For the past decade, when not representing credit unions at the state capital in Harrisburg or providing various services to its multitude of small credit unions or dealing with all the pressures credit union associations face, employees of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association have been cleaning up the highway at the interchange of Route 22-322 and Route 39, not far from its headquarters.
Four times each year, PCUA employees have volunteered their time and even dragged along family members have picked up litter-and a lot of other stuff-along the heavily traveled routes as part of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation's Adopt-A-Highway program. You've no doubt seen the signs not just in the Keystone State but across the country recognizing certain groups of individuals for their time picking up what too many people are far too lazy to simply throw in the trash. (I prefer such people be sentenced at first conviction to 10 years in wool uniforms in the summer time and 1980s short-shorts in the winter while picking up trash using lead garbage bags, but hey, that's just me.)
In addition to other duties at the PCUA, Sandy Shenk coordinates the highway clean-up program. "Each time takes about an hour," said Shenk. "We've had 30 different employees participate, usually about a dozen at a time, including (CEO) Jim McCormack, who always makes sure to do at least one a year."
Shenk said PCUA staff tidy up the interchange on Saturdays, usually beginning around 7:30 a.m. to avoid the heat. They are given reflective vests, trash bags and gloves. When a bag is filled, it is left by the side of the road and PennDOT picks it up later. When the work is done, most of the volunteers head somewhere for breakfast.
Ten years of such clean-ups has turned Shenk into something of an expert in Litterology. "There is a lot of different fast food trash, especially McDonalds, which is right down the road. There are lots of bottles and cans from sodas, juice boxes, and dirty diapers," said Shenk.
And then there's the more unusual items in the Department of Detritus. "Umm, we usually find some nice reading material and dirty magazines," said Shenk. "Someone once found a $20 bill. We usually find a couple of $1 bills. I have no idea why. We have also found dead animals. Probably the strangest thing was a homeless person who was in the bushes. We just left him alone."
Contrary to what you might expect, Shenk noted that the first clean-up day of the year in April is not actually the day the most litter and debris is found. "The last one of summer is," she said.
The PCUA's Mike Wishnow pointed out that the association isn't alone among credit unions in doing road-side clean up, and that a number of natural-person CUs in the state also give of their time.
When asked how Pennsylvanians' litter habits stack up against those of other states, both Shenk and Wishnow said the data is inconclusive, but Wishnow was quick to point out "it's not all Pennsylvanians driving by."
The PCUA was recently recognized by the state with a new sign recognizing it for its 10 years of service. It should make for a small contribution to awareness of credit unions, especially in the autumn, as Route 22/322 is the main route Nittany Lions fans use on their way to Penn State during football season.
• Talk about signs... In the same state, a Sign of Brazenness (or perhaps Stupidity): A man walked into Police and Fire Credit Union in Philadelphia and robbed it. The suspect remains at large.
• And speaking of stealing... In case you missed it, Robert Koss, the former CEO Western Mass. Electric Co. CU, was, in addition to being sentenced to four years supervised release and required to pay restitution, also ordered by Judge Michael Posner to write a letter of apology to the credit union and the court. Koss pleaded guilty to taking $225,000 in phantom expense reimbursements. During the sentencing, the judge observed that he was still "waiting to hear 'I'm sorry for what I did.'"
Koss has nearly repaid all of the $225,000.
Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.