Growing up on a ranch just outside of tiny Martin, S.D., Jean Peterson learned the value of community.
“You learn to help where you can,” says Peterson, who has served for 15 years as a board member at $135 million asset Aberdeen (S.D.) Federal Credit Union. “Busy minds, busy hands. It keeps you out of trouble.”
She learned the value of volunteering from her parents, who established the Martin Addiction Recovery Center for people battling drug addiction.
And she’s trying to pass on those values to a new generation of credit union volunteer leaders. Peterson is in her sixth year as a member of CUNA’s Volunteer Leadership Committee, where she serves as vice chair.
As a board member, Peterson values the education she’s received at industry conferences, and the colleagues with whom she’s been able to network.
“It’s not always what you know, but who you get to know at some of these events,” says Peterson, a certified public accountant who works as financial controller for an agricultural cooperative.
Those professional connections led her to co-found a successful associate board member program at Aberdeen Federal.
“Although I worked for a time as manager of a credit union, I truly found my passion in volunteering, and the educated volunteer is the best volunteer,” says Peterson, whose favorite coffee mug says “People Helping People.”
She is especially proud of the credit union’s sponsorship of the Rising Star Competition, a talent contest held annually in a big-top tent at the Brown County Fair.
“We contribute $2,600 in prize money for youth and adults, and it’s turned out to be a great promotion and a chance for the community to learn more about Aberdeen Federal,” says Peterson, who serves as one of three judges for the event.
The challenges of a volunteer board member have grown over the years, she says.
“It’s not easy to find the time to keep current with regulatory changes and the fast pace of changes in the industry,” Peterson says. “But if it’s important, you make the time. You know what they say: If you want something done, ask a busy person.”