STREATOR, Ill.–Lots of businesses put up lights around the Christmas holidays. Then there’s Streator Onized CU, which has found a way to really draw attention to itself.


In that way, SOCU has been giving back to the community in way it believes is unique, said Marketing Director Dana Stillwell. “You often see a home or two in the city with a huge light display, but never a business. This has gotten us a lot of attention from the community and the local media.”


From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day the Northpointe branch is decorated with 22,000 LED lights that are synced to music that can be heard via a local radio station. SOCU is spelled out in lights on the roof.


“We think this is a different way to serve the community and get our name out,” said Stillwell, who said it is part of the CU’s efforts to donate cash, gifts, and employee time during the holidays. This year, combined with a new 31 Days of


Giving effort in which Streator Onized each day in December gives back to a local charity or cause, $14,000 in cash and gifts were collected.


The animated light show brings in money as employees and board members volunteer time at the main branch every night collecting donations from people who stop by to see the lights. “This event has been growing every year,” said Stillwell. “It started in 2009 collecting $800. The next year we took in $1,700, and in 2011 we topped that.”


The focus of fundraising efforts has changed as well. Instead of collecting money for two charities, as was the case the first two years, SOCU branched out with the 31 Days of Giving, and SOCU has now helped out more than 50 different causes. “We easily beat the $6,200 goal we set, which allowed us to be able to help every organization on the list to receive money, goods, or services worth about $200 per day.”


The $180-million credit union even added a few “bonus” days where other organizations were also helped. For example, a special education teacher received a new set of English books for her class and a local park received $1,000 towards building a tornado shelter. 


Stillwell estimated more than 150 employee hours were donated by staff. Employees also contributed to the effort throughout the year, such as paying $3 to wear jeans on Fridays and supporting other fundraising  events.


Business at the CU spikes during the holidays, as well, said Stillwell. Streator Onized not only boosts name awareness with the light show, but special product promotions also get a lift.


“This has been our creative way of giving back to the community during the Christmas season while providing something fun and entertaining for everyone to enjoy. It gets us noticed as being different, and we like being a little out-of-the-box.”

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