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A South Dakota credit union CEO has leveraged a single donation into a community effort to provide supplies for frontline workers battling the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Pam Brown-Graff was watching the local evening news April 5 when she saw a segment highlighting the need for protective medical masks to protect workers at facilities including Monument Health, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in Rapid City, S.D.
That evening, Brown-Graff, CEO of $79 million asset MED5 Federal Credit Union in Rapid City, pledged $2,000 on behalf of the credit union to support crafters who were making masks for the local community.
“Before we became a community charter, we were a medical credit union, so it really hit home with me,” Brown-Graff says.
MED5 Federal’s donation’s set off a virtuous cycle. By the next morning, 10 people had volunteered to sew the much-needed masks. Within 24 hours, the number of volunteers doubled, with 20 crafters shifting into high gear.
In addition, the credit union partnered with another Black Hills-area organization, makeSPACE (Spearfish Partnership for Arts, Cycling, and Equity), that distributed fabric and patterns to the community.
On behalf of MED5 Federal’s efforts, makeSPACE donated enough materials for 1,500 masks.
This wasn’t the credit union’s first venture into charitable service. In 2019, it opened a new office building that included a co-branded coffee shop the credit union owned. MED5 Federal donates all profits from “The Bean Counter” to local charities.
The coffee shop drive-thru has remained open during the pandemic.
“The coffee shop has helped us develop a social media presence,” Brown-Graff says. “That helped us spread the word about this project.”
Word spread within the credit union community as well. Alloya Corporate Federal Credit Union provided an additional grant to MED5 Federal so volunteers could continue the sewing projects.
To date, the initiative has funded more than $6,000 for supplies and delivered more than 5,000 masks to Monument Health and numerous medical clinics, nursing homes, assisted living homes, a blood bank, a surgical hospital, and food banks.
“This turned into something bigger than I imagined,” Brown-Graff says. “It’s touching.”