© GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MARY MACKAY
Because of a recent donation from the Souris Credit Union, Barb Lundrigan, executive director of the Main Street Family Resource Centre, was able to boost the centre’s nutrition supplement program so that it will provide $10 grocery cards twice-monthly to parents of children under one year of age.
The Souris Credit Union has proven that it’s way more fun to give than it is to receive.
In honour of its 60th year, the board of directors of this longstanding financial institution spread a happy anniversary wealth of $95,000 to worthwhile causes in the community.
That’s over and above its bursary program, which this year provided $1,800 to seven deserving students in the region.
“Our philosophy here is our credit union is more than just a financial institution; Souris Credit Union, as far as I am concerned, is an economic driver of the area,” say Souris Credit Union general manager Paul MacNeill.
“I believe we have a responsibility not just to provide financing but also a lot of initiatives within the town, when it comes to the charitable side of things and when it comes to the bursary.”
The first credit union in Souris started in 1954, with actual banking transactions being conducted at the kitchen table of Michael Lavie, who was one of the founding directors.
“The whole credit union movement is founded on filling a need where there was a lack of chances for people to borrow. It was felt that there was a niche there that (existing) banks weren’t serving,” MacNeill says.
Initially there were 43 members and credit union assets at the time were $42.
There are now nearly 3,300 people who have deposited $5 into a share account and have become members
Donations to the community are an ongoing practice for the Souris Credit Union, which gives $35,000 annually to local charities.
But this year that donation ante was upped to more than $95,000 with distribution of a special 60th anniversary fund of $60,000 from general revenue that was given to support programs in the community.
Souris Regional High School, for example, was the recipient of a substantial sum for its athletics and band programs.
“(Almost) every jersey has been replaced at Souris High School through either 100 per cent funding or a 50/50 split fundraising activity with Souris Credit Union . . . ,” MacNeill says.
“And Souris Credit Union just gave $5,500 for some instruments for the band program. Not everyone is a high school athletic stream type student so we wanted to give to a lot of different areas.”
The Main Street Family Resource Centre, which offers programs for pregnant women and parents with children ages six and under, also received enough money from the 60th Anniversary Fund to operate its nutrition supplement program for a year.
Prior to the donation, the centre provided a few food items, such as cheese and orange juice, weekly to clients.
That became too expensive on the centre’s limited budget, so they instead offered a $10 card once a month but even that became too costly.
“When the Credit Union was having their 60th anniversary they asked what we would do if we had more money. The supplement program is well used . . . so we wanted to offer that program more often again . . . ,” says Barb Lundrigan, executive director of the centre.
“Now we’re going to be able to give out supplement cards twice a month for the same — about $10. (Before) we had to cut it off when the baby was six months old, but now we can do it up to a year.”
With $10,000 provided by the Souris Credit Union, the Eastern Kings Sportsplex was able to purchase a new sound system.
“The community really rallied around our arena this year between the new glass and boards. The co-op made a substantial donation to do the mats and things.
“A lot of different companies came together, and so our arena has really been refreshed and invigorated,” MacNeill says.
Also in the works is a donation in support of a local skateboard and BMX park being proposed by Wheels, which is a group of youth whose goal is to raise money for the project.
“We have committed when they get their organizational structure in place that we’d be interested in helping that skate park,” MacNeill says.
The annual Lion’s Club seniors Christmas party is being completely funded and Souris Consolidated’s playground equipment fund also received $6,000 for its future build.
In addition to these donations, Souris Credit Union’s bursary program this year awarded seven high school graduates in the Kings County area a total of $12,600 in bursaries.
To date, nearly $135,000 has been given to students.
“(The recipients have) to be a member or the child of a member of the credit union because the service charges and interest that people pay here are what fund the bursary program. So it’s important to return them back to the members,” MacNeill says.
“In our area we have a large percentage of people who go through trade schools and they tend to be (people who remain in the community). So we always make sure at least half of our bursaries go to (students attending) colleges or trade schools and the (remainder) goes to (students at other educational institutions).”
These very substantial donations are based on the profitability of the Souris Credit Union, MacNeill says.
“That’s the key difference — your money stays in the area where you deal with the credit union,” he adds.
“The profits stay within the community so the more business people do with us the more we can return back.”