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Premier FCU Tours the US Capitol

Seven NC folks traveled to Washington, DC last week to tour the US Capitol Rotunda. Having been one of the lucky ones to go, all I can say is – WOW! (Well -WOW, and isn’t it great that I have a  video camera?!)

The tour came about thanks to the generosity of US Congresswoman Virginia Foxx. It was Foxx who donated the tour in order to help Team Little Guy raise funds for the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation over the summer. Premier FCU bid $7,500 on the dome tour, which was far and away the most money raised for a non-profit in the years that Foxx has been arranging these tours to help worthy organizations.

Foxx was so overwhelmed by Premier’s generosity, she also arranged a tour of the Washington Monument and the White House! As an added bonus, she also allowed us to sit in the gallery of the US House while the Auto Bailout Bill was being debated last week. Foxx even spoke on the House Floor during our time in the gallery!

I think all of us were blown away by Foxx’s generosity, not only in arranging these special tours, but in spending time with us after the House debate concluded. Foxx took us to some parts of the Capitol that are rarely seen by the general public, including the Lindy Boggs Congressional Women’s Reading Room, which originally served as the House Speaker’s private chambers when the Capitol was first built.

The Rotunda Tour was really something else – we climbed up hundreds of steps, and got some really good views of the Apotheosis of George Washington. The videos here do not convey how stunning the scenery truly was. The video above shows the raw footage of the Rotunda Tour, and the below video gives a bit of a history lesson behind the construction of the dome.

Enjoy! And thanks to the folks at Premier (and Congresswoman Foxx!) for allowing me to share this experience!


Short Takes and Atta-folks for a Thursday!

A busy week in CU Communicator-land, but that’s mainly because so many great things are happening, thanks to the generosity and commitment of some very special credit union folks! So let’s dive right in and offer tips of the cap to credit unions in NC and elsewhere that are really deserving of some propers …

American Partners Federal Credit Union cut the ribbon on a student-run branch of the credit union at Reidsville High School yesterday (September 10th). The Reidsville Ram Branch will offer deposit accounts, online banking access and debit cards. More importantly, students will receive financial education up-close-and-personal … and have the opportunity to learn budgeting basics by managing their accounts.

The opening of the Ram Branch comes thanks to credit union employees and the Rockingham County School System … but APFCU Marketing Specialist Stephanie Wilson is the one person who made it all come together. You’ll find complete story coverage and lots of pictures by clicking here.   

The holidays are fast approaching, and Carolina Postal Credit Union is once again mobilizing credit union people in an effort to deploy some good will to overseas troops. Operation CU Troop, now in its third year, is a collection of items for military men and women who are deployed overseas and separated from their families.

Operation CU Troop got started in 2006 when CPCU Staffer Nelle Baldwin’s son graduated high school and joined the Marines. Feeling the sting of separation, Nelle channeled her feelings into getting Operation CU Troop off the ground. In the years since, this effort has grown to include other credit unions in NC who pitch in to help bring holiday cheer to men and women in uniform. (Cooperatives cooperating … nice!)

If you’d like to roll up your sleeves and participate in this terrific effort, click here to get more information. The link includes a list of approved collection items and contact info for Marketing Diva Deb McLean, who can answer any questions for interested elves.

While the holidays are a ways off, we’re in the teeth of hurricane season in the meantime … and we have a bad one brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Ike is making steady progress toward the Texas Coast, and folks are already moving out of harm’s way.

Major, MAJOR kudos are due to Texas Dow Employees’ Credit Union as Ike approaches. The credit union is providing storm updates and relaying operational information through its web site and blog. TDECU is using all its tools in the disaster plan (Shared Branching, etc.) in an effort to keep members informed and help them cope in the event that Ike causes major disruptions to branch operations. Also, if you go to the blog you’ll find sensible, helpful, reassuring information for members caught in a stressful situation.

The blog is a TERRIFIC tool in times of crisis, and Social Media pacesetter Trey Reeme is to be commended for providing an interactive and relevant line of communications to members at a very critical time. CUs might want to look into TDECU’s strategy and consider adding some of these elements to their disaster planning and recovery mix.      

Finally, Team Little Guy successfully completed the Blue Ridge Relay Race on Saturday, September 6th. The 12-man team ran 208 miles from Grayson Highlands, VA to Asheville, NC in 32 hours. To support the team, credit unions in both Carolinas contributed $80,000 to the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation. Congratulations on a great effort guys, and thanks to credit unions who supported the Foundation with a gift. More information, pictures and a race recap can be found on the Team Little Guy  blog.

OT: Getting Back in the Game

If you are a member of a fitness club or have been in the past, you’ve no doubt seen the personal trainers leading those pathetic souls around the gym, working them out to the point of collapse. Sweating profusely, these poor folks subject themselves to all manner of pain and sacrifice.

So why would anyone do this, let alone PAY handsomely for the privilege?

Well in my case, I subject myself to this abuse for two reasons …

  1. My trainer, Andrew at the Rush Fitness Center, is a BIG dude.
  2. I can’t outrun him.

So twice a week now for a couple of months, Andrew has been leading me around the club doing all manner of weight training, including core training. All this is helping me discover muscles I never knew I had (thank God for Aleve).

Seriously though, it’s been a great investment in me. For a long time, I was really in good shape and worked out regularly. About 10 years ago, I even did the California AIDS Ride, which is a 585 mile, seven day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles (it’s now known as the AIDS/LifeCycle).

Over the past couple of years, I lost focus and about 35 pounds found me in the process. But with Andrew’s help, I’m down 16 pounds so far, and thinking I’d like to shed about 20 more while adding some muscle in the process.

But more important than numbers, I want to be more fit than I have ever been before.

So does this mean I’m going to hand over the keys to the van this September and run in the Blue Ridge Relay Race as a member of Team Little Guy (as Slacker has done)? NO! Because unless bears (or Andrew) are chasing me, I see no need in running.

But I am going to do the Black and Blue Relay in July, which is a 208 mile, one day bike ride in the mountains. I’ll be teaming up with Ed Agnoli and two other people to form a team. 

I won’t be racing to win … not by a long shot – but it will be my statement to myself that my days of sitting on the sidelines are over.

I’m back in the game.

Micro Community Grants Program Shows Power of Partnerships, Collective Philanthropy

If you’ve been to the Team Little Guy blog lately, you may have seen the recent video post about Fusion Warehouse in Anderson, SC. Carolinas Credit Union Foundation head honcho John Slack invited me to go to Fusion earlier this month for the dedication of a children’s center that was funded by a Micro Community Grant.

Fusion has only been open a short time, but it is already making a huge impact on the lives of teens in Anderson County. Young people are flocking to Fusion each weekend to have fun and make new friends. Fusion is also providing life skills training and even job training in trades such as welding … and soon, a service center to teach young people how to perform basic auto repairs and service.

The CCUF grant paved the way for the opening of the children’s play area. It will serve as a safe, fun environment for the kids of volunteers at Fusion, and be a spot for single moms who are studying for their G-E-Ds to drop off their little ones as well.

Beyond the grant, local credit unions are also stepping in to provide support to this wonderful non-profit agency. Upstate FCU in Anderson is opening a student-run branch at Fusion, and will also provide financial education classes to young people.

Our visit and video shoot came when Fusion was closed, which in one way diminishes the overall energy and excitement that must pulse through the place on weekends. Thousands of teens in Anderson County have made Fusion a regular hang out spot. By doing so, some are avoiding negative forces such as gangs.

Of all the things I love about my job and credit unions, stories like this easily rise to the top. Kudos to the CCUF … and to each credit union that is active in its community.

As John Slack often says, credit unions do stuff like this because it’s the right thing to do. Amen to that!

A Tip of the Cap to the Video Age & Team Little Guy

It’s early on a Saturday morning, and here I sit drinking coffee and getting ready for the day ahead. And what a day it promises to be! More on that in a second, but this post has its roots in a short meeting I had with some really smart people last Fall.

In October, Kim Bohannon (the League’s Compliance Goddess) and I sat down with John Radebaugh, Eric Gelly and Dan Schline and proposed that we buy a video camera and some editing equipment to help the League tell its story in a new and more compelling way. I must say that it was an easy sell to make – John, Eric and Dan immediately saw the value in what this could bring to the League’s communications toolbelt.

We also saw it as a way to bring to life the people in credit unions who are busting their tails to serve their members every day. It’s one thing to read about the impacts credit unions & credit union people are having – but words can sometimes fall flat. And frankly, we (meaning stat geeks like me) can sometimes beat people up with big numbers and refined talking points, and lose sight of the impacts those numbers are having in people’s lives.

But when you can see & hear the impact a program or a product has — when you can get a flavor for the passion of credit union people … and how that passion helps members in turn unlock their own potential … you get a larger awareness of just how special the credit union movement really is.

In a few days, I’ll be posting a video here which will show a handful of credit unions that are serving as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites statewide. (Edit to add that this video is now up on the blog.) Even though it’s not central to their missions on the product front, and an added workload for staff, this group of credit unions is helping thousands of lower-income tax filers in NC get millions of dollars in refunds from the government through the Earned Income Tax Credit — and many of these folks had no idea they qualified for the EITC!

In the meantime, I am leaving in a few minutes to head to the tiny hamlet of Lewisville to videotape some of the Team Little Guy runners as they compete in a duathlon. This group of runners, which hopes to raise more than $100,000 for the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation this year, is tuning up for the Cherry Blossom Run in DC in April, and the Blue Ridge Relay Race in September. (Edit to add that a video recap is now posted on the blog at http://teamlittleguy.com/2008/02/17/video-recap-of-the-lewisville-duathlon/.)

The TLG runners are a fun group to be around, and they love raising awareness of credit unions and the Foundation through the TLG mantle. If you’d like to follow their progress, check them out on their blog at www.teamlittleguy.com.

TLG also has a Twitter page and the Foundation has a Facebook group that relays TLG info, if you’d like to keep up with them there.

In the meantime, it’s time to drain the coffee mug, shower up and head west with the camera to watch these guys. Run Little Guy Run!