for children’s hospitals, and
  2. Keep funds in the community in which they were raised to help local children.

With these simple goals in mind, CMNHs have grown since 1983 to raise over 4.3 billion dollars; most of which was donated a few dollars at a time.

Each year, CMNHs bring together sponsors, donors, health care professionals, and Champions to their “Celebration.” Celebration showcases how the contributions of these stakeholders impact the lives of Champions from each state and Canadian providence. The “Champions” are children ranging from 4 to 17 who have been inflicted with live threatening diseases treated at one of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Their stories include heartbreak, bravery, and triumph.

Through a partnership between the Southeastern Credit Union Foundation, Credit Unions for Kids, and the LSCU Young Professionals Group, four young credit union professionals were able to attend and participate in the Celebration festivities. The attendees were Meghan Storck, Business Development Specialist at First Florida Credit Union, Michael Molaka, Chief Operations Officer at Bright Star Credit Union, Rob Lefkowicz, Service Center Manager at Suncoast Schools FCU, and Sean Flynn, AVP Member Consumer Loans at GTE Financial.

Three events that exemplify the purpose of Celebration are the opening, champion pinning, and medal ceremonies. The power and impact of these ceremonies struck to the core of each of the young professionals in attendance.

The opening ceremonies featured the Champions arrival and telling of their personal stories. Hearing the challenges and struggles of these children was heartbreaking and inspiring to all in attendance. The experiences that the children and families spoke of strengthened our commitment to the efforts that credit unions do for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Mike Molaka said of his experience:

The personal testimonies of grateful families really moved me…I will continue to be part of this organization and do whatever I can to help these young kids and their families.

Meghan Storck said of the Champion Pinning Ceremony:

The lights went out, music turned up, and Champions rolled out of the tunnel waving, clapping, spinning- pumped up for the day! It was something special!

After the grand introduction, the Champions took their place at individual autograph tables to allow for interactions with the attendees. Each attendee was given a Champions log showing a picture and telling the stories of the children which was used to get autographs, stamps, and tokens from the Champions. It was humbling to walk up to a child and their family who have been stricken by terrible diseases and see the brightest smiles, happiness, and hope imaginable.

The Celebration Medal Ceremony proved to be a tear-jerking capstone to an amazing experience with the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. 66 Champions paraded into the banquet hall flanked by the likes of Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy to be recognized on stage to standing ovations. Sean Flynn wasn’t sure what to expect:

Touching, motivational, depressing; it was awe-inspiring!

The medals represent a triumph over life threatening diseases and the can-do attitude of these Champions.

The opportunity to be involved with Celebration has left these four young professionals with a sense of accomplishment, humility, and the desire to do more. In the coming months, the attendees will be champions spreading the reach of Credit Unions for Kids, promote fundraising, and making a difference in our local communities and credit unions. We are thankful for the opportunity of involvement from Credit Unions for Kids and the support of the Southeastern Credit Union Foundation. The benefits and experiences gained by these four young credit union professionals has and will be shared within our group across Alabama and Florida broadening the commitment to the credit union movement and our charitable partnerships.

Collaboration·Community Development·Crash the ACUC·NCBA

A Bunk Bed Challenge…

Have you ever been a part of a bunk bed challenge? Well, now you are.

Crissy Cheney (wife of Bill Cheney, CEO of Credit Union National Association) first introduced The Cooperative Trust to a project near-and-dear to her heart during a Crasher session at ACUC in San Diego this past June. She asked for our help and we agreed to get the youth movement involved.

An orphanage in rural Kenya, called the Busia Compassionate Centre, houses 90 orphans and more than 150 foster children. Needless to say–but I’ll say it anyway– without such places, these orphaned children would have nowhere else to turn.

The World Council of Credit Unions together with the international credit union movement stepped in to provide critical support when no one else would. Now in their third year of this initiative, they’re focused on helping the orphanage become sustainable in meeting the children’s basic needs.

Personal space and a safe comfortable place to sleep is perhaps one of the most basic of basic needs. When Crissy told us our donations could easily provide these essentials, we set a goal of raising $500—enough to buy the orphanage 2 bunk beds (and mattresses).

Many of the Crashers donated right away that sunny day in San Diego. Then we spread the message to others in the Trust community and got more donations. After the USA Cooperative Youth Council meeting at the NCBA Conference in Seattle this October, we asked again and were amazed by everyone’s generosity as even more donations came in. THANK YOU to those who contributed so far—because of you, we met our $500 goal! How cool is it to say we all bought 2 bunk beds for kids in Kenya?!

A lot cooler than saying I bought a sandwich and a latte, that’s for sure. But not as cool as saying we bought 4 bunk beds for kids in Kenya. So here’s my bunk bed challenge: can we spread the word and donate another $500—raising our cooperative effort to $1,000 by the end of January? Based on the success we’ve had so far, I have a feeling we can!

Here’s how donations work: WOCCU is keeping track of the total funds we raise for the orphanage. Go to:, fill in the form and in the Comments section, include “Busia Building Trust.” Then we’ll keep you posted on the challenge here and on Twitter (@trustdotcoop).

Business Development·Change·Collaboration

The Dos and Don’ts of SEG to Community Membership

Years ago, just after I took my first sip of the Credit Union Kool-Aid, I was appointed the “Marketing Person” of my $18M CU. Anyone who has ever worked for a small asset size (SAS) credit union knows that along with “Marketing Person”, I also had other job titles like: Teller, Head File Person and Window Washer.

In any case, the Powers That Be sent me to all kinds of out of office experiences: Marketing for CUs, Marketing Compliance for CUs, CU Marketing for Dummies…you get the idea. The reoccuring theme: “If you have a SEG based membership, don’t ever leave your SEG for a Community Charter, EVER!

The CU Marketing gurus always had good reasons why we should never leave our SEGs. The one I remember the best was, “Don’t leave your SEGs because those members like the exclusivity of belonging to your credit union.” Then they would leave with us with a frightening statistic about several credit unions that had folded as a result of member mutiny after the credit union became evil and opened their doors to, *gasp*, everybody!

I always wondered if members really knew that we were open just for them? When I began working for my credit union, we no longer had a strong relationship with our original SEGs. Before I began, they had added a few more and opened up our SEG list enough, so we were pretty much accepting anyone that walked in the door anyway. But, the gurus said, “Don’t become a Community Charter.” So we didn’t.

Today, our original SEGs have no idea that we originated in their building. The staff that worked there almost sixty years ago have long retired. Without some innovation, we would be headed for retirement as well.

Now, I bring up the question: What are the Dos and Don’ts of Converting from a SEG Membership to Community Charter? What do you recommend? What do wish you would have thought of in hind sight? If you had it to do over again, would you? What worked well? What was the biggest mistake you made? Who did you forget?

I know that’s a lot of questions…I hope you have at least a few answers :)



Over the past couple months or so, I, along with 11 other young Texas credit union professionals (appropriately named the Texas 12), have been busy working with the Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) to put together Texas’ first ever young professional’s conference.

The idea started back in April at the inaugural meeting of the Texas 12 at the League’s Annual Meeting in Galveston, Texas. We attended the general sessions, the breakouts, and even got to meet with various credit union professionals – including CEOs, representatives from CMG, and even the CEO of TCUL. The one thing we noticed was the lack of young professionals at the conference.

So when it came time to brainstorm what we wanted to do and what our impact should be, we realized we wanted to put together an event for young professionals where they can get information relevant to credit unions, professional development, YPs, and more. We wanted our peers to have networking opportunities to meet other inspired and engaged YPs.

When we presented this idea to the League, they informed us that they had been planning to do a YP conference in the fall and invited us to help plan and design the structure. The stars had aligned nicely.

While meeting in Galveston, we adopted an unofficial rally cry of “get stuff done”. We wanted to do stuff. We wanted to take action and make real changes.

As we began developing the structure, the topics we wanted to see, and the speakers we wanted to present, we decided that our rally cry needed to be the focus of the conference as well: Get Stuff Done.

Why GSD? It’s kind of simple.

The Texas 12 talked a lot about how people go to conferences, learn a lot of really great stuff, but don’t necessarily learn how to implement it or they just forget it when they return. It gets pushed underneath the pile of papers on their desk. It doesn’t get shared with the rest of their team. The information and ideas become a memory.

Knowledge is good. You need to know stuff. But you know what’s more powerful? Action. You can know everything in the world, but if you don’t do anything with it, then what’s the point?

This was the entire purpose of this conference: to get YPs to do stuff. Whether they come up with an action plan to develop professionally or to do something different at their credit union, we wanted to give them the resources they needed to get stuff done.

At the last session, we talked “now whats?” Attendees worked together to discuss ideas and even received a worksheet to develop their ideas further. The Texas 12 plans to follow up with attendees to make sure they have the resources/info they need, are putting these ideas into action, and are basically GSDing. I’m really excited to see the ideas and outcomes that result from GSD.

GSD is more than a conference. It’s a way to approach the stuff we do in our life, whether at work or in our home lives. It’s time that we, as young professionals, start to GSD.

Have an idea for something but not sure whether or not it will work or your boss will say yes? Research and develop, then GSD.

Want to get better at networking? Develop a plan and GSD.

Want to learn more about becoming a political advocate for credit unions? Research and then GSD.

Stop creating excuses and just GSD. As I learned from the always awesome Matt Monge, talk and action need to happen together. Otherwise, we’re just shouting noise and no one is going to listen to noise. We need to start proving why we need to be taken seriously.

So go out there and GSD.

To learn more about the Conference, you can read TCUL’s write up or visit the GSD Website. You can view tweets from the event by searching for #gsd12.

Collaboration·Community Development·CUinsight·Perception

Controlling Financial Elder Abuse: Whose Responsibility Is It?


When I was eleven years old, before the days of caller ID, when only rich people had cell phones and we still had to stand within feet of the wall mounted device to make a call, I answered the telephone and was greeted with the question, “Is your refrigerator running?”

Naive and a little taken off guard with such a question I replied with, “I dunno, let me check.” Holding my ear up to the fridge, I replied, “Yup, it’s running.”

My antagonist promptly responded with, “Well you better go catch it!” followed by laughter and the hollow click of the receiver on the other end.

I slowly placed the phone back in its cradle, my mouth agape, wondering how in the world I just fell for such a low trick.

Fast forward twenty years to the present. I approach every phone call with the same level of trepidation. I won a free trip to the Bahamas? No thanks. You’ll give me free cash for taking your survey? Nope. I’m fine, thank you. I inherited a windfall from a Nigerian Prince? Um, I don’t think so. I learned my lesson – trust no one.

Why is it that Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers are so good at screening out fraud while our parents and grandparents aren’t? It’s become such a problem, there’s an entire section written in the Dodd-Frank Act addressing financial elder abuse. Guidelines are being hashed out to hold financial institutions and their staff responsible if it’s not reported properly.

According to an article written by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, seniors lost $2.9 Billion to fraud in 2010. It is definitely a problem. The real question is: Whose responsibility is it?

Currently, there are eight states that require mandatory reporting by financial institutions for possible financial elder abuse: Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, New Mexico and California. Other states, like Michigan, have proposed house bills addressing elder abuse.

The Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) published a bulletin to their website warning credit unions of the effects of mandatory reporting for elder abuse. Some of the possible effects noted by MCUL are:

  • Criminal penalties against individual tellers for failure to report
  • Statutory penalties on the financial institution for failure to report
  • Financial institution liable for claims of negligence
  • Over reporting
  • Violation of state privacy laws

We have a social responsibility as credit unions, and a duty as a community, to educate our members about the ever growing possibility of fraud. It is not the financial institution’s responsibility to invade consumer privacy and report every transaction that doesn’t morally or socially fit in with what we believe is appropriate.

Credit unions are not responsible for creating a hard line between the intentional bad decision of a grown adult and the manipulation of a senior citizen who has been tricked into giving an untrustworthy source his or her personal information.

Seniors are getting more tech savvy, more involved in their communities, and they’re living longer now than ever before. Instead of finding blame, we should work with our senior members and their children (and, yes, grandchildren) to share valuable insight about fraud in all its forms – online, over the phone, and in person. That way, no one needs to worry that their refrigerator is running.

This article originally published on CU Insight on October 9, 2012.


Champion Pinning Ceremony

Lights, camera, action!

The lights went out, music turned up, Champions rolled out of the tunnel, circling the room, waving, clapping, spinning – pumped up for game day! Their tunnel was the hallway and game day the pinning ceremony. They had more energy than any football game I’ve ever attended. The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Celebration Pinning Ceremony was something special.

The pinning ceremony is the part of the Celebration where all Champions – children from all 50 states and around Canada, come to exchange their pins, sign their autograph, and share a little bit about themselves.

We were given a square book, completely filled with each Champions’ story and photo. We quickly learned to not read these during the pinning ceremony due to uncontrollable tears that followed reading their stories. We needed a new word for amazing because these Champions are so much more than that.

As we all walked around, talking to different families and meeting the Champions, we were beyond humbled. What do we say to these Champions? These kids have been through so much, yet have the prettiest smiles and way about them you have ever seen. The most touching part was that these Champions’ smiles were more than contagious and before you knew it, they had you laughing and smiling through the tears of their stories. Where do they get this precious gift?  (Tears as I write)

As the ceremony went on, we all found ourselves talking about these Champions, bragging on who we had met and hoping to meet the Champions we didn’t. It was amazing to meet them. We were all so touched  by each of their stories.

To actually see in person what CMNH does, the  impact CU4Kids makes,  and all the hard work from everyone  touching so many precious lives was indescribable. I found this quote and it summed up our experience, “The soul is healed by being with children.”  The Champions touched our souls that day.






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