Needs change from region to region, credit union to credit union, and member to member.
While the military community has service in common, each veteran’s situation is unique. Credit unions around the country are trying to serve those needs—through approaches wide and small.
Link Newton has seen the credit union-military relationship from both sides. The Textron Aviation engineering manager serves on the supervisory committee of $417.5 million asset Skyward Credit Union’s in Wichita, Kan., in part to serve active and retired military members.
“Military members are preyed upon. It’s one of the reasons most military bases, like Fort Leavenworth and McConnell (Air Force Base), have their own credit union on campus,” Newton says while sharing his story on Credit Unions: Advancing Communities. “During my military career, I saw many families struggle. I wanted to be able to step up and help maintain the level of American living. That’s why I continue to serve in the military today as well as be on the supervisor committee of the credit union.”
Newton and many other credit unions recognize the need to serve military members. However, there are a number of ways to serve.
Pine Bluff (Ark.) Cotton Belt Federal Credit Union helps military veterans become first-time homeowners. The $71.4 million asset credit union is a Veterans Affairs-approved lender that has helped Pine Bluff-area veterans take advantage of their VA eligibility to purchase a home.
“What was so unique about it, they were not aware of how exactly it worked. We were excited to be able to provide that opportunity for them,” Pine Bluff Cotton Belt Vice President of Mortgage Lending Brian Castle says. “And the loan amounts they were requesting to become first-time homeowners were less than $50,000. So that dollar amount was not attractive for some other commercial institutions. But it was great for us. It gave us an opportunity to provide that opportunity to our local veterans and serve them in our community.”
Minnco Credit Union also works to give veterans safe places. The $476 million asset credit union in Cambridge, Minn., has donated to Haven for Heroes, which was founded in 2018 to provide safety and refuge for veterans and/or their families members.
“Minnco is derived directly because of the commitment of our leadership team to our members, our community, the high schools, our local shelters, our veterans shelter Haven for Heroes, our teens shelter Hope for Youth, and all of the other members of our community that we can somehow help make a part of their life a little better,” Minnco Director of Training and Development Chris Wester says. “It’s one thing to say it, it’s another to do it. Minnco chooses to set the tone that way from the top down.”
Carolina Trust Federal Credit Union is among the credit unions that started specifically to serve the military. The $383.3 million asset credit union in Myrtle Beach, S.C., takes pride in continuing that service, believing, “Trust and integrity go hand in hand, something our founding members at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base knew all too well in 1958. We honor our past, those who stood for what they believe in to help get us where we are today. Our credit union was built on the backs of real heroes who understand what it means to serve others.”