In a Nutshell: US Community Credit Union has maintained a presence in the Nashville area since its founding in 1949. Over the years, the credit union has expanded its reach and currently serves five counties in Tennessee. And USCCU makes it a point to give back to the areas it serves. The organization works with area students through a number of financial literacy initiatives including a training academy that teaches high school seniors how to run a credit union. The credit union also supports the community through event sponsorships and donations, including raising more than $300,000 for a local children’s hospital. Because of its dedication to its residents, we are recognizing US Community Credit Union with our Editor’s Choice™ Award for Community Commitment.
Little did Aaron Haddix know that when he signed up to participate in the inaugural US Community Credit Union high school intern program, the experience would help to define his life’s path for years to come.
As one of several Nashville area high school students to participate in the paid internship during the summer of 2012, Haddix spent his senior year of high school managing operations at one of the credit union’s high school branches.
“I loved every bit of it,” Haddix told us. “And then I went full-time with the credit union a week after I graduated, and I’ve been working here ever since.”
Haddix started off his USCCU career as a call center employee before working as a teller at several branches. Today, Haddix is one of the credit union’s Marketing Representatives.
He’s also a great example of how the US Community Credit Union’s financial literacy and community outreach efforts can make a difference in people’s lives.
The credit union was founded in 1949 by 11 VA Hospital employees in downtown Nashville. Over the years, the institution saw steady growth, and it evolved as it went through several mergers and expansions. In 2005, it officially became known to Nashville area residents as the US Community Credit Union.
With a new name came a significant period of growth. Today, the credit union serves anybody who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, or Wilson counties in Tennessee.
Along the way, USCCU has also built up an impressive reputation for giving back to the community in significant ways. The credit union supports a number of financial literacy initiatives focused on both children and adults. It also promotes volunteerism among its employees and demonstrates its giving spirit by raising money and donating to area causes and organizations and participating in community events.
For its dedication to the people and organizations in the region, we are recognizing US Community Credit Union with our Editor’s Choice™ Award for Community Commitment.
We recently spoke with Haddix to learn more about the credit union’s community engagement and financial literacy efforts.
Financial Literacy Initiatives for Audiences Ranging from Kindergarten Students to Adults
“It all kind of started with teaching financial literacy in a few elementary schools,” Haddix said of USCCU’s educational efforts. “Then we started working with the high schools as well, and we eventually transitioned to what we call an academy model.”
The academy model is the program Haddix went through in his high school days. The credit union currently facilitates the award-winning program in McGavock High School and Hillsboro High School where the institution also maintains branches. The program was most recently recognized as the Experiential Learning Innovator of the Year by the Academies of Nashville.
“We hire 10 interns a year at each branch,” Haddix said. “They work all summer long and train on how to run a credit union, dealing with money, and how to do transactions. Then when the school year starts, they actually run the credit union.”
USCCU staff spends more than 3,800 hours mentoring the students each year with a mission to educate the students to lead future generations and make the best financial decisions.
Haddix said in collaboration with Junior Achievement, USCCU employees also teach financial literacy lessons in kindergarten classes, and partners with 19 elementary and middle schools in the area to deliver financial education on a regular basis.
“To help our local students learn good financial habits at an early age, USCCU works with local elementary and middle schools to offer a savings program where students can open accounts and make deposits twice a month at their school,” according to the organization’s website. “These students can watch as their money grows and they learn from our representatives who help them set savings goals.”
Haddix said USCCU also partners with Green Path Financial Wellness to deliver financial literacy counseling to its members.
“We pay for all of our members to get into financial counseling if they would like to, whether they’re trying to get out of debt or planning for retirement — whatever financial stage they’re at,” he said. “They can get the education and knowledge they need to start handling their finances better.”
USCCU Makes Big Impacts via Volunteering, Donations, and Sponsoring Events
Haddix also happens to be the Chair of US Community Credit Union’s Community Involvement Committee, and he filled us in on some of the organization’s community outreach highlights.
“The committee brainstorms to come up with the best ways that we can give back to our communities,” he said. “In addition to working in schools, we have given back to nonprofits, sponsored multiple races, and other community events.”
In 2010, the USCCU, along with two other credit unions, formed the Credit Unions for Kids Golf Classic which benefits the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. The tournament has raised more than $300,000 over the past eight years to help local families get the care needed for their children.
“Our tournament is unlike any tournament as we take a childlike spirit by creating games and an ever-changing tournament so each year there is a new surprise to have participants waiting on the edge of their seat,” according to the USCCU website.
Haddix said the credit union has worked with many other area nonprofits in some capacity over the years. Another standout is GROW Enrichment, which is about a mile-and-half from USCCU’s main office.
“As a community development partner, GROW seeks to increase sustainable land use in the urban setting,” according to the GROW website. “Through a partnership with Metro Nashville Parks Department, GROW operates a large project site at Two Rivers Park where we are applying permaculture methodology to engage the public in the process of restoring an urban green space.”
Haddix said multiple teams of USCCU volunteers have helped clear out land on GROW Enrichment’s seven acres.
“That doesn’t really have anything to do with the credit union,” Haddix said. “But we want to help give back in any way that we can. It doesn’t have to be something that directly benefits us.”
Programs, Products, and Services, Including a New Low-Interest Loan Program, that Put Members First
US Community Credit Union also strives to do what’s best for its members through the products and services it offers.
“One of the big things we’ve done is we took the time to apply for a grant to help our communities get out of trouble with payday lenders,” Haddix said. “It’s such a big problem that we see at the credit union.”
He said consumers are getting loans with up to 350% interest rates from those lenders, then, when they can’t pay off the loan they get another loan to pay off the initial loan, and so on.
“We were given $2 million to create a product that gets people out of that cycle,” Haddix said. “Basically, we give them a loan with a much lower interest rate than these payday lenders. We pay off their loans, and they pay us back to rebuild their credit. Plus, they’re not paying that high interest rate anymore.”
He said this recent example helps to highlight how USCCU is always looking for new ways to help people get out of bad financial situations and help them become independent with their money and manage it successfully.
“The best part about working with this credit union is that we do a lot of work that has integrity behind it,” Haddix said. “We’re not doing things just to look good — and there’s a lot of things that we do that goes unnoticed. We just work toward our mission to take care of people and teach people how to manage money.”