Volunteers

Spotlight: Paul Morin, a Veteran of Members' Affairs

CU leader works for veterans' rights.

March 01, 2007
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Who: National Commander Paul Morin

What: Board chairman

Where: Chicopee (Mass.) Municipal Employees CU

Explain your work with the American Legion

As national commander of the 2.7 million-member American Legion, my job is to lead the nation's largest veteran's service organization in carrying out the four "pillars" established by the founders of The American Legion in 1919:

  • Working for the rights and benefits earned by veterans who have served in the U.S. armed forces during times of war and their families;
  • Promoting a strong national defense;
  • Perpetuating Americanism; and
  • Overseeing programs that benefit the youth of our nation. This includes lobbying Congress, moderating meetings of our national executive committee and national convention, serving as the American Legion's CEO and chief spokesman, and meeting with members, troops, families, and patriotic citizens across the world.

What challenges do you face in your position as national commander?

Getting Congress to pass needed legislation that recognizes the sacrifices made by the men and women of the U.S. military of wars past and present. A major priority right now is getting legislation passed that would make funding of the Veterans Administration (VA) health-care system mandatory, rather than discretionary, so VA hospital administrators have the manpower and resources needed to care for our disabled veterans.

Right now we have to fight for needed funds every year in competition with an array of other programs. Mandatory funding would eliminate the annual "food fight" for dollars and ensure that all veterans get the care they so richly deserve.

Another objective is to legalize the use of Medicare funds as payment in VA hospitals. It's a shame that veterans over age 65 who have paid into Medicare their entire lives can't use it in the very health-care system that was designed for their use. I ask all Americans to ask their congressional representatives to pass legislation that will give our veterans these much needed legal changes.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your military career?

Time schedule and orders which one must live by.

What are some parallels between your role as a military leader and a credit union leader?

Some of the similar features relate to the fact that the American Legion and Chicopee Municipal Employees Credit Union are composed of members. And our officers (for the Legion at the post, district, department, and national level) are elected by the body, as are our directors at the annual meeting.

The Legion consists of 2.7 million members from posts. We are a veteran's service organization working for the interests of our communities, fellow veterans, and those in uniform. The preamble to the constitution of the American Legion refers to our sense of duty and camaraderie. Our credit union directors serve the interest of the membership also on a volunteer basis. The element of common bond and "people helping people" are parallel.

As director and chairman of the board, I am a member of the credit union and seek to represent the interests of the membership while maintaining our fiduciary duty to observe standards related to compliance, safety, and soundness. We rely upon our dedicated and professional staff to achieve this on a day-to-day basis.

The structure of the American Legion is run by the officers referred to previously. The size and scope of our mission is complex, and a large portion of my mission is to represent our membership and work for the legitimate and hard-earned rights and benefits they've earned while "still serving America." We, too, have many eligible veterans who have not yet joined. That is similar to what we face with our membership base at the credit union.

What attracted you to the credit union movement?

I am a longtime member of the credit union. As a city employee, I joined with others to have our own credit union located in one room in City Hall. I knew members of the board of directors and was recruited by these friends when a vacancy occurred. We have grown to our current size, and we have our own building.

What are some challenges facing credit union volunteers?

Volunteer credit union directors face the continued challenges of remaining current with the issues facing our credit union and the movement in general: recruiting committed volunteers as the board changes. We rely on good staff. Retaining and compensating the staff is vital for continuity, proper motivation, and superior service to the membership.

How important is it for credit union volunteers to be politically active?

Generally, we should all be sure that as individuals and in our representative capacity that our elected officials are aware of our legitimate concerns. It is important to emphasize the benefit to society.

What's the most important advocacy effort volunteers make?

Giving of themselves without reward.

Who are your leadership role models?

Anyone who gives of themselves to help others.

Words you live by

Take one day at a time. Only time will tell.

Describe your perfect day

On the beach by the sea.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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