High-Paying Job Doesn't Pay

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Thad Jones doesn't care for the limelight.

In fact, he said, he would have been just as happy to "fade away" without any recognition at all for his volunteer work with Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union here.

His peers at at the $1.8-billion HVFCU, however, couldn't let that happen.

Jones, they say, has devoted the last 40 years of his life to ensuring his credit union lived by the people helping people philosophy.

"His dedication is incredible," said Maryelen Brown, administrative assistant who has worked with Jones for 20 years. "He takes his position here just as seriously as if it was a high-paying job."

Jones' hard work earned him HVFCU's nomination and the National Administration of Federal Credit Union's title as Volunteer of the Year for credit unions with assets of $150 million or more.

While staff credits his leadership for a record-breaking year in 2003-membership increased by 11,000-his peers agree that it is his dedication to member service that has made him stand out from day one.

"He places the highest priority on member service and insists that every credit union employee follow his lead," said Paul Stull, VP of Marketing. "Through his directive, all member correspondence is answered within 24 hours, which is no small task for a credit union with more than 140,000 members."

Stull said Jones personally reviews all member letters and credit union responses on a monthly basis. He also meets weekly with HVFCU President Mary Madden to discuss CU issues and strategic direction.

Jones said it was the credit union's philosophy that lured him to serve as chairman of the supervisory committee in 1965, convinced him to become board chairman a few years later, and kept him on the board for every year since then. He has served on all eight board committees and still regularly participates with each. Jones was also instrumental in organizing the League of IBM Credit Unions in the 1960s.

A Tremendous Mission

"There was an opportunity to serve a group of people and work within an organization that had a tremendous mission," he said. "I've always felt that I was helping the member get something they couldn't get elsewhere or, if they could get it elsewhere, they could get it here at a better rate."

Jones said he was first asked to join the supervisory committee in 1965. "During an annual meeting, the president asked for volunteers from the audience. I figured I'd throw my name in the hat and that would be the end of it."

Within a month, Jones said, he got his call to serve.

A few years later, he found himself at the board helm, a position he holds today.

"The same thing that keeps me there is what drew me there in the first place," said Jones, who worked as an accountant for IBM-the CU's original sponsor-until his retirement in 1998. "Members are first. They are our reason for being. And, as long as we keep them happy, they'll be nice to us and do business with us."

Among the many changes that his board has overseen include the growth from the $6-million CU that existed when Jones came aboard three years after it was chartered to serve IBM employees and their families, the inclusion of SEGs, and now its most recent change, the 2002 move to a community charter.

"I think the transitions were all smooth," he said. "Technology has helped us a lot, but that hunger the members had about the services we offered and the way we offered them really motivated us."

Jones admitted having some "personal growing pains," particularly during the migration to computers from pen and paper. Staff said that Jones was never keen on "paperless transactions" and to this day allows members the option to receive paper receipts.

Brown said while his nine-member board does include several other long term volunteers, the CU's nominating committee has done a good job at recruiting diverse individuals.

"There has been discussion in the past about term limits, but each time the board has rejected it," he said, adding that not all board members have been re-elected term after term, either.

To aid in the recruiting process, he said, the CU features two "non-paid professionals" in three of its quarterly newsletters who share their experiences.

"They say why they volunteer and what satisfaction they get from it," he said.

The idea is to motivate other individuals to volunteer and, at the same time, show them that these jobs need to be taken seriously.

"We want our members to see that this is not something you do because you don't have anything else to do, rather it's something you do because you want to be involved."

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