Many organizations have closed their doors and turned away customers in the wake of the pandemic. But “Angel of the Year-Business” lived up to its title. Desert Financial Credit Union has invested more than $ 5 million in 2020 to help members ($ 2,227,200), the community ($ 1,229,413) and employees ($ 1,815,279) during this period of need.
The state’s largest credit union and a member-owned co-op, Desert Financial’s mission to share success fuels a strong focus on philanthropy and community engagement. When the pandemic broke, leaders decided to redouble their efforts on this people-focused strategy and, instead of reducing, decided to set a record again.
“As an essential service it was important to do everything in our power to stay open,” said Jeff Meshey, President and CEO of Desert Financial. “Knowing that their finances are safe and accessible is essential for people with anxiety. We have therefore taken steps to ensure the safety of employees and members of our branch while creating more means for them to carry out contactless transactions, ”he continued.
During the pandemic, food banks in particular saw demand increase. “While so many people struggled with unemployment and reduced resources, we also took steps to help our members, community and employees meet their needs,” said Meshey.
Meshey says the health and safety of employees, especially those working in branch offices, was a top priority. Quick investments were made in masks, biohazard cleansing, and improvements to encourage social distancing. Employees have also been urged to apply for special funding to help those in financial difficulty, and benefits for most employees, such as personal time off, have been increased to improve work-life balance.
To help Desert Financial’s more than 350,000 members stay creditworthy and slow the spread of the virus, credit union leaders have taken swift action, including reducing or eliminating member fees, instituting hours for seniors and following up on all CDC recommendations for branch security. The immediate needs of the community have been identified and a $ 400,000 donation was distributed among four local food banks. Later a $ 100,000 a donation to the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance was made at their annual turkey drive.
Desert Financial was the first major organization to make a large donation to the Valley of the Sun United Way Covid-19 Relief Fund. During the remainder of the year, the fund continued to grant scholarships; engaging in random acts of kindness, such as providing lunches for medical and grocery staff; and teacher appreciation programs, such as Adopt-A-Teacher. The organization also sponsored two local blood drives and has practically kept pace with employee volunteerism. Support for partners, such as the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and causes serving first responders, veterans, children and families, has been increased.
“In a year like no other we have experienced record growth, so giving back with record generosity was the right thing to do,” added Jeff Meshey. “We’ve heard from so many struggling small businesses, but so have nonprofits, as donations have fallen while demand for services has increased. We found other ways to say “yes” and looked for opportunities to meet more immediate needs, such as helping students access laptops to participate in virtual education. “
Meshey says that in addition to the many random donations, grants, scholarships, sponsorships, and acts of kindness, he also liked to throw up some holiday surprises. At the end of December, he and the management team chose 13 local nonprofits and made phone calls to announce a surprise. $ 10,000 donations for everyone.
The following is just a few of the investments Desert Financial made in 2020 for safety, relief and well-being:
• Up to 80 hours of sick leave accumulation: $ 333,162
• Up to 400 hours of accumulated vacation: $ 113,000
• Workplace bonding activities: $ 48,950
• Skip-a-Pay on consumer loans: $ 619,690
• Waiver of the costs of Regulation D: $ 595,000
• Excessive suspension of ATM usage and balance request fees: $ 405,000
• Donation to local food banks: $ 500,000
• Emergency grant fund for partners: $ 150,000
• Lunch and medical supplies for Flagstaff Hospital staff: $ 64,872
During this unique year, Desert Financial was also awarded three distinctions: Angel of the Year – Business, One of that of Arizona Honored by Most Admired Companies and second on the list of the best places to work.
As a member-owned cooperative, Desert Financial shares dividends with its members, team and community. The credit union that cares recently launched a statewide charter allowing members from almost any corner of Arizona to join.