On most Sundays, you’ll find Melanie Hutchison at the grocery store filling her cart with food that’ll end up in the homes of needy families.
Hutchison, director of risk management at $189 million asset Trona Valley Federal Credit Union in Green River, Wyo., was the spark behind a program that sends underprivileged kids home each weekend throughout the school year with a backpack filled with food.
“A simple meal can make a difference in whether a child can succeed in school,” she says.
Hutchison recalls sitting in a credit union meeting a couple of years ago when the subject of hunger among students in a local elementary school came up. This topic had a profound impact on Hutchison.
“It’s difficult to fathom going without food,” she says. “It hit me hard.”
Trona Valley funds Hutchison’s shopping forays, which often include her husband and two sons. The food fills a pantry set up in the credit union’s basement. Each week, Hutchison and credit union volunteers fill the backpacks, which are delivered on Thursdays to three elementary schools and a middle school. From there, school personnel distribute them to students they know are in need.
“The feedback we’re receiving from the schools is phenomenal. They’re very appreciative and we’re making a difference,” Hutchison says.
A 22-year Trona Valley employee, Hutchison is working toward establishing a foundation at the credit union to expand the backpack food program and provide resources for financial literacy initiatives.
“We’re confident that we’ll have our 501(c)(3) status by the end of the year, enabling us to expand the program and apply for grant funding,” she says.
And that’s all on top of her compliance work at the credit union, where she focuses on fraud reduction and has gained CUNA Credit Union Compliance Expert (CUCE) and Bank Security Act (BSACS) designations.
Hutchison says she has never forgotten one of the first lessons she learned in her credit union career.
“It was instilled in my colleagues and myself that credit unions are about people helping people and setting them up for success,” she adds. “That philosophy goes beyond the financial side of things.”