In the classic film, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, George Baily takes center stage as a savings and loan president who discovers the true meaning of life and community. However, the unsung hero of the film may be the ‘Baily Savings and Loan’ itself. It is through this business that George is able to connect to his community on a personal level, and give them the help they need. While the days of savings and loans have changed, their personal touch of ‘people helping people,’ is thriving at United Federal Credit Union (UFCU).
“Our work at the credit union is for the greater good of the member; this takes that to a larger level,” says Zach Book, UFCU Berrien Springs Branch Manager. By partnering with United Way of Southwest Michigan we help everyone we possibly can, and that ensures a greater good is happening in our entire community.”.
From United Way of Southwest Michigan programs like Girls on the Run (GOTR) to and Day of Action for Seniors, UFCU employees go out into their local communities and impact those around them. Jobs include everything from packing GOTR bags to raking the lawns of area seniors who are physically unable to do it themselves.
“When we were volunteering on Senior Day of Action one of our team members noticed one of the men lived by himself and didn’t have a functioning stove. We used money from the UFCU’s ‘Pay it Forward’ program that Christmas to get appliances for him,” remembers Crystal Fouts, Assistant Branch Manager for UFCU in Niles. “He was so surprised and thrilled that he could cook for himself again. That moment of human to human contact that UWSM provided was needed because he probably wouldn’t have ever told anyone that he needed help.”
On top of running an award winning annual United Way employee workplace campaign, UFCU has helped hundreds of girls through their sponsorship of GOTR. GOTR is a program for 3rd through 8th graders that combines training for a 5K with lessons that inspire girls to become independent thinkers, make healthy decisions and enhance their problem-solving skills. More than two-thirds of the girls who participate are unable to afford running shoes. This year UFCU started the ‘Your Change Can Make a Difference’ shoe fund to make sure all girls have the right footwear to train for, and run in, the 5K.
“We have been a part of Girl’s on the Run for four years. Every year we see girls work hard and overcome barriers in this program” says Zack Book. “One year we were getting towards the end of the 5K event and some of the girls that already finished ran back to the finish line to cheer on the ones that hadn't finished yet. There was a girl on crutches and another that had a disability who were trying to finish. To see these girls run back to cheer them to the finish line was just something to see.”
For UFCU Market Vice President James Knight, it’s the commitment to the community that’s most important. “Our employees have a drive to give back, as evidenced by their generosity to the United Way campaign and by the countless hours of volunteer work they perform every year. We encourage our employees to find ways to improve the lives of their friends and neighbors, and supporting United Way does that,” adds Knight.
UFCU impacts the work of United Way in many ways; not only through their generous workplace campaign and sponsorships, but by enabling their employees to lend a hand in our community. Through their volunteerism they remind us of the most important lesson from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ - that an individual person touches many lives, and can make a big difference in the world. Like the difference for that one little girl who never had a new pair of tennis shoes, who will now be able to run with confidence and pride just like all the other girls. That is something that will last her whole lifetime.
To see the impact that the United Way Southwest Michigan is making in your area visit our impact page. To find out more information about contributing through your workplace, how to start an employee campaign at your business, or scheduling an agency tour, visit our campaign page.