Highest Honors Are Presented To Individuals, Groups

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As part of GAC last week, the National Credit Union Foundation's Wegner Awards honored several people and organizations with the credit union movement's highest honors for their achievements.

Below is a look at each:

* Three league presidents were recognized for their work in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Anne Cochran of Louisiana, Charles Elliott of Mississippi, and Guy Hood of Florida.

* "I am going to go home and share this with people who work night and day to service members of the Gulf Coast," said Cochran. "The foundation has no idea how many lives you touched. You bought diapers, you bought refrigerators, you bought children's shoes."

* "The true heroes are our credit union employees who have disregarded their own situations to help people," said Elliott. "The league staff followed me down a road to which there was no end and no destination. You should all be proud of organizations that didn't make a difference, they made the difference."

* Hood shared with the audience a letter he received from a credit union employee who used the NCUF grant she received to pay for health insurance for her husband, who has cancer.

* Joy Cousminer, the president of Bethex FCU, was honored with the Wegner Award for Individual Achievement, drew a big laugh by noting her age had been exposed as part of the award process. "I hope that doesn't deter any single gentleman here."

"A wonderful thing has happened in the credit union movement; all over credit unions are reaching out to low-income communities," said Cousminer. "We've been doing it for 36 years and it's never been easy. We had no model to follow. I guess that's why we're leaders. Poor people want the same things out of life other people want, they just need the rules bent a little. Financial literacy classes will not make them rich. You have to be prepared to take losses. If I could have my wish it would be that you take away from this evening to do more than you are already doing. Luck always plays a large role in those who have and those who do not."

Cousminer said her most recent work is expanding far beyond the Bronx, N.Y. headquarters of her credit union. After a trip to Ghana in Africa, Cousminer has begun work to set up sister co-ops in the country and to assist African immigrants in the US. She closed her remarks with the quote, "Your generosity is not measured by what you give but by what you have left."

* A group of organizations was recognized with the Herb Wegner for Outstanding Program. Mexico's Caja Popular Mexicana, which was on the brink of failure in 1991, today is thriving across Mexico with 325 branches, thanks to assistance from the California league, the Texas league, and the World Council. The credit union today serves 874,000 people. It has been growing at 12,000 new members per month it reported.

* Dennis Cutter, president of Numerica Credit Union in Spokane, Wash., won the Herb Wegner for Lifetime Achievement. "I'm not accepting this award for what I've done, but for all the people who have worked as hard as I have and who share the same passion," said Cutter. "This is our credit union giving back in some small way to the credit union movement. I learned early on you can make a difference, in some cases small, in some cases huge."

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