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GreenState Credit Union Makes Great Impact

GreenState Credit Union Helps UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital Families Stay Financially Healthy.

In December 2020, GreenState Credit Union in Iowa made an unexpected $100,000 donation to the Extenuating Circumstances fund at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital (UISFCH). At the end of a strange year full of surprises, the generous donation was especially welcome. The Extenuating Circumstances fund provides families with reimbursements for incidental expenses they may encounter while a child is undergoing treatment—for instance, gas to get to and from the hospital or even a heating bill that’s difficult to pay. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, these families were under more stress than ever. Many had to arrive early for treatment and sometimes stay overnight in hotels to comply with testing and other pandemic requirements, even as they may have faced unemployment and economic hardship.

“GreenState got its start serving the faculty, students, staff and alumni at the University of Iowa. The roots of our relationship with UISFCH run deep,” says GreenState CEO Jeff Disterhoft. “We were delighted to find this opportunity to help families maintain their financial health during a time when they’re rightfully focused on their children’s health. With the added difficulties of dealing with COVID-19, this seemed like an especially critical year to step up.”


Helping Iowans Thrive

Stepping up is nothing new for GreenState. Community giving is a $2.2 million a year commitment at the credit union, which serves 280,000+ members at 24 locations in Iowa and neighboring counties in Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska and South Dakota.

“We want to support Iowans in a wide variety of ways by making our communities better places to live,” says public relations director Tara Wachendorf. “That approach involves health and healthcare, including support for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. But we also support arts and culture, education, the environment, civic and community groups, and human services as well—more than 900 charities in total.”

As a result, people in the communities GreenState serves might see the credit union’s name associated with a range of events, capital campaigns, school funding programs and projects, including the local food pantry, a community sports center, Junior Achievement and even local tree-planting events. “We’re partnering with a group called Trees Forever to plant a tree for every new member who joins the credit union,” says Wachendorf. “We’ve planted 10,000 trees so far this year.”

GreenState’s community commitment means a lot to the people who work there. “It’s important that our workplace is not just a place to collect a paycheck,” says Wachendorf. “People want to know that their work has purpose behind it.” The same holds true for the board of directors, who volunteer in part because they support GreenState’s people-helping-people mission. But real proof of GreenState’s impact comes from community members themselves: “Whenever we’re recruiting for new staff or even just talking to people out in the community, they always say, ‘I see you everywhere!’ That’s when I know we’re doing our job. We want people to know that GreenState really is everywhere, working to make our communities better places to live, supporting every aspect of their quality of life.”


An Additional Opportunity to Give

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly affected GreenState’s volunteer and fundraising efforts. In a typical year, GreenState employees volunteer 4,000 hours; in 2020, that number dropped to a still impressive 1,200. Many charity fundraisers went on hiatus or went virtual. “Virtual events have the benefit of being able to draw in people who can’t normally attend, so it isn’t all negative,” says Wachendorf. “But from an engagement standpoint, virtual events are a different experience.”

Despite these challenges, GreenState was full speed ahead on community support in 2020. “We have a goal of growing our contributions as our membership grows,” says Wachendorf. “In spite of the pandemic, 2020 was a growth year for us. We acquired another credit union, which added new members—and more business. We actually had more resources to contribute in 2020.” This is how, at the end of the year, Wachendorf found herself looking for an additional opportunity to give.

Enter Allie Stutting, Assistant Director of Corporate and Community Development at the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. “After getting to know Tara and others at GreenState, learning GreenState’s philanthropic priorities and passions—and understanding the need for financial support for patients and families—we were thrilled GreenState’s support for the Extenuating Circumstances fund aligned so well. During the COVID-19 pandemic, patients’ needs for additional financial support was paramount. GreenState stepped up during a difficult time in all our lives. On behalf of the hospital, we are so grateful for the donation from GreenState, and we look forward to continuing our partnership.”

GreenState has been a supporter of UISFCH and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals over the years through University of Iowa’s Miracle Network Dance Marathon and charity golf tournaments. But in a year when so many families were dealing with the health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and possible economic fallout as well, the value of the Extenuating Circumstances fund was clear. “Financial health is one of our core principals,” says Wachendorf, “so being able to help families with this kind of direct support was a perfect fit.”

It’s also an opportunity more credit unions can consider: “As Credit Unions for Kids enters its 25th year, we’re proud of the collective impact credit unions have created. Each year, credit unions touch the lives of 10 million kids undergoing treatment at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals nationwide,” says Nick Coleman, Director, Corporate Partnerships at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. “We’re equally happy when credit unions can connect directly with their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, to understand and help them meet specific needs and to see the effect their contributions have on people in their communities. Every dollar raised nationally through CU4Kids has local impact and is a direct investment in the communities our credit unions serve.”


Making Communities Better Places to Live

In 2021, GreenState’s commitment to improving its communities is in full swing. The credit union recently named six Give & Grow scholarship recipients, who each received a $1,500 scholarship and a $1,500 donation to the charity of their choice. They’re supporting a “School of the Wild” program to bring wildlife education to local sixth graders, courtesy of the University of Iowa. And they recently announced a goal of investing $500 million to help end the racial homeownership gap.

“Our investment in our communities is essential to who we are,” says Wachendorf. “We are not only helping people with their financial needs and helping them live out their dreams. We’re also working to make the places they live all-around great places to be. It’s an honor to see all of the good we can do.”