The fight to maintain credit unions’ tax exemption may be decided by Washington’s power brokers, but the decision ultimately will affect even the smallest among us. Consider the Osborn family.
Five days after Kyle and Casey Osborn welcomed their daughter, Camille Estelle, into the world in February 2012, their treasured newborn was back in the hospital.
Born with Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease, Camille had both kidneys removed. She spent the next year and 10 months undergoing daily 12-hour dialysis treatments and enduring other complications.
Shortly before Christmas last year, the University of Michigan’s Mott Children’s Hospital called: It had a kidney for Camille. Following a successful transplant, Camille continues to grow and delight her family.
But the gift comes with a hefty price tag. Astronomical hospital bills and lost work time have taken a huge financial toll on the Osborns, who want to raise $50,000 to pay for the kidney transplant and another procedure.
That’s where Sun Federal Credit Union in Maumee, Ohio, comes in.
Last year, the credit union took a new approach to its annual holiday giving campaign. Through email and social media, it asked members to nominate others who were struggling.
“For many years, our branches would adopt a family or two that we knew were in need,” says Dave Wilde, vice president of marketing. “When planning for last year’s program, it occurred to us there likely were whole groups of struggling members we might not know about. We determined that we should reach out to all members by posting the idea on our website, sending an email to our members, and spreading the word on our Facebook and Twitter sites.”
In one week, the credit union received 62 stories of members struggling with job loss, illness, and other issues. From those entries, Sun Federal adopted 33 families, including the Osborns, who are longtime members.
As a result of the 2013 giving initiative and other outreach efforts, Sun Federal donated more than $25,000 to more than 50 member families and more than 35 organizations. Employees volunteered more than 4,000 hours of their own time.
Sun Federal’s efforts personify the goals of “Unite for Good,” a program CUNA, leagues, credit unions, and other partners created with the vision of having “Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner.” To realize this vision, Unite for Good urges all credit unions to:
Many credit unions have shared stories on uniteforgood.org about how they’re realizing this vision. Maps Credit Union in Salem, Ore., for instance, created a “community challenge” through which it encouraged people to come up with ideas on how to help young people transition out of foster care, explains Mitzi Smith, community development officer.
Seattle-based Express Credit Union has partnered with the city to help vulnerable consumers gain basic financial skills and access affordable financial services through “Financial Empowerment Centers.”
“The philosophy of my board and staff is the belief that all people deserve a level, equal playing field,” says CEO Sharon Hall. “It’s all about social justice.”
Winning the battle to maintain credit unions’ tax exemption through efforts such as Unite for Good and Don’t Tax My Credit Union will allow credit unions to continue helping families in need—and give members like the Osborns a fighting chance.
BILL MERRICK is Credit Union Magazine’s senior managing editor. Contact him at 608-231-4076. Follow him on Twitter via @CUMagazine.