Community Service

Dora Maxwell Award Winners: Part II

April 01, 2008
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Last month we profiled Dora Maxwell Award winners from credit unions with $100 million in assets or less. The Credit Union National Association's National Awards Committee presents the Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award to credit unions and chapters that have implemented outstanding projects addressing community problems and raising money on behalf of charitable organizations.

Dora Maxwell organized hundreds of credit unions, developed volunteer organizer clubs, and worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor. Here are the 2007 Dora Maxwell Award winners among credit unions with more than $100 million in assets:

Adopt a Platoon

Second place: Credit Union 1, Anchorage, Alaska, donates time and money to the community through an annual average of 50 community service projects. The goal of its Adopt a Platoon program—initiated by the collections department and eventually involving all employees—was to provide monthly care packages to a field artillery regiment stationed in Iraq.

Employees filled 97 boxes with items, including two laptops equipped with Skype (software that allows free or low-cost telephone calls over the Internet), a microwave oven, a television with VHS, a portable DVD player, books, snacks, DVDs, magazines, movies, and toiletries. In addition, each platoon member received a birthday box filled with special request items. Employees also raised $1,446 for postage.

Relay for Life

First place ($100 million to $200 million in assets): Avanta Federal Credit Union, Billings, Mont., has supported the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life fund-raiser for five years. This time, the goal of Avanta Federal employees was to double the funds raised the previous year ($5,000).

Strategies to reach that goal included penny collection jugs, a chili day and bake sale, a raffle and silent auction, paper penny sales, luminaria sales, and a credit union jeans day. Avanta Federal's entire official family—managers, employees, the board of directors, and employee spouses—joined in support of the Relay for Life fund-raising. The credit union was the top local fund-raiser, garnering $13,939 (surpassing its goal of $10,000).

SOFCU All-Stars

Second place: Synergy One Federal Credit Union, Manassas, Va., set a goal to raise $20,000 and recruit 60 walkers to participate in the American Diabetes Association's annual America's Walk for Diabetes. The credit union's seven-person planning committee obtained senior management endorsement for the event and conducted an intensive in-house campaign to encourage employee participation.

Sixty-one walkers joined the "SOFCU All-Stars" team, raising $36,754 for the Diabetes Association and taking home the Top Fundraising Team honor for the Prince William Region, along with the Top Individual Fundraising Award.

Many happy returns

Honorable mention: In partnership with the Tempe (Ariz.) Community Council, City of Tempe, Internal Revenue Service, and Newtown Community Development Corp., Tempe Schools Credit Union helped low- and moderate-income individuals increase their economic self-sufficiency and become homeowners.

The initiative included free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program tax preparation, budgeting assistance, credit and home-buyer workshops, and local asset development resources. Tempe Schools was the primary site for tax preparer training classes and tax preparation services. More than 700 tax returns were processed during the campaign, representing more than $800,000 in tax refunds, $350,000 in the form of earned income tax credits.

Underserved served here

First place ($200 million to $500 million): Denver Community Credit Union developed an off-site financial education program for underserved populations throughout its community. The bilingual program includes monthly classes in English and Spanish at social service agencies and schools, online resources, one-on-one counseling sessions, and presentations at workshops, fairs, and conferences.

Classes were tailored to the needs of partner agency populations. The credit union hired a full-time community educator and allocated $20,000 to promote the program. Between June 2006 and June 2007, 445 people enrolled in the program.

Super STAR

Second place: Great Wisconsin Credit Union, Madison, Wis., established STAR (Save To Achieve Results) Credit Union in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County. It's the only youth-chartered credit union in the world.

STAR is located in a low-income area of Madison with few choices in financial institutions. Many area families use payday lenders, pawn shops, and check-cashing outlets. The goal in establishing STAR was to give young people tools necessary to become wise financial consumers before they encounter money problems as adults.

STAR enrolled 138 young members during its first year of operation, and now has 275 members. Between January and June of 2006, the credit union signed on 37 new accounts with average balances of $9.59 per account.

Help for all ages

Honorable mention (tie): Park Community Federal Credit Union, Louisville, Ky., sponsors "Kindervision," a proactive multimedia program aimed at preventing child abduction and exploitation.

The Louisville Zoo and the Adam Matthew's Balloon Festival were among the family-focused locations for sponsored events. "Kindervision" is a news interview show educating children on how to safely interact with strangers and what to do in dangerous situations.

Nine employees of Members Credit Union, Winston-Salem, N.C., repainted the interior of an elderly woman's home in a project called "Extreme Makeover." The 82-year-old homeowner struggles with diabetes, arthritis, sciatica, and other physical restrictions, and is unable to undertake strenuous activities. The credit union budgeted 72 employee hours and $400 to the project to help her remain independent.


First place (more than $500 million in assets): CommunityAmerica Credit Union, Lenexa, Kan., focuses its philanthropic efforts on financial literacy programs for K-12 students. It implemented a fund-raising campaign for Junior Achievement of Middle America. The campaign centered around Junior Achievement's annual bowl-a-thon.

CommunityAmerica's staff, members, and business partners raised $43,618—45% more than its initial goal of $30,000, set to exceed the highest amount ever donated during a bowl-a-thon.

The fund-raiser began with the credit union's executive staff camping out at the credit union's corporate headquarters until 36 bowling teams were formed. It culminated with CEO Dennis Pierce riding a mechanical bull at CommunityAmerica's annual meeting—a feat he agreed to if staff met the $30,000 goal.

Help with healing

Honorable mention: Thanks to Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union, Live Oak, Texas, military families now have a home away from home when their loved ones receive treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center. The credit union raised $517,533 in six weeks to help finish construction of two Fisher Houses at the center.

Fisher House is a private-public partnership through which "comfort homes" are built on the grounds of major military and Veterans Administration medical centers for use by families at no charge. Randolph-Brooks Federal kick-started the campaign with a $100,000 donation and then matched $200,000 in donations from the community.

Credit union chapters

First place: As part of its pledge to raise $2.5 million over seven years to fund the Austin (Texas) Chapter of Credit Unions Inpatient Wing at the Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas, the Austin Chapter conducted several projects, including a raffle with a fund-raising goal of $150,000.

The chapter solicited three raffle prizes—a Pontiac G6, two round-trip airline tickets, and a flat-panel television—and awarded cash prizes totaling $575 to the top three sellers among the 950 credit union employees who sold tickets. The raffle raised $157,000. The chapter also conducted a golf tournament that raised $169,500 and a fun run that brought in $10,500.

Second place: The Midland Empire Chapter of Credit Unions, Billings, Mont., organized "You and Your Money," a series of financial education workshops for credit union members. The workshops offered valuable lessons on credit and money management and rewarded attendance: Each member attending all three programs in the series received a $50 savings bond.

Chapter credit unions provided free childcare, personnel to teach classes, and refreshments.

Honorable mention: Hungry children are poor learners. To keep hunger out of the classroom, the North Carolina Credit Union League's Western Chapter raised $5,000 for the Eblen Charities Food for Thought program. The program provides food through the Manna Food Bank, and a breakfast and lunch program for children who need—but aren't eligible for—free meals at school.

The funds were raised at a silent auction held as part of a Credit Union Day celebration. Chapter members collected, donated, and bid on 60 items.

Lucy Harr and Dick Radtke are partners in Fourth Lake Communications LLP, Madison, Wis. Contact them at 608-877-9133.

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