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With a flu shot clinic scheduled and no vaccines available due to a nationwide shortage, Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union Fergus Falls Branch Supervisor Nick Mariotti did what grandma would do-he passed out chicken noodle soup and tissues instead.

"Our goal at Affinity Plus is to build relationships with our members that are based on trust and when we learned at the last minute that our clinics had been cancelled, we knew we couldn't let them down,'' Mariotti said. "So we got creative and provided our own flu remedy care packages, which made people leave with a smile.''

He said the idea came about as a simple gesture when branch officials learned of the flu vaccine shortage. He said the care packages took the edge off the news to members that the vaccines were not available.

Fergus Falls branch staff passed out about 20 cans of chicken noodle soup and tissue packs to members who had hoped to get their flu shots, triggering the CU's 19 other branches-all of which had flu clinics scheduled throughout October-to do the same.

"Response to this initiative has been phenomenal,'' said Kyle Markland, president and CEO of Affinity Plus. "From a simple article in the Star Tribune (picked up by the Associated Press) recognizing Nick's creativity, we received a flood of inquiries and interest in this simple, from-the-heart gesture.''

Markland said the story was picked up in at least 140 markets throughout the country.

"It was mentioned on the Today Show and on ABC News Radio,'' Markland said. "We got calls from people as far as San Jose, Chicago and New York asking if we were the same Affinity Plus that offered the chicken noodle soup.''

He said it was amazing to see how one simple heartfelt gesture gained the credit union millions of dollars in advertising exposure.

"It wasn't anything we did to gain publicity,'' he said. "It was just the next best thing we could do when the company we contracted with to provide the flu shot had all of its supply diverted out of the area.''

Markland said once the Campbell Soup company got wind of the story, they decided to partner with the CU.

"They generously donated 500 cans and we are matching that,'' he said. The soup and other goodies were served at all of the CU's branches during Member Appreciation Week and International Credit Union Day.

"This is just one more way of building trust with our members,'' Markland said. "They have seen us as this financial institution where they can go to take care of business. Now they see us as a place they can get some relief from the flu.''

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