In a Nutshell: Service Credit Union first opened in New Hampshire in 1957 and now has 50 branches and serves members all over the world. The financial institution also serves members on military bases in Germany — bringing the credit union movement that began in Germany in the mid-1800s full circle, in a way. Today, Service Credit Union offers a full suite of modern financial products and services, including online banking and a mobile app. But it also supports its members’ financial well-being with a range of financial literacy programs. And it gives back to the community in several ways, including raising supplies for those in need and making monetary donations to area causes. Service Credit Union also helped its members and communities remain physically safe and financially secure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit unions as we know them today can trace their roots back to Germany in the mid-1800s. By the early 20th century, the credit union movement had found its way to the U.S., with the co-op, nonprofit alternatives to banks springing up around the country.
In a way, Service Credit Union brought things back around full circle. The New Hampshire-based institution was founded to support military personnel and their families at what was then Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire.
But as the credit union grew over the years, it not only opened its membership to people outside the military, it expanded to offer its services to Air Force bases in Germany, where the whole movement began.
“Our more than 800 employees provide financial services at 50 walk-in locations throughout New Hampshire, North Dakota, Massachusetts, and Germany,” according to the credit union website. “Service and community are at the core of what we do. We take pride in always being prepared for our members, empowering our staff, and innovating for the future.”
We recently chatted with Jaime Yates and Anna Baskin — Service Credit Union’s Community Relations Manager and Content Manager, respectively — to learn more about how the institution helps guide its members to financial health while also supporting the communities where it operates.
An Array of Resources to Support Financial Well-Being among All Age Groups
Because improving the financial well-being of its members is a key part of Service Credit Union’s mission, the institution provides an array of financial literacy tools to help its members gain financial stability and thrive.
“Reaching your financial goals requires knowledge and skills,” according to the credit union. “Without an understanding of financial topics and terms, it can be challenging to make informed decisions about how best to reach your goals. Service Credit Union helps expand your financial knowledge with courses and programs to keep you informed.”
Yates elaborated on the numerous ways in which Service Credit Union provides financial literacy resources and opportunities to members. She said one of the organization’s goals for 2021 is to focus even more on financial literacy.
“It’s our responsibility to provide (financial literacy) in various ways,” she said. “It depends on how people want to consume these resources. Not everyone wants to read and not everyone wants to make phone calls and set up appointments.”
That’s why the credit union partners with both EverFi and GreenPath Financial Wellness.
“Our EVERFI Achieve program is a digital financial literacy library designed to help you better manage your money. Our interactive financial literacy library consists of 30 training sequences, ranging from 3-6 minutes each,” according to the credit union website.
The sequences are designed to be used on mobile devices and tablets, and cover topics including credit cards, building emergency savings, retirements, and homeownership.
GreenPath offers more personal guidance through counseling.
“The GreenPath certified counselors help people achieve their financial goals from managing debt to making housing decisions or teaching people how to make informed financial decisions,” according to Service Credit Union. “Speak with a counselor today to get started on your financial wellness journey.”
These programs are generally geared toward the financial needs of adults, but the financial institution also offers programs for kids and teens, which help young people establish a strong financial literacy foundation from an early age.
Its Bite of Reality program is an interactive reality fair for junior high and high school students. Through app-based learning, the students are able to choose a career that comes with predetermined factors such as salary, family, loans, debt, and medical insurance payments.
“With the goal of staying within their monthly budget, students work with credit union volunteers to make simulated spending decisions on housing, cars, food, clothes, and more,” according to the credit union.
A Responsibility to Give Back in Meaningful Ways
“At Service Credit Union, our mission is doing what is right for our members by: improving financial well-being, supporting the communities we serve, and creating value and enduring relationships,” according to the website. “We partner with local and national organizations that have a meaningful impact, supporting their causes both domestically and overseas.”
And with 35 branches in New Hampshire, Yates said it’s important to ensure the institution is supporting impactful causes.
“It’s our responsibility to give back to the community, but also to do that in ways that most of our membership would be proud to support as well,” she said. “I’m also proud of everything that we do, but we really try to find things in each town as well as statewide initiatives such as Toys for Tots.”
For the past few years, the credit union has participated in the Pack-a-Pack program, Yates said.
“We partner with our local news station and radio stations to collect backpacks and school supplies for children in need in the state of New Hampshire,” she said.
As with so many planned events in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic halted the in-person Pack-a-Pack program, but Service Credit Union launched a virtual campaign to raise funds and then purchased the backpacks, which were then distributed by the Boys and Girls Club.
“We also created a brand new project called Stay Warm with Service,” Yates said. “We purchased 5,000, bags, hats, gloves, scarves, and mittens. And again, at another volunteer day with staff, we packed them all and donated them to 39 locations across New Hampshire, which was pretty powerful.”
Baskin explained that the credit union also remains active in serving its overseas communities, including helping new members who are just arriving in Germany.
Service Credit Union also hosts a series of various community events, including paper shredding days and tax preparation seminars.
Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic to Help Members and the Community
The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges and new needs not only for Service Credit Union members but for the communities the institution serves as well.
“The first thing that we did was purchase masks and surgical caps,” Yates said. “We donated over 27,000 surgical grade masks to different organizations and hospitals around the state of New Hampshire. We also donated 15,000, surgical caps when those became a need as well. We were able to secure deliveries and get them here rather quickly.”
Baskin said that Service Credit Union was the primary sponsor for Pop-Up NH. The project was a direct effort to help the local arts and culinary scene stay afloat through the pandemic. Patrons could enjoy socially distanced outdoor dining and activities while raising money for local businesses.
“That was a huge success and helped generate a lot of revenue for those businesses and really helped them stay alive through the pandemic,” she said.
Service Credit Union also worked to keep its employees and members safe while still being able to serve them. At various times in 2020, the credit union’s branches were only open by appointment only or available via drive-through service.
“On the product side in terms of COVID, we offer a twice a year Skip-a-Pay service for members to skip their auto or personal loan,” Baskin said. “Usually it’s offered for a small fee. It often comes in handy around the holidays. During COVID, we offered Skip-a-Pay for an extended period and at no fee to provide some financial relief to our members.”
She said the credit union also offered a 0% APR relief loan for qualifying members in need.
Ultimately, our conversation with Yates and Baskin illuminated the many ways in which Service Credit Union lives up to its name, whether it’s helping members establish a solid financial foundation or giving back to the community.