Places

Credit Union or Bank?

Taken from the office of Blue Water Federal Credit Union

By Kathleen Knowles

Originally Published on November 19th, 2018

Blue Water Federal Credit Union Has the Answer!

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With everything in today’s society rising and becoming more expensive, it is important to get the most out of your money. When one steps into a grocery store, they will see customers comparing the prices of similar products, as well as the products themselves. It is not uncommon to hear a friend or neighbor tell you where they got the lowest price on the gas they put in their vehicle. This diligence has spread to just about every product people buy.

So, if it is important to compare products for pricing and quality, isn’t it just as important to compare financial institutions? The one question you must ask yourself is “Which is better, a credit union or a bank?”

What is the difference between the two? To answer this question, one only has to look as far as how they are run. Banks are run for profit benefiting those who own it. Credit unions are non-profit, are owned by its members, who elect a board of directors based on one member, one vote regardless of the amount of money the individual has on deposit at the credit union. As a result, credit unions can quite often offer better rates on savings and loans. Also, anyone can walk into a bank and open an account. Credit unions have a “field of membership” based on a common bond of its members.

How Credit Unions Got Started……

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Despite the popularity of credit unions in the United States, America cannot claim their origins. Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch of Germany began the first “co-operatives” in 1852 based on “people helping people.” The first one located in Eilenburg and the other in Delitzsch, are recognized as the first successful credit unions in the world. Schulze-Delizsch continued to promote the credit union idea, and by 1859, 183 credit unions were in existence with 18,000 members. By 1871, he had helped pass the National Credit Union Law.

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Frederick Wilhelm Raiffeisen was responsible as the founder of the first rural credit unions in the village of Heddesdorf. The members were usually poorer than those of Schultz-Delitzsch. For that reason, their flow of income was definitely less predictable.

Despite the differences, by 1913 there were over 2 million Germans that were members of credit unions. They expanded outside of Germany in throughout Europe.

Credit Unions in North America….

As the movement continued to grow, it crossed the Atlantic to North

America in 1901. The first credit union was formed in Quebec, Canada. A few years later in 1908, St Mary’s of Manchester in New Hampshire became the first credit union in the United States. As of 2014, 57,480 credit unions in 105 countries are operating around the world. They serve approximately 217 million members and their assets exceed 1.79 trillion dollars. Blue Water Federal Credit Union…..

Port Huron Federal Building

Photo Courtesy of the Credit Union Website

In 1959, postal workers in Port Huron were not satisfied with the financial institutions they were dealing with. Dean Streeter and Shirley Edie came up with the idea to form a credit union for United States postal workers in the area. They investigated how to obtain a charter, and checked into the interest of the postal workers in the Blue Water Area. It was the beginning of the birth of the Blue Water Federal Credit Union.

Unlike banks, not everyone can walk into a credit union and open an account. Credit unions have an established field of membership. Blue Water Federal Credit Union’s field of membership consists of federal employees in the Blue Water Area.

Although originally they did not have an office, they eventually obtained one and are housed in the Federal Building in Port Huron.

Existing employees and new hires were offered the opportunity of depositing one share ($5.00) for ownership in the credit union. They started with savings accounts and small loans, whose rates were competitive with other financial institutions in the area. The Credit Union’s philosophy was to treat all members as though they were family. That philosophy is still in existence today. Members enjoyed a personal one-on-one relationship with the employees. Most found when they walked in to do business, they were greeted with a smile, and the member would be called by name! It is a practice that still exists presently at Blue Water Federal Credit Union — a personal touch rarely enjoyed in most financial institutions today.

The savings deposited by the Credit Union’s new members were soon loaned out in the form of auto and signature loans. Over the years, services were expanded with ATM cards, debit cards, Visa accounts, boat loans, recreational vehicle loans, home equity loans, and online banking.

Board of Directors……

Photo by Kathleen Knowles

President of The Board of Directors
Raymond Kerr

The Credit Union is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. Current board president, Raymond Kerr is a retired post master and lives in Saint Clair with his wife, Judy. He has served on the board for more than thirty years. He explained, “Seven members serve on the board, and are elected by the membership at a yearly meeting. Those interested in becoming board members obtain petitions of signatures from the membership. They are placed on the ballot and nominations are also taken from the floor. At the annual meeting, the membership selects their board. At least two members every year are up for re-election and serve a two-year term.”

Raymond described their function. “The board of directors meets monthly. Our job is to decide whether to raise or lower savings and loan rates as we strive to see that rates are kept competitive with other financial institutions in the area. The manager of the credit union, whom is hired by the board, will make recommendations to us regarding rates at the monthly meetings. She informs us of what other financial institutions are doing in the area. From those recommendations, it is up to the board to make the ultimate decision of whether to raise, lower or leave the rates the same.”

Once a year, the board meets in a planning session for an entire weekend. Raymond explained, “The members set the budget for the coming year. The manager will report what other financial institutions are offering in the way of services and rates. A decision is made whether the credit union is remaining competitive with other institutions in the area. A determination is made if there is a need to offer any new services which may be lacking compared to our competitors.”

Mr. Kerr said members are kept informed of the financial status of the credit union once a year at the Annual Meeting. It is usually in the form of a dinner meeting where the members can mingle with the board as well as the staff of the Credit Union.

After the Annual Meeting (usually held in May), the board selects the people for the committees which includes the supervisory and the loan committees.

Security……

Security measures are taken to protect members money on deposit. All employees are bonded (insured) to handle money and access accounts in order to do daily business for all members. The Supervisory Committee is tasked with doing unscheduled audits of employee money drawers, check loans procedures, the handling of the electronic systems and other areas to make certain everything is being managed correctly and efficiently.

It does not stop there. Every year the Credit Union has an auditing firm come in and audit every aspect of the accounts, general ledgers, loans and employees jobs and procedures. The NCUA (The National Credit Union Administration) also conducts an audit yearly to be sure all Federal Regulations are being followed. A report of the audit is sent to the Board of Directors, which includes recommendations on what needs to be handled differently or more efficiently. Due to the Credit Union being housed in the Federal Building, members enjoy the protection of airport-like security, manned by Federal Marshals.

Manager……

Photo by Kathleen Knowles

Treasurer-Manager
Kim L. Steele

At the end of 2016, the Credit Union went through a major change. Its long-time manager, Jeanne Dawson-Collins announced her desire to retire. After an extensive search for a new manager, the Board of Directors hired Kim Steele.

Mrs. Steele started out her credit union career with E&A Credit Union (now Advia Credit Union) in 1996 as a teller. She worked in other capacities including the call center and product support. With five years experience behind her, she moved to the Riverview Federal Credit Union in Saint Clair as a teller. Kim was soon promoted to the loan department, creating procedures and policies. Rising to the position of Assistant Manager, and eventually performing as acting CEO, a new opportunity presented itself. Kim sought out the manager’s position with Blue Water Federal Credit Union. Impressed with her credentials and believing she would make a good fit with the personnel already at the Credit Union, the board hired Kim to step into the position when Jeanne retired.

Kim plans to upgrade technology as the budget allows. One of her goals is to make the Debit Card program real time sometime in the future. She would like to see the Credit Union’s website updated and made more user friendly for members. Mrs. Steele stated, “I would like a social media presence, which the Credit Union does not have at the present time. It is
important, especially with the younger people. It would assist in reaching people and their families eligible for membership. Also, it could be a great asset in keeping them informed with news concerning the Credit Union and its services.”

Mrs. Steele plans to preside over a growing credit union, with competitive rates and services; provide a friendly atmosphere with a personable, efficient staff. Kim is married to Jason Steele. The couple has three children, two dogs and three cats.

Staff……

No one would disagree a very important part of a business’ success is its
staff. Blue Water Federal Credit Union excels in that area. Besides a very
competent manager, the Credit Union has five other employees. On the
front lines are Beverly Barrett,

Kim Soulliere

Photo by Kathleen Knowles
Photo by Kathleen Knowles

and Helen Detary

Members can count on being recognized and greeted with a smile. They can rest assured their business will be handled efficiently. These gals make the day to day transactions such as deposits, withdrawals and transfers. It is their mission to make sure each and every member has a pleasant experience every time they walk through the doors.

Theresa Millsap has worked for the Credit Union since 2001. She works in the IT Department and is charged with handling all electronic funds in and out of the credit union including payroll deduction, ACH deposits and withdrawals, ATM transactions and Certificate of Deposits. Her expertise in these areas are invaluable to both members and the Credit Union.

The Loan Department, Mortgages and Collections are handled by Kathleen Knowles, who also has worked for the Credit Union since 2001.

Photo by Kathleen Knowles

Advantages of Blue Water Federal Credit Union……..

Credit Unions are non-profit, Banks are for profit !
You are an owner with just one share!
Lower competitive rates because of non-profit status!
Rates are not tiered! You get the same rate as everyone else!
One member, one vote, regardless of the amount you have on deposit!

Lower fees! (The CU has no fees for profit)
Free Checking! (No fee per check and no monthly charge)
No monthly fee if you don’t use your account!
No monthly fee for using your account!
Friendly, personable, efficient staff!

You are not a customer, you are family!

Courtesy of the Credit Union Website

How to join the Credit Union…….

Do you work for the Federal Government? If you do, you are eligible to join the Credit Union and enjoy all the services it has to offer. The Credit Union’s field of membership includes postal employees in the counties of St. Clair, Huron, Sanilac and Tuscola; the towns of Armada, Memphis, Mt. Clemens, New Baltimore, New Haven, St. Clair Shores, Clifford, Imlay City and Lapeer.

Federal Employes working in the counties or towns listed above (Examples listed below, but not limited to)

U.S Customs
U.S. Immigration
U.S. Boarder Patrol
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Federal Court Employees
Federal Representatives and their employees
Military Personnel

Immediate family of a current Credit Union member, as well as immediate family of an eligible Credit Union member can join.

Call or come into the office and join the Credit Union Family.

If you are already a member, why not be a volunteer? The Credit Union is always looking for fresh faces to serve on the board, supervisory and loan committees. Get involved! Call the Credit Union today!

Blue Water Federal Credit Union
526 Water St. Suite 113
Port Huron, MI 48060 810-985-6993

Kathleen Knowles
Contributing Writer

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Kathleen Knowles is a life-long resident of Port Huron and a 1973 graduate of Port Huron High School. After attending St. Clair County Community College, she has worked for credit unions all of her life as well as a professional dog show handler, known for handling Pekingese. Kathleen has been writing fiction for years as a hobby, having posted many stories online.

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Disclaimer: Blue Water Healthy Living is an online magazine located in Port Huron, Michigan. Our purpose is to promote healthy living by showcasing the Blue Water Area, its people, issues and surroundings. This online magazine is devoted to providing healthy living related stories, local happenings, and commentary. Often inspiring and uplifting, our stories come from our heart and soul to promote the enjoyment of a more fulfilling Blue Water Area lifestyle. The material on this web site is provided for informational and amusement purposes only and is not to be confused with any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of Blue Water Healthy Living.

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