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The Evolution of the Cooperative

The first Credit Union, St. Mary’s Bank, was formed in 1909 under a cooperative business model, the same model in which Credit Unions operate today.  Most cooperatives operate by the seven cooperative principals, a set of guiding practices to ensure we are meeting the needs of our membership.  The cooperative business model is really very simple, people working together for the benefit of those that participate in the organization.  Those people, in our case members, receive benefits based on the practices of the cooperative.

The below Kings X short video depicts credit union membership in the early 1900’s.  Many of you won’t watch the 26-minute video, though I hope you do, as it really helps to understand the purpose of Credit Union’s and how they were formed. Skip through the first 3:00 and watch the video in its entirety, you will not be disappointed. 😊

As a cooperative in the 20th century our model is not much different than in the early 1900’s, however, today we do much more than pool our savings to provide affordable loan products.  While this is the flagship of our business model, we also pool resources such as; expertise and knowledge, through our volunteer Board of Directors and Supervisory Committee.  They provide oversight to the credit union, to community members, community organizations such as, Schoolcraft Tourism & Commerce and Manistique Area Schools, who assist with projects such as The Grind Coffee House & EEE Spirit Store, and partnerships with individual members who provide goods and services for the benefit of the organization.

As we work to explore ways to add member value to our cooperative, we consistently seek partnerships that provide more value to our members through programs encouraging resource sharing.  Some of our newer projects include a Shred Bin located in the lobby. This is a relatively low cost to the CU, but provides an invaluable service to the membership and helps protect against identity theft. We also accept wax and recycled cardboard rolls, members Rex & Judy Slingsby take these items to Marquette on a monthly basis and donate to Lake State Industries, who uses them to make fire starters, providing opportunities for people with disabilities.

Our next venture is a service that is much needed in our county, Plastic Recycling.  Currently we do not have an outlet for this type of recycling, leaving members to either dispose of these materials in landfills or drive them to Escanaba or Marquette.  We have created a unique partnership with several members who are willing to donate their time to drive the plastics to Escanaba on a monthly basis.  Additionally, Swanson Storage & Service LLC has offered to store the plastic in between drop offs.

These are just a few ways we are able to provide value to the membership through our cooperative structure.  Please continue to check back regularly for updates on current and new benefits.  Have an idea?  I invite you to stop in and see me, I’d love to talk about ways the Co-op can help benefit our membership through sharing of resources.

– Jennifer Watson