Credit unions can thank a banker for bringing the talented and passionate Nanci Wilson into the movement.
Wilson had fallen on hard times.
“It was near the holidays and I had gone to my bank for a small loan so I could give my son a holiday,” recalls Wilson, the training and education director at $304 million asset North Star Community Credit Union in Maddock, N.D. “Not only did the banker say ‘no,’ he laughed at me and commented I probably would never own a home either.”
Wilson closed her account that day and drove to the new credit union in town.
“With tears in my eyes, I joined and explained my situation to the branch manager,” Wilson says. “She listened, empathized, and gave me the loan. That is when I knew that I wanted to be a part of something bigger: to work somewhere I could make a difference in people’s lives.”
A year later, Wilson applied for and got a job at the credit union. She bought her first home two years ago. “I sent that banker an open house invitation,” she says. “He didn’t come.”
Wilson credits her ability to spread the word to the National Credit Union Foundation’s Development Education (DE) Program training she took.
“I came out of it a different person,” she says. “It ignited me.”
She discovered a hidden talent for public speaking. “It’s amazing how having passion for what you do motivates you to step outside of your comfort zone and love it,” she says.
Inspired by her DE training in Madison, Wis., Wilson pulled out a paper napkin on her flight home and conceived “Seeds-2-Save,” a program where youth tend gardens, sell their produce at a farmers’ market, and save part of their earnings.
An immediate success, Seeds-2-Save caught the attention of U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who congratulated Wilson, and the Foundation, which has approved her grant request to expand the project across North Dakota.
Wilson also collects gently used backpacks, washes them, and coordinates filling them with school supplies for kids in need. And she operates a Halloween costume exchange.
“I absolutely love what I do,” Wilson says. “And this is the first time in my life that I can say that and mean it.”