Nurturing ‘a different kind of life’

Joan Markcum is persistent in her efforts to assist Forest Area Federal Credit Union members.

September 25, 2020

Nurturing comes naturally to Joan Markcum.

That skill might be used answering endless questions for first-time homebuyers, helping co-workers learn new skills, or figuring out why a beef cow is bellowing in the pasture. Markcum aims to find solutions that help them all thrive.

Markcum became the sole mortgage originator at Forest Area Federal Credit Union (FAFCU) in Fife Lake, Mich., in late 2018. FAFCU’s mortgage closings grew 49% in 2019, with 23% additional growth projected for 2020.

Located near the northern shore of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, $147 million asset FAFCU is a low-income designated credit union in a rural area where the median household income is below $50,000.

“I treat the $9,500 mortgage the same as the $210,000 mortgage,” Markcum says. “I’m persistent in helping them and answering questions.”

When a missing modular home title delayed a mortgage closing, Markcum made call after call to learn the name of its builder. When she tracked him down, she found the title.

Markcum credits her late parents, Gerald and Audrey Rogers, for sharing their work ethic on their Upper Peninsula dairy farm.

“They were both such hard workers, and my dad knew how to get you to do anything and make it fun,” Markcum says. “They got me into a credit union for my first account.”

Markcum, who has three sons, joined FAFCU as a full-time teller in 2000 and gradually expanded her role within member services. She credits her co-workers for the teamwork because it really is a team effort.

“Co-workers even helped raise money for me when I was on extended leave because my son was in the hospital for a lengthy period of time,” Markcum says. “I couldn’t do this job without the support of the staff here.”

Markcum ruefully admits that as a teenager, she couldn’t wait to leave the farm.

Now she finds joy in her faith in God and personal satisfaction in building fences, making hay, and caring for horses, dogs, chickens, and beef cattle on her 40-acre property. When she heard a beef cow bellowing in spring 2020, she followed the noise to meet the cow’s newborn calf in the pasture.

She is proud to be part of a credit union that tends its relationships with members and employees as carefully as she cares for her animals.

“I think there’s a link—nurturing cattle and nurturing homebuyers,” Markcum says. “It’s a different kind of life.”

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