How A Quiet Park Has Changed One Credit Union

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Credit Union: Allegacy Federal

Nominated by: KDA Holdings, Marietta, Ga.

Nominated For: Grounds Honor Cancer Victims

Most credit unions consider as their best practices products that improve member service, decrease operating costs and-or increase revenues.

Allegacy Federal Credit Union's best practice came about as an identity change that revolutionized the $908-million credit union in ways that touched the hearts and minds of the entire community of Winston-Salem, N.C.

In 1998, Allegacy was still known as Reynolds Carolina Federal Credit Union and had been formed to serve employees of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. But Reynolds Carolina had outgrown not only its downtown office space but also its original identity, says Cathy Pace, vice president of marketing, business development and wealth management.

In addition to R.J. Reynolds employees, the credit union also served employees of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and Novant Forsythe Medical Center. That field of membership accounted for three of Winston-Salem's five largest employers. Despite a 33-year downtown and corporate commitment, the credit union was ready for change, Pace says.

With the help of KDA Holdings Inc., a Marietta, Ga., design-build firm, Reynolds Carolina officials found a 10-acre parcel in a prime commercial location and began a 24-month construction period for its new 90,000-square-foot headquarters office. Only one thing troubled the builders. What would they do with the site's water runoff?

Credit union CEO W.K. "Ike" Keener Jr. came up with an unusual solution that ultimately proved to be both the credit union's and new office building's defining feature.

"Ike was driving around out west somewhere and got lost," says Pace. "He came upon this little park in the middle of nowhere with a sign that said, 'Breast Cancer Survivors Park.'

"Ike called me and said, 'I have an idea,'" says Pace.

Keener's idea was to take the construction runoff and filter it into two ponds on beautifully landscaped grounds to commemorate survivors of breast and ovarian cancer. The credit union already sponsored a golf tournament to raise funds for the cause and five employees counted themselves among that group. It seemed a perfect fit for the newly emerging institution, says Pace.

At the same time Reynolds Carolina hired a professional firm to help it find a new, more broadly encompassing name.

"The name Allegacy means 'a legacy to our past and an allegiance to our members,'" explains Pace. R.J. Reynolds managers participated in the name change process and approved the final choice, she says.

At the same time the surrounding park and its ponds was taking shape. Two ponds connected by a rocky waterfall represent the peaceful times before diagnosis and after surgery, with the waterfall in between representing the passage from one stage to another.

The ponds are accompanied by a gazebo containing a 36" bronze statue by North Carolina sculptor Erline Heath King of three breast cancer survivors on a three-foot pedestal. The statue is named "Alive, Beautiful and Victorious" in commemoration of all women touched by breast cancer, says Pace.

The newly named Allegacy opened what is now officially called "The Park" to the entire community of Winston-Salem when it was dedicated in April 2002.

"This is more than just a building to us," says Pace. "It represents a higher level of service and commitment."

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