GoWest Foundation Helps Credit Unions Help Others

Friends of the Foundation gathered at MAXX 2023 for an early morning breakfast and celebration of all that credit unions have achieved in partnership with the GoWest Foundation.

Tom Berquist, BECU’s Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, raved that this was the “best [Foundation] breakfast he’s been to.”

His response was due in part to the fantastic panel consisting of Charlotte Nemec, Board Member of the Foundation and President and CEO of Canopy Credit Union, Jen Reed, Vice President of Public Relations at Sound Credit Union, Sara McKinney, Vice President of Legal and Regulatory Compliance at Ent Credit Union, and Larry Ellifritz, President and CEO of Consolidated Community Credit Union, who shared their stories of impact working with the Foundation.

The Panel

Nemec leads a CDFI credit union and has recently been awarded grant funds from the GoWest Foundation to dedicate planning resources for workforce housing efforts in the Spokane area. Speaking from her experience as a member credit union and a board member of the Foundation, she shared advice for other credit unions on how to get more involved and how to leverage the Foundation to make a greater community impact.

Ent is one of the largest credit unions in Colorado, but it still serves a generally low-income area. McKinney has been working on getting Ent the low-income designation through the NCUA so she can secure additional grant funds to better serve Ent’s communities. With the support of the GoWest Foundation, whose region supports 184 low-income designated credit unions, she has been able to learn the ins and outs of what Ent needs to earn the designation. The Foundation also offers the support and resources needed to get information to the NCUA.

Ellifritz is one of five presidents and CEOs of an innovative partnership between five credit unions, the Urban League of Portland (Advantis, CCCU, Point West, Rivermark, and Unitus credit unions), and the GoWest Foundation. The pilot of the Financial Empowerment Collaborative (FEC) started a little over two years ago. Ellifritz shared his insight on the importance of working with his peer credit unions to make a larger impact in the community.

“It was an honor to chat for a few minutes about the partnership with the Urban League the five Portland credit unions and the role the GoWest Foundation has played in guiding and helping us show up at our best with this culturally specific nonprofit,” said Ellifritz. “I don’t think I am overreaching by saying the FEC that was created between these organizations would not exist without the Foundation’s continual hard work and engagement.”

Together this group has found ways to provide new tools, products, and resources for Portland-area BIPOC communities.

“I always say the Foundation is the best-kept secret of the GoWest organization, but if I keep telling everyone how great they are, maybe that won’t always be the case!” said Ellifritz.

Reed has worked closely with the Foundation over the years to host financial reality fairs in the Seattle area, completing nine fairs in 2023 and engaging approximately 655 students. Reed highlighted the importance of these financial reality fairs for the greater community, and how hosting these fairs has benefited not only the students participating, but also the credit union employees and volunteers.

“Bite of Reality fairs provide credit unions the opportunity to connect with people in the communities we serve and help them build the understanding needed to manage their finances,” said Reed. “We encourage our employees to join us at these events. They truly enjoy working with the participants and helping them discover the importance of wants versus needs.”

The stories shared at the breakfast showed how the holistic and individualized impact credit unions are having on their communities is being enhanced through the Foundation.

“The Foundation board serves as the catalyst for partnership among credit unions and community organizations to make a meaningful impact in the communities GoWest serves,” said Gene Pelham, GoWest Foundation Board Chair. “It’s an incredible opportunity to do good work with good people.”

How can the Foundation Support Your Credit Union?

The GoWest Foundation offers a wide array of support.

The Foundation is focusing on the following initiatives and is actively seeking to assist member credit unions in these areas. Credit unions can also take advantage of professional development scholarships, consulting, grants, and disaster relief offered year-round.

Ask your Foundation team how they can partner alongside your credit union to impact the financial lives of your community.

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Posted in Community Impact, GoWest Foundation, News Releases, Top Headlines.