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Salk: A local credit union inspiring its community

Jan 31, 2024, 11:26 AM | Updated: Feb 2, 2024, 11:20 am

Kitsap Credit Union...

(Kitsap Credit Union)

(Kitsap Credit Union)

By Mike Salk

In the heart of Kitsap County, a financial institution is making waves not just as a banking entity but as a beacon of community support. Kitsap Credit Union (KCU), with its deep-rooted commitment to the well-being of the community, has emerged as a driving force for positive change. From its humble beginnings with seven individuals employed at the Navy shipyard in Bremerton, KCU has evolved into an institution deeply committed to filling gaps in the community, particularly in the realms of housing, hunger, and financial services. Today, in collaboration with the KCUCares Foundation, KCU continues to build on the spirit of community benefit, a core value that has defined its existence for nearly 90 years.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with David Inglish, Outreach Coordinator for KCU. In talking to him, I was struck by how fundamental this has been through the history of the organization. It starts with the name. Kitsap Credit Union is, of course, a credit union. While they may offer many of the same services as a bank, the differences between the two are crucial.

“At a fundamental level, a credit union is different than a bank in that its members are the owners,” Inglish told me. “So the owners, these members get to work with the credit union to decide where they want to put their focus, what kind of services they offer, like our Gold Checking account. That’s something that was inspired by our members, one of the best rates in the nation. But we didn’t stop there. That’s just one part of this larger puzzle. We also heard from our members that we should continue to support our community in ways that aren’t just banking services, like loans or the Gold Checking account, but also how we show up for our community in the needs that are there.”

Once the membership made it clear that they wanted to support the community, it became important to decide in which way they could best help. Like any good leader, Kitsap Credit Union first listened and then acted. What they found was that they could be most impactful in three areas: housing, hunger, and financial literacy.

Housing

For years, we have heard that there is a housing crisis in the Northwest. Inglish recognized that as a reality but offered a way for the KCUCares Foundation to help.

“We support Habitat for Humanity, for example, in supporting our community members, make sure that they have stable housing but also housing that is not falling apart. But we’re also looking at other partners. Coffee Oasis is another great one for young adults. Shelter services are incredible work – making sure that our youth in the community have a place to sleep and a warm bed waiting for them. But those are just a couple examples of where we’re supporting in regard to homelessness.”

Hunger

With homelessness often comes hunger, so it’s only natural for KCUCares Foundation to partner with Northwest Harvest. This holiday season, they combined to raise more than 23 million meals for hungry individuals across the Washington State community at large.

They also partnered with 14 local food banks and 11 backpack feeding programs. By partnering, they utilize the three “T’s:” time, talent, and treasure. Three important ways to help!

Financial Literacy

While the first two categories mostly involve time and treasure (i.e. money), this one is all about utilizing their talent. As a financial institution, Kitsap Credit Union is uniquely suited to help people learn about and understand how money works. They’ve done this in a variety of important and impressive ways.

“We’ve partnered with over 21 schools,” Inglish told me. “We bring best practice financial wellness curriculums to their classrooms in an accessible way. So these students are able to work on a fully digital, modular, super easy-to-access resource to learn about all the different parts of how money comes and goes in their life. Everything from basic banking all the way to federal tax simulation.”

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The program works and he has seen the results.

“One good example is a student came back to us after doing the curriculum, and told us proudly that they finally had the conversation with their parents to start an emergency savings account to prepare for any eventualities… the car breaks down medical expenses, anything like that. And they were so happy to announce that they had saved $500 in that account.”

In short, the program had taught the student how to help their family prepare for the unexpected costs that can throw a family off track. It’s a fantastic way to bring the three pillars of KC Cares Foundation together. If a family learns to set aside money to avoid those bumps in the road, maybe it can help them stay in their home and avoid the challenges that come with that loss.

These stories not only showcase the tangible financial outcomes, such as savings and entrepreneurial endeavors, but also highlight the intangible aspects—empowerment and a sense of control over one’s financial future.

Kitsap Credit Union’s commitment to financial education is evidently making a meaningful impact, enabling individuals to make informed decisions, plan for the future, and pursue their dreams. Inglish’s passion for these success stories reflects the transformative potential of financial education in fostering a community of financially empowered individuals.

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Salk: A local credit union inspiring its community