In a Nutshell: The motto for Hudson Valley Credit Union is “People helping people,” and the long-running institution demonstrates this through its active community engagement and support for its members. The credit union maintains a robust offering of financial literacy programs for people of all ages, from middle school to adulthood. And it encourages its staff members to volunteer for local nonprofit organizations. About 35 Hudson Valley Credit Union staff members currently sit on nonprofit boards across its service area. The credit union also stepped up to help businesses, nonprofits, and its members in innovative ways in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the COVID-19 pandemic made its way across the U.S. beginning in March, tellers from various branches of the Hudson Valley Credit Union altered their productivity to sew reusable cloth face masks to share with their co-workers.
With uncertainty in the air, the credit union’s team members took the initiative to chip in to help keep each other safe. The tellers sewed just over 1,000 masks in about five weeks, said Lisa Morris, Hudson Valley Credit Union Assistant Vice President, Public Relations and Corporate Communications.
In fact, the institution’s motto is “People helping people.” This philosophy holds true whether credit union members are taking advantage of the range of financial services it provides or the Hudson Valley Credit Union is supporting nonprofit organizations in the communities it serves.
Since 1963, Hudson Valley Credit Union has been dedicated to helping provide a higher quality of life for its members, friends, families, and community members in the Hudson Valley.
Morris said the long-running institution began life as a credit union specifically for employees of IBM, but when the large company began downsizing in the late 1980s, Hudson Valley Credit Union expanded to a SEG-based (Select Employee Groups) credit union.
The credit union’s expansion continued in the late 1990s, with a community charter granted in 2003. By 2010, through a series of mergers and acquisitions, the credit union was serving four counties in New York — Dutchess, Ulster, Orange, and Putnam.
“Last year, we made the very important decision to become a New York State chartered credit union,” Morris said. “So, as of October 1 last year, we dropped our federal charter and we now serve 12 counties in New York State. It effectively tripled our potential membership overnight.”
We recently spoke to Morris about Hudson Valley Credit Union’s dedication to its communities and how it demonstrates this through its extensive financial literacy programs, volunteer efforts, and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Financial Literacy Initiatives for All Age Groups
Morris discussed Hudson Valley Credit Union’s robust financial literacy programs, which she said cover all age groups.
“We partner with BALANCE Financial Fitness, which offers one-on-one counseling as well as webinars, podcasts — things like that — that people can do on their own time,” she said.
Geared toward adults, BALANCE’s topics include developing a workable spending and savings plan, getting out of debt, buying a home, and planning for the future. The service is available in English and Spanish.
“We also offer in-school programs, partnering with Banzai for middle schools and EverFi for high schools,” Morris said. “Both of them are a mix of online and in-classroom learning with turnkey curriculum for teachers.”
At the middle school level, the program focuses on budgeting and spending, and how to apply those concepts to real-world scenarios, she explained.
“The EverFi program is a little more in-depth at the high school level,” she said. “It’s usually used by juniors and seniors, and it gets into things like how to pay your first taxes, what to expect when dealing with student loans, and even saving for retirement.”
Morris said 12 high school and 14 middle schools in Hudson Valley Credit Union communities are using the programs.
Hudson Valley Credit Union also has its own financial literacy trainers who go out into the community to teach classes, she said.
“We host anywhere between 15 and 30 of those, depending on the year,” she said. “We have a very successful first-time homebuyer seminar that usually takes place in the spring and the fall.”
Of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic to consider, the credit union has been able to shift many of its in-person classes to virtual webinars.
“We had a really successful one in July where we partnered with Dr. Lynn Richardson, who is an author who talks about how to save for your first home,” Morris said. “Over 130 people were on the webinar.”
The credit union has also developed several of its own financial literacy courses.
Strengthening the Community by Sponsoring Events and Volunteering for Nonprofits
Hudson Valley Credit Union’s community support extends well beyond financial literacy initiatives. Morris discussed some of the other ways the financial institution gets involved with, and helps strengthen, its communities.
“We currently have about 35 of our staff who sit on over 40 different nonprofit boards or committees,” Morris said. “One of our core values is to be respected by the communities that we serve, and we very strongly stress to our staff that we want them to be the type of people who give back.”
She said that, while community involvement is encouraged, the credit union promotes the idea for staff members to get involved in organizations of their own choosing. Morris said the credit union is regularly asked to participate in community organizations and there is no shortage of something for everyone.
The credit union also maintains a community involvement committee that helps to find ways for staff to participate in fundraising events or volunteer efforts such as Meals on Wheels or community walkathons, she said.
Hudson Valley Credit Union also engages in a lot of charitable giving each year, Morris said. The credit union has had to scale back its giving budget slightly for this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is offering promotional assistance to its nonprofit partners in the form of social media posts and mentions.
The financial institution also hosts events and seminars that aren’t necessarily focused on financial literacy.
“We hold a variety of member seminars and events each year, including defensive driving classes,” according to the Hudson Valley Credit Union website. “Our most popular events continue to be our paper shred days and yearly electronics recycling event.”
Helping Members and Small Businesses Navigate the COVID-19 Pandemic
As with so many businesses across the country, 2020 has been an interesting year for Hudson Valley Credit Union. The institution has had to pivot in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in doing so, is working hard to meet the needs of its members and communities.
“Much of what we’ve been focusing on lately is about the Paycheck Protection Program from the Small Business Administration,” Morris said. “We actually were able to help over 880 of our business members. They received $34 million in PPP loans.”
Navigating the SBA programs was a challenge because the rules and guidelines were shifting on a regular basis, she said. That’s why the credit union created as part of its COVID-19 response an extended team beyond its business lending group to help tackle the issue.
Hudson Valley Credit Union also offered mortgage and loan deferment options to its members who were financially impacted by the pandemic.
Credit union team members also stepped up to help local businesses and nonprofits whenever possible, Morris said. This included making phone calls on behalf of several nonprofits to their supporters.
Morris recounted one of her favorite success stories from these initiatives, in which the credit union staff made about 2,000 phone calls for a theater group in Wappingers Falls. The group’s live performances were halted for the season, and staff members called the group’s patrons to make sure their contact information on file was still accurate for future communications.
The group reported that 75% of their subscribers for this coming season renewed without any promise of actual performances, Morris said.
“So, 75% of their people still gave their membership dues,” she said. “It was amazing. I was very excited about that.”
Gearing Up for the Annual Food for Vets Program
While the pandemic caused the credit union to shift its efforts in some ways, its focus remains on serving the community.
“Coming up next month is a community effort that we do every year, and we’re doing it this year, it’s called Food for Vets,” Morris said. “During the month of October, all of our branches, as well as our staff lunch rooms, have donation bins for non-perishable food and personal care items that we then donate to the Castle Point Veterans Food Bank.”
Each year in conjunction with four other local credit unions, the drive collects 20 to 30 tons of items to donate to veterans in need.