When I first heard about credit unions being all about "people helping people" I thought, "Nice rhetoric," but what does it really mean. That was in back in 1977 when I was hired by the Illinois league to be its first-ever general counsel. I have now been CEO of the league for more than 25 years and have experienced that philosophy in so many ways on a daily basis.
My most memorable impression of the credit union movement coming together for the good of its members, however, was the Operation Grassroots Rally held in Washington in 1991. Illinois sent more than 300 credit union volunteers and members to Washington to participate in the rally. This group became affectionately known as the "bus people." They spent more than 30 hours on buses, arriving at a Washington hotel some of us were staying at while attending CUNA's GAC. I met these volunteers at 5 in the morning as they got off the buses, tired and hungry. We had a hot breakfast waiting for them and shared our rooms with them so they could shower, change clothes and prepare for the rally at the Mall.
The volunteers from Illinois joined thousands of credit union supporters from every state in the nation at the Mall to let Congress know what credit unions are all about. For miles in every direction, all I could see was a wall of people expressing their support for one another and their members. The Mall area was the perfect spot to gather to listen to speeches from credit union leaders, congressmen and senators about the need for credit unions and their "people-helping-people" philosophy and it was never more evident than that day in Washington. I had never participated in such a momentous event and it left an indelible impression on me about the strength of the movement, the commitment of its people and the incredible lengths the volunteers and staff would go to help their members.
I have been in credit unions for over 30 years now and the feeling of pride and dedication I experienced at the Rally on the Mall in Washington has never faded and will be with me always.
Dan Plauda is president/CEO of the Illinois CU League.
Personal Recollections of CUs: A CU Journal Series
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..."
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