As I was growing up, my mother was the CEO of a credit union, so in a way I've been in the credit union industry my entire life. From an early age I can remember the sense of family and community I felt among staff and members alike when I would visit my mother's credit union. Everyone was friendly and knew each other by name, and it was a very comfortable and welcoming place to be. Most importantly, I noticed that the people working at her credit union had a sincere desire to help their members with their financial needs - a true commitment to the credit union philosophy of "people helping people."
I can remember doing various odd jobs at her credit union - stuffing envelopes, trimming hedges - and it always felt like home, so when it came time for me to join the workforce, working for a credit union seemed the natural choice. Although I went to work for a different credit union than the one my mother worked for, the atmosphere of family and community was still strong, as was the desire to assist members and support the local community. I also began to learn the importance of supporting the credit union community and the credit union movement, and to understand the unifying strength of the credit union philosophy.
Through my many years in the industry, I can say that one of the inspiring constants remains that philosophy of "people helping people" - and it's not just lip service. It is a great feeling to go home each night knowing that we helped make a real, meaningful difference in someone's life - in each of our members' lives - just by being who we are and doing what we are here to do. For some members, the difference is because they get a better rate; for others, it's because they don't have to pay high fees that they'd get from another institution, or because we were able to provide a debt consolidation loan or help lower their monthly payments. And these days, we are also hearing that we were able to help save them from losing their car or home to repossession or foreclosure. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that we are here to help, and we do, every single day...because that's what credit unions are all about.
Brett Martinez is CEO of Redwood Credit Union, Santa Rosa, Calif.
To mark the 100th Anniversary of Credit Unions, Credit Union Journal is publishing "100 Voices" answering, "The one personal anecdote from my credit union career that comes to my mind and which sums up what credit unions are all about is..." Wish to share your story? E-mail email@example.com. Limit is 400 words.