A Michigan credit union challenged its employees to make a difference in the communities they serve. They responded in true holiday—and credit union—spirit.
The executive team at $577 million asset Zeal Credit Union in Livonia, Mich., posed a question to staff: “What could your department do with $250 to help the less fortunate this holiday season?”
The credit union’s 170 employees in 26 departments started brainstorming, ultimately creating the “Zeal the Love” challenge.
“The list of organizations and people who need help during the holidays is endless, and we couldn’t do this alone,” says Lisa Fawcett, Zeal’s chief marketing officer. “We could have written a check to a local charity and called it a day. But we knew that dividing up the money and putting it to work through our staff would help us reach more people in need.”
By holding their own fundraisers and making personal contributions, staff almost doubled the $6,500 contributed to its 26 departments, raising nearly $12,000 in donations for 21 charities.
While the funds were used for monetary donations or to buy items for selected charitable organizations, many employees donated their time as well.
“Everyone pitched in by volunteering hours for shopping, packing boxes, wrapping gifts, walking dogs at the shelter, cooking for fundraisers, and making personal donations,” Fawcett says.
The credit union’s teleservices department selected the Methodist Children’s Home Society, which assists children—mostly boys—who have been affected by childhood trauma.
“I drive past Methodist Children’s Home Society every day on my way into work,” says Sydney Richardson, a teleservices representative who recommended the organization for the initiative. “This charity is very important to me because my mother was adopted by my grandmother when she was very young. I know some of these boys will spend the majority of their lives in foster care, and never really get to experience Christmas the same way I did as a child. It was very important to me that we gave them something memorable, and were able to make them smile.”
Teleservices gave the boys a weight bench with a barbell and dumbbell set. The department also teamed with family, friends, and other contributors to buy a variety of items on the Society’s wish list, including clothing and additional gym equipment.
Meantime, the lending department held two fundraisers—a “Soup for Coats” day in Zeal’s headquarters lunchroom and a chili cook-off in the headquarters café—to boost its share to more than $500. With that money, team members outfitted 33 children at a local elementary school with new coats, hats, and mittens.
That concept won a staff vote for the best idea, generating an additional $500 donation from the credit union to the school.
“Our credit union has a long history of supporting the metro Detroit community,” Fawcett says. “This challenge was a way for all employees to experience and participate in the joy of giving back. It also demonstrates the character, empathy, and passion our employees have for our members and the community.”