Fun Money for a Cause

Credit unions encourage employees to support local businesses — and give them cash to do so.

Shanae Spivey, who works at AUCU’s Eastchase Branch in Montgomery, took her son Gavin to their pizza favorite, Tomatino’s Pizza & Bake Shop in Montgomery, hoping “to spread a little positivity.”

Sometimes what you need in a crisis is cold, hard cash. And credit unions across Alabama are giving just that to their employees with only one instruction — spend it locally.

At Auburn University Credit Union, employees got $25, most of which went to local restaurants, says President and CEO Henry Armstrong. The employees took photos of the restaurant or the food or themselves with the food and posted them to the credit union’s social media site as a fun way of showing their support.

“We have roughly 45 employees, so it’s not a huge financial commitment for us,” says Armstrong, but it’s a way to show the community “that we’re here to support them.”

On a more serious note, the credit union is also supporting the local food bank and hospitals.

In the Gadsden area, Alabama Teachers Credit Union, with about 85 employees in five northeastern counties, let an employee committee develop a plan to support local business and encourage local residents. The team works with $100 per employee.

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Each Friday the credit union orders a meal for employees from a local restaurant — supporting both the restaurant and the employees who have to work in an office when they might rather be working at home, says CEO and President Ron Summerall.

In addition, ATCU purchases gift cards to local restaurants and from time to time includes one with a transaction receipt for a random drive-through customer.

One day they brought in a food truck and shared the meal — remotely — with the senior citizen facility across the street from the credit union.

Legacy Community Federal Credit Union, based in Birmingham, took a different approach — a $250 bonus for employees with no strings attached.

“We think all of it goes into community,” says President and CEO Joe McGee. Though their 115 employees are working and being paid, they face the same challenges other workers do — kids out of school, for example — “so it’s a tough economic time for everyone.”

Though the lobby may be shut, the employees are working so that customers won’t be inconvenienced any more than necessary, he says. “People like to be able to get to their money in a crisis.”

It’s all part of a “people helping people” campaign organized by the League of Southeastern Credit Unions.

Cash for employees is just one part of the League’s overall campaign, says Patrick La Pine, CEO of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU). “We have heard from many of our credit unions about the extra miles they’re going to assist their members by offering skip-a-pay programs, fee waivers, low-interest lending options and more.”

Many are donating directly to groups and projects aiding the Covid-19 battle — food banks, food for front-line workers and more.

And when individual member credit unions have provided their employees with cash for local spending, the League has offered a match of $25 per employee, provided directly to a local nonprofit that’s helping people get through the virus crisis.

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