Time Capsule Collection for the People’s 100th Anniversary Celebration
People’s Credit Union members have brought relics from the institution’s history, hoping to fill a time capsule that will eventually be buried to celebrate the nonprofit’s 100th anniversary.
Old advertisements, letters, photos and newspaper clippings are among the items delivered to the credit union’s six branches across the state by members who have done business with the credit union for decades, according to the president and CEO. management, Sean Daly.
The member-owned, state-chartered credit union was started in 1922 by seven men working together at the United States Naval Base Torpedo Station on Goat Island. As non-profit co-operative credit unions expanded nationally at the time after gaining popularity in Canada, the organization’s founders, Thomas Slavens, Charles McManus, Herbert Williams, Thomas Moriarty, James Murphy , Thomas Short and William O’Neill, believed they could create something to meet the needs of people like them.
“They were looking around Aquidneck Island and they didn’t think the banks that were here at the time were serving the working class of Rhode Island properly,” Daly said. “We constantly think about what they started, the commitment they made when they started it, and our commitment to the standards they created.”
The notion of “people helping others,” one of the credit union’s mottos, Daly said, continues to dictate how it operates. Akin to a cooperative, the People’s Credit Union has always owed its responsibility to the community rather than profits, the organization said.
This story includes Ellen Ford, who started working at People’s in the 1980s and became the first female CEO just before the turn of the century.
“We hired people who wanted to help people,” she said. “We tried hard not to hire someone who was just looking for a job, because it wasn’t just a job. You had to be someone who really cared about people, wanted to help people, and went the extra mile. I saw that all the time in the staff there. Those who didn’t follow this mantra didn’t really last; it was very clear that they just didn’t fit in. You must be a certain type of person.
Ford began working at the credit union’s Middletown branch on West Main Road as a cashier in 1982, shortly after graduating from Rogers High School. She remembers when the institution moved to a larger space in the same location a few years later, where it currently has its headquarters.
“First we were getting lost, because the building was so big, and I wondered what we were going to do with that much space,” she said. “Then I remember that some time later I had to equip the third floor because we lacked space. And by the time I left the credit union, we were looking for places to put people. The growth is quite remarkable.
Six years after the founding of the credit union, membership had exceeded 1,400. Shortly after President Roosevelt signed the National Credit Union Act in 1934, which created a national system for establishing and overseeing federal credit unions, membership had exceeded 5,000. By 1937, the People’s Credit Union moved from its original location in Newport to a larger facility on Upper Thames Street. It opened its first branch in Middletown in 1960. By 1998 four more branches had been established in Portsmouth, Bristol, North Kingstown and Wakefield.
Membership exceeded 40,000 and assets reached more than $500 million in 2019, according to the credit union.
Ford said her church-oriented and community service upbringing made her a good fit for the nonprofit. She worked her way up the credit union employee ranks, finding a love for getting to know the members and the math, and returned to school in the evenings to study accounting. Soon after, she was promoted to the accounting department of the credit union. From there, Ford became chief accounting officer, then chief financial officer and, in 1999, CEO.
“I never thought of myself as a female CEO; I was CEO,” she said. “Every conference I attended, I was maybe the only woman in the room. It was a very male-dominated industry. It changed somewhat for the better. Despite that, I felt equal In my experience, the majority of men at credit unions in Rhode Island were extremely helpful and friendly.There was a lot of respect there.
During its rise within the financial institution, specifically in the early 1990s, the financial industry underwent extreme changes, especially locally. People’s Credit Union has adapted, Ford said, focusing more on overall financial services rather than just lending.
“Regulation has become a priority,” she said. “There was the banking crisis in Rhode Island in 1991. Fortunately, PCU had federal insurance, so we weren’t affected by that. We actually grew a lot in that time; people came to us as a solution. We were the opposite of the whole debacle.
According to Daly, the organization prides itself on getting to know its members, hearing about their finances and lives, and working with them to achieve goals and milestones, such as buying a car. , a home or starting a business. According to the credit union’s website, employees are “listeners first, doers second.”
Ford also worked to improve the culture within the credit union, mandating sensitivity and trust training to ensure employees could interact safely with members.
“When I became CEO, we really thought about what the culture of the credit union was and what we wanted it to be and how do we maximize that,” she said. “Our members had to trust us; that’s the most important thing. If they don’t, we lose.
The mentality of being more than a place for personal finance extends beyond credit union members.
Annette Correia, Senior Depositary Operations Representative, said: “I started at People’s Credit Union as part of a work-study program in 1978, when I was 17 at Portsmouth High School. . In a way, I was brought up here.
The 100th anniversary of the credit union gave him the opportunity to reflect and look to the future. What many may not know is that the institution’s spiral logo is made up of apostrophes of the “People” in the name of the credit union. A green wheel of sorts, the apostrophes combine in a circular fashion to form a helix – both a nod to the organization’s founding and a symbol of what it strives to do to “propel its limbs forward,” Daly said.
The logo was recently redesigned to include only seven apostrophes, one for each of the credit union’s founders. The font style of its tagline, “You Belong Here”, has also been changed to be more contemporary.
As it moves forward, People’s also wants to use the talent of its employees to reach deeper into the community and continue to improve its work with local nonprofits to provide support and volunteerism for community initiatives, Daly said. The organization has partnered with the University of Rhode Island as the official credit union of URI Women’s Athletics, and every win a women’s team wins at the university results in a donation to a worthy cause. the credit union.
“Our 100th anniversary gave us the opportunity to go back to the founders and ask, ‘What were they trying to build?'” said Daly, who was named CEO after the retirement of Ford in 2019. “I think we have a good legacy from that mission. I think they would be proud to see us today and see our commitment to the community as what they envisioned.
“I think our centenary also gives us the opportunity to think, ‘What else can we do?’ “, did he declare.
For example, People’s recently launched a new mortgage product designed to help new homeowners. The idea is to offer the best credit union rate, lower payments in the first three years, and lower down payment.
To celebrate its centennial, the organization launched a partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation to donate 100 trees to members in each of its markets. The credit union has also engaged in the “Fill It Forward” campaign, purchasing recyclable water bottles for employees and members that come with a QR code, so each refill results in a Don.
A centennial event, featuring People’s Credit Union leaders Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano, Representative Deb Ruggiero and Senator Louis DiPalma, was held in February. Throughout the year, the credit union showcases and celebrates its members, holds quiz days and themed clothing days for employees, and celebrates its history with the introduction of new scholarship programs, community fundraisers and holiday meal donations.
“I was extremely fortunate to have a career at a credit union that aligned with my values,” Ford said. ” I have been very lucky. It really was the dream. In the meantime, members are still bringing artifacts from the early days of the credit union to fill the time capsule. It will be closed and buried in January 2023, to be reopened in 100 years.