Bank Photo Contest Inspires Penn. CUs To Take Up Cameras

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A photo contest by three national banking trade groups searching for examples of credit unions deviating from their original mission may have backfired when the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association called on its members to participate.

More than 100 CUs responded with photos that illustrated just how much they "overreach" to serve their communities, said Mike Wishnow, SVP of Communications and Marketing for the PCUA.

"Sometime in early June, there was a repo [story]...that three national bankers groups (American Bankers Association, America's Community Bankers and Independent Community Bankers of America) would unite to eliminate credit unions' tax exempt status," he said, explaining that their first task was to gather photographic examples of "a credit union billboard, advertisement or building that illustrates just how far some credit unions have deviated from their original mission." The banker with the winning photo would receive $1,000.

Some Were Outraged

Wishnow said PCUA's CEO Jim McCormack and Chairman Ron Lasich were outraged by the notion and quickly came up with a contest to counter it.

"They decided that A, we would enter the bankers' contest and B, we would hold our own contest to show credit unions doing good things in the community," Wishnow said. "We put a call to arms out and got a great response."

The winning photo of credit union employees building a home for Habitat for Humanity came from SB1 Federal Credit Union in Philadelphia.

While they won't be $1,000 richer like the winner of the bankers' contest, SB1 Federal Credit Union will get a volunteer team of PCUA staff members to work on a community service project of their choice.

Wishnow said it's not likely the bankers were amused by the entries submitted in bulk to the new Inter-Trade CU Coordinating Council by the PCUA, but many earned special awards from the league for effort.

Overwhelming Participation

"We thought we would get 15 or 20 pictures," Wishnow. "When we wound up with more than 100, we thought we should give out some awards."

Among them, the Spirit of Credit Unions Award went to Navy Federal Credit Union, Vienna, Va., for its photo of an infant at a patriotic event honoring soldiers holding a flag and a flashlight. The flashlight was one of 18,000 donated by the credit union after the city banned the use of candles for public ceremonies.

The Best Impression of a Banker Award went to Bellco Federal Credit Union in Wyomissing, Penn., for its photo of CEO G. Vernon Babilon, wearing a fake pig nose. The photo was taken from one of several billboards put up in the city as part of a CU fundraiser to collect $5,000 for the local Boys and Girls Club.

Wishnow said Babilon promised to "kiss a pig" if the financial goal wasn't met. It was exceeded.

Belco Community Credit Union in Harrisburg won the Most Humorous Award for its photo of CEO Lonny J. Maurer in a leotard suit, giant bike helmet, white socks and flippers. The photo was taken moments before he dove into a giant bowl of Jell-O to raise $2,400 for the local leukemia and lymphoma society. The caption read: "Our boss is a bowl of fun."

More Than Just Financial Providers

In a letter to the bankers group that accompanied the CU entries, McCormack stated, "As you can tell by the volume and diversity of activities presented throughout the compilation, Pennsylvania credit unions clearly are more than just financial providers. Rather, we are actively involved in community service in virtually every community throughout our great state. In the future, we hope to continue to go above and beyond our enumerated powers to help those in need and to provide a better quality of life for every individual we are able to touch."

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