Plugging the community back in

‘It goes back to the credit union motto of ‘people helping people,’’ says the CEO of Calhoun Liberty Employees CU.

August 21, 2019

When trouble comes calling, Thomas Flowers starts thinking about how to help people.

That might mean picking up a chainsaw to clear trees downed by a storm, hunting alligators that roamed into residential neighborhoods, or planning to protect employees and members of Calhoun Liberty Employees Credit Union, Blountstown, Fla., when disaster strikes.

As CEO of the $60 million asset credit union, Flowers persuaded the board of directors to install generators at the main branch in Calhoun County and a branch in neighboring Liberty County in 2017. The generators were a financial lifeline when Hurricane Michael hit in October 2018.

“We live in a very rural part of Florida’s panhandle, where there’s more pine trees than people,” Flowers says. “The entire power grid in our county was gone, and our credit union was without utility power from Oct. 10 until the evening of Oct. 26.”

Being able to rely on the generators to power the drive-thru lanes and ATMs was vital for members and nonmembers alike. On Oct. 12 alone, the main branch’s ATM had more than 1,100 transactions, compared with its typical daily rate of 50.

“We had people 40 deep at the walk-up ATM and backed up to the highway on our drive-up lanes,” he says.

Before the storm, Flowers sent each of the credit union’s 17 employees home with Lysol, toilet paper, candy, and a case of water. After the storm, he picked up a chainsaw to clear driveways and roads.

Flowers shrugs off his contributions by noting that everyone in the credit union pitched in to work rotating schedules while the entire community pulled together.

“I did what we are all raised to do in the South,” Flowers says. “Everybody checked on each other. It goes back to the credit union motto of ‘people helping people.’ ‘People not profit’ is a powerful thing.”

Flowers is a lifelong learner who aims to read, learn, and help others every day. He’s thankful to be a medical rarity who can go as long as five days between sleeping without any ill effects.

For the past 20 years, he’s used the time when other people are sleeping to work with a partner to remove nuisance alligators that linger in residential areas in two counties.

“It’s doing something totally different, but you still get to help people,” Flowers says. “It’s always a learning experience, and I still have all my fingers and toes.

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