The second day of the Missouri Credit Union Association’s (MCUA) Annual Advocacy Meeting started off with a hearty breakfast on March 11 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Jefferson City.
This year's meeting primarily focused on advocacy—the first MCUA meeting to do so in more than a decade.
"Advocacy is extremely important to credit unions," says Brian Eyestone, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Southpointe Credit Union (St. Louis). "Having an annual event that is solely dedicated to advocacy helps emphasize this importance."
Eyestone and fellow credit union advocates met early in the morning to prepare for their visits with lawmakers and fuel up for the day ahead of them.
Missouri Financial Institution Data Match Program
Also during breakfast, Wilma Fick, of the Family Support Division, discussed the Missouri Financial Institution Data Match (FIDM) Program.
The Missouri FIDM program is an automated exchange of data between the Family Support Division and financial institutions. The FIDM program ensures that Missouri's families receive the child support that they are entitled to.
“By participating in the Financial Institution Data Match program, credit unions help provide much needed support to Missouri children and families,” says Fick. She gave kudos to the 80 credit unions in Missouri that participate in this program; non-participating credit unions should visit this website.
Legislative Visits at the Capitol
Following the FIDM session and breakfast, attendees made their way to the Capitol to meet with elected officials, including State Treasurer Clint Zweifel. They discussed issues that could affect their members, such as HB 1217 that prohibits pension advances. During this meeting, Zweifel recognized credit unions' efforts to reach people in their communities and help them become more financially sound. For more details, click here.
In addition, groups of credit unions scheduled appointments with the legislators who represent their membership. These face-to-face meetings are vital to sharing the credit union difference with legislators.
“It’s important to visit with legislators and develop those relationships that can be utilized when we want to play offense," says Rick Nichols, president and CEO of River Region Credit Union (Columbia). "Even in times that we are not physically walking the halls of the Capitol, our team of lobbyists need the legislators to know they represent real people.”
Many credit union professionals brought their volunteers along as well. For example, First Missouri Credit Union's (St. Louis) volunteer Pat Yaeger took part in the event. Yaeger previously served as a state legislator and knew many of the current lawmakers.
“Pat was constantly stopping and saying hello to people she knew,” says Steve Poniewaz, vice president of Operations for First Missouri. “She enjoyed herself so much that she has already volunteered to come back next year. We appreciate the effort by MCUA in putting on the advocacy meeting – we had a great time.”
In addition, St. Louis credit union advocates Randy Yeck and Mike O'Brien, caught up with U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay (D-District 1). Yeck is the vice president of Human Resources for Vantage Credit Union and Mike O'Brien is the senior vice president and chief marketing officer for St. Louis Community Credit Union. See picture at right.
Several groups of credit union advocates and leaders were introduced on the floors of Missouri’s House of Representatives and the Senate. In his introduction, Rep. Paul Wieland (R-District 112) highlighted credit union membership and their reach in the state of Missouri.
“As not-for-profit financial cooperatives, owned by the people who use them, credit unions provide an important financial option for more than 1.4 million credit union members in the state,” said Rep. Wieland.
Sen. Paul LeVota (D-District 11) also introduced credit union representatives that day. In addition, he highlighted the financial literacy efforts of credit unions and the reality fair that MCUA and credit union volunteers held in the Capitol Rotunda that same day.
“Credit unions are focused on financial education and they have brought their efforts with them to the state Capitol today. Out in the rotunda, credit unions have helped bring a financial reality fair, where students receive a hands-on learning experience on budgeting and how to deal with life's financial challenges,” said Sen. LeVota.
Bringing a Reality Fair to the Capitol Rotunda
Throughout the morning, the Missouri Credit Union Charitable Foundation and credit union volunteers helped bring a financial reality fair to the Capitol Rotunda. Students from Rock Bridge High School attended the event. The 40 students were also introduced to the House of Representatives.
Not only did high school students learn about budgeting in a fun interactive way, but it also highlighted credit unions’ dedication to spreading financial literacy. This showcased the difference credit unions make in their communities to lawmakers.
"I had the opportunity to talk with a freshman representative about the importance of financial education for high school," says Eyestone. "This included the reality fairs that MCUA and credit unions helped to put on in 2013.”
Credit unions wrapped up the day with lunch at the Capitol. Several legislators stopped in to talk with credit union advocates during this time.
For example, Rep. Tim Remole (R-District 6) chatted about key issues with Horizon Credit Union’s (Macon) Board Chairman, Dennis Fessler over lunch.
MCUA thanks all of the credit union advocates and volunteers who made the Annual Advocacy Meeting a success!