Minn. CU Uses Schools To Build Local Image

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Ninety-eight first graders crammed into one building?

That was just the case at Central Minnesota Federal Credit Union (CMFCU) here, which, every spring and fall for the past 15 years, has welcomed crowds of students into its office to teach kids about credit unions.

The students punch their time cards as credit union "employees," find out how to use the coin counting machines and the drive-up window, and learn practical lessons about money and saving while touring the vault.

Every year the first grade class at Melrose Elementary School does a "Home Town Tour," visiting area businesses around Melrose, and the credit union is always a favorite stop.

"The kids love it-(the credit union employees) are always very nice, polite and generous," said Karie Swenson, first grade teacher at Melrose Elementary. "It gets kids in the mode of learning how to save and spend money, and shows them that there are a lot of different ways to do that."

All of CMFCU's branch offices do credit union tours and/or classroom presentations for elementary and high school students, as well as community organizations like the Girl Scouts.

"The tours not only help out the students by teaching them about credit unions, but it builds trust," said Jenny Mayers, marketing manager for CMFCU. "The kids and their parents feel more comfortable with the credit union, we feel more comfortable with them as members, and they are able to better understand our daily operations."

CMFCU CEO Rick Odenthal added, "For all communities, and especially where we're located, the school is really the center of the community. Since we're non-profit, it's important for our members to see that we are giving back to our community."

In addition to the personal tours of the credit union, CMFCU also does classroom presentations in various schools around the area. As part of Melrose Area High School's curriculum in its automotive classes, credit union employees talk to students about applying for their first loan, the importance of good credit, insurance coverage, and more.

CMFCU is also very active in high schools' career days, with HR taking students through the hiring process.

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