My 100th birthday coincides with the credit unions' 100th birthday. I have been a volunteer for more than 50 years and experienced growth of services from just savings and loans to the multiple services now offered. Several months ago I had lunch with Newt Gingrich, and I asked him what advice he had for credit unions. He said, "Adopt every available new method to provide easy access to your services."
"People helping people" started with people with extra cash lending it to other people in need. This appealed to me as a great way to improve our world. Credit unions brought the two together, whereas other financial institutions neglected the needy. For the first time many homemakers were comforted by having paychecks deposited in their credit union account and not spent at pubs or gambled away before reaching home. Part of each check went into a savings account. Managing money was easier and wiser and safer.
My first position as a volunteer was as a member of the Supervisory Committee. I knew most of the credit union members and some of their problems. I was amazed to see their savings accumulate and also see many new cars in the company parking lot.
I am still active as a director in the Erie Federal Credit Union and with the Erie Chapter. Let me highlight what volunteering has done to enrich my life. Being on the Supervisory Committee and as an unpaid treasurer, I gained a better knowledge of accounting, investing, and evaluating loans. Also, I was able to expand my skills in public speaking, human relations, and politics. I met interesting people and made wonderful friends when attending national and international events. While attending annual conferences in Washington, I was able to help educate legislators about credit unions. Sponsoring Tom Ridge for governor of Pennsylvania was an example of this. He acknowledged what great service credit unions provided for millions of people. I am proud to be considered his friend.
Meeting and working with devoted, knowledgeable individuals like Jim McCormick, CEO of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, and Norb Kaszmarek, CEO of Erie Federal Credit Union, and several former chairmen of the Pennsylvania CU Association, has been invigorating, exciting and stimulating.
I am thankful for credit unions. They improved my overall knowledge, friendships, life savings, happiness, and they extended my activities and productive years.
God bless America and God bless credit unions. I recommend to everyone, be a volunteer and get the most out of life.
Harry Hahn is a director at Erie FCU in Erie, Penn.
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..." Wish to share your story? E-mail email@example.com. Limit is 400 words.