Mountain West Credit Union Foundation Presents Annual Awards

Gala sets attendance record, raises money for charitable work

DENVER, Co. (Oct. 3, 2016) – The Mountain West Credit Union Foundation presented its annual credit union industry awards at the 9th Annual Star Gala held September 23 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, Colorado. Attendance was up 22% this year and gross income grew by 14% to support the work of the Foundation.

Each year, the Star Gala is held to honor outstanding credit unions and credit union professionals dedicated to the credit union movement and making a difference in their communities. This year, awards were presented to:

  • Partner Colorado Credit Union – Community Impact Award, winner
  • Desert Schools Federal Credit Union (AZ) – Community Impact Award, runner-up
  • Community Choice Credit Union (CO) – Credit Union of the Year Award (Under $100M Asset Category)
  • Denver Community Credit Union (CO) – Credit Union of the Year Award ($100M to $500M Asset Category)
  • Premier Members Credit Union (CO) – Credit Union Of the Year ($500M and over Asset Category)
  • Justin Wolfe, Canyon State Credit Union (AZ) – Emerging Leader Award
  • Distinguished Leader Awards:
    • Susan Frank, Desert Schools Federal Credit Union (AZ)
    • Eva Gaudio, Elevations Credit Union (CO)
    • Carla Hedrick, Denver Community Credit Union (CO)
    • Claudia Milan, Arapahoe Credit Union (CO)

“These award winners capture the true spirit of the credit union philosophy of people helping people,” said Dr. Dan Santangelo, Executive Director of the Mountain West Credit Union Foundation. “By pausing each year to recognize the outstanding efforts of those in the credit union movement, we are reminded of the importance of our founding principles and it reinvigorates our passion. The honorees make a difference in their communities, and in the lives of their members, every single day. It’s why we do what we do.”

Money raised from the event goes to fund Foundation programs that provide scholarships for numerous leadership, professional development and academic opportunities; financial services, development and public financial education grants; and other programs supporting credit unions in Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming, the states served by the Mountain West Credit Union Association.

About the awards/ winners:

Partner Colorado Credit Union, Community Impact Award winner. One of the founding principles of the credit union movement is the premise of “people helping people.” The Community Impact award honors a credit union for its commitment and dedication to the community it serves. Concerned about the risks a cash-based industry poses to public safety, Partner Colorado (under the DBA of Safe Harbor Private Banking) set about building a service to the cannabis industry that offered law-abiding businesses a manner in which to conduct financial transactions. The offering has taken millions of dollars of unprotected income off the streets and helped make doing business safer. Desert Schools Federal Credit Union (Phoenix, AZ) received the runner-up award for its Communi-Team program. Desert Schools provides employees with opportunities to regularly volunteer their time to serve non-profits throughout the three counties served by the credit union. In 2015, Desert Schools contributed 4,487 hours through 202 sponsored projects.

Community Choice Credit Union – Credit Union of the Year (Under $100M Assets). This award recognizes a credit union for innovation and outstanding achievements in the various areas of day-to-day operations, financial prowess, and member service. In 2015, Community Choice Credit Union implemented a program built to educate members on how to read and improve their credit score, regardless of income level. Through the one-on-one counseling sessions, credit union team members discovered that some members were paying substantially higher rates than necessary at other institutions. While the focus of the program remained on education, the credit union was able to move members to more reasonable products to fit members’ needs and goals. This resulted in members saving over $460,000.

Denver Community Credit Union – Credit Union of the Year Award ($100M-$500M Assets). This award recognizes a credit union for innovation and outstanding achievements in the various areas of day-to-day operations, financial prowess, and member service. Denver Community has long provided an award-winning financial education program. The credit union introduced an online and mobile banking platform that gives members access to mobile bill pay, statements, check deposit, and fraud protection tools. Denver Community is also a leader in the Bank On movement – pulling together non-profits, government agencies, and financial institutions to help the underserved and unbanked access financial opportunity.

The Premier Members Credit Union team accepts the award for Credit Union of the Year Award (Over $500M Assets).

The Premier Members Credit Union team accepts the award for Credit Union of the Year Award (Over $500M Assets).

Premier Members Credit Union – Credit Union of the Year Award (Over $500M Assets). This award recognizes a credit union for innovation and outstanding achievements in the various areas of day-to-day operations, financial prowess, and member service. Premier Members Credit Union recently completed a successful merger of equals. This merger combined two healthy, well-capitalized, similar-sized credit unions in 2015. The merger was successfully communicated and completed in-house without outside assistance, including branding, reintroduction of the credit union, and presentations to the two boards, employee groups, and member bases. Despite the challenges of a merger, Premier Members experienced an 8.5% growth in assets and a 16.4% growth in loans.

Justin Wolfe, Canyon State Credit Union (AZ), Emerging Leader Award. The emerging leader award is presented to a credit union employee who demonstrates outstanding contributions to the credit union movement, community service and leadership qualities. Wolfe is a graduate of the Mountain West Credit Union Leadership Institute, a Credit Union Development Educator, and a scholar of the Foundation’s Executive Leadership Program. He demonstrates character, trustworthiness, and professionalism. He was instrumental in reversing a declining membership trend and serves as a leader and role model for the local young credit union professionals group.

Distinguished Leaders:

The Distinguished Leaders Award Winners, Claudia Milan, Susan Frank, Eva Gaudio and Carla Hedrick with Foundation Board Chairman Todd Peterson.

The Distinguished Leaders Award Winners, Claudia Milan, Susan Frank, Eva Gaudio and Carla Hedrick with Foundation Board Chairman Todd Peterson.

Susan Frank, Desert Schools Federal Credit Union (AZ). Frank has provided dedicated service to the credit union movement for 30 years. She is a credit union activist, spending more than ten years attending the Government Affairs Conference and Hike the Hill initiatives. Her commitment to her community is an example for all. She has implemented an employee volunteer program, a financial literacy program, community service scholarships, and a community grants program at Desert Schools.

Eva Gaudio, Elevations Credit Union (CO). For 34 years, Gaudio’s passion has been financial literacy, advocacy for the credit union movement, and commitment to community. She is instrumental in supporting legislative issues on state and national levels through grassroots advocacy, including Hike the Hill and the Governmental Affairs Conference. She has an unwavering passion for financial literacy, working to pass financial literacy standards in the state education system and leads the financial literacy program at Elevations Credit Union, reaching nearly 10,000 students in the last four years.

Carla Hedrick, Denver Community Credit Union (CO). Hedrick has been a part of credit unions for more than 35 years. As chair of the Mountain West Government Affairs Committee, she made seven trips to Washington when credit unions were lobbying for the passage of The Credit Union Membership Access Act. And, in 2008, she testified on behalf of financial literacy standards in the state education system. Under her leadership, Denver Community Credit Union grew from $45 million in assets to $295 million, while never losing sight of the need to provide financial guidance and open doors to low income and credit challenged members.

Claudia Milan, Arapahoe Credit Union (CO). Milan spent three decades leading, volunteering, and driving credit unions forward as an executive at five different credit unions. She took the lead role at her once-troubled credit union, immediately repairing and rebuilding it into a leader for consumer advocacy, financial literacy, and community involvement. Milan has served on the Colorado Division of Financial Services Board, the Colorado Credit Union Association, the Institute of Certified Credit Union Executives, CUNA Sales and Service Operations Council, CUNA HR Council, and the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators.

About the Mountain West Credit Union Foundation

The Mountain West Credit Union Foundation is the charitable organization focused on the long-term success of credit unions in their community.  We accomplish our work through leadership development, professional development scholarships, academic scholarships, affordable financial services grants, credit union development grants and public financial education grants.

More information about the Mountain West Credit Union Foundation can be found at www.mwcua.com/foundation.

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