Janet Grantham receives Distinguished Service Award

At the recent Ontario Credit Union Foundation Annual General Meeting, Director Elisabeth van der Pol presented the Distinguished Service Award to Janet Grantham, recently retired from Mainstreet Credit Union.

Elisabeth commented, “Having been in the credit union system for many years, I, like many of you, have had the pleasure to interact with what I will call legends in our sector. This award recognizes those who have distinguished themselves in service to the credit union movement. As one of the adjudicators this year, our task was not easy. Multiple submissions were received, all of whom were leaders in our industry, terribly well respected, and all worthy. When the votes were tabulated, as close as they were, one person came out on top, Janet Grantham.”

Janet began her credit union career in 1979 as an employee of the Barrie Community Credit Union. After two years, she moved to the Ontario Provincial Police Association Credit Union. It was in 1985 when Janet moved to London, Ontario and continued her journey within the financial services sector. She later joined Kellogg Employees Credit Union where she remained for fifteen years. During her time there, she became the first person to win the Credit Union Central of Ontario Mentorship Award. In 2004, Janet accepted the role of Chief Executive Officer at Sydenham Credit Union (in Strathroy, Ontario), where she served fearlessly for over 17 years before retiring in September 2021.

Janet has also given her personal time to causes she is passionate about. Whether it is the London-Middlesex United Way, specializing in mental health city-wide programs, or improving local health care through her work on the Strathroy-Middlesex General Hospital Foundation board, she has always been dedicated and committed to the betterment of our surrounding communities.

In 2013, Janet joined the board of the SMGH Hospital Foundation. After one year, Janet was asked to sit on the Executive Committee as Vice Chair, then moved to Chair in 2016. Janet’s experience with governance proved invaluable to the foundation, as she helped the board focus on their true purpose to raise funds in support of Strathroy’s hospital. With Janet’s help, the SMGH Hospital Foundation has created a new governance model, developed a long-term strategic fundraising plan, and improved their working relationship with the hospital.

Over Janet’s four-decade commitment to the credit union system, she continuously highlighted the cooperative principles and values that credit unions stand by. By many, she was known as the person you could go to if you wanted to mull over ideas, she would be there to provide counsel, or help work through any problem. She was well-known to bring her collaborative and solutions-focused approach to working groups, committees, and the Board room. As a leader, Janet always believed that offering the best member experience and advice will lead to significant impact and growth.

Over the years, Janet was also known to put in a great amount of time and effort in Toronto (Queen’s Park) and Ottawa as a lobbyist and advocate for credit unions. She would meet with community leaders and government officials to ensure that credit unions’ (big or small) were heard.

Since her path in the Canadian credit union system started over 40 years ago, Janet showed unparallel commitment to helping credit unions be competitive, sustainable, and most importantly; dedicated to their members, communities, and cooperative values.

On behalf of OCUF and the credit union sector in Ontario we extend our sincere congratulations!

Kawartha receives OCA Award

Kawartha Credit Union wins Ontario Credit Union Foundation’s Outstanding Corporate Achievement Award

On Thursday May 19th, Kawartha Credit Union accepted the Ontario Credit Union Foundation’s Outstanding Corporate Achievement Award.

 The Ontario Credit Union Foundation (OCUF) supports credit unions and co-operatives with their philanthropic giving in communities across Ontario. Each year OCUF recognizes a credit union (or company within the co-operative financial system) with their Outstanding Corporate Achievement Award for their contributions to their communities.

 “OCUF is thrilled to recognize Kawartha Credit Union’s community achievements for the second time. Kawartha first won this award in 2011, and they have continuously proven their commitment to supporting important causes that have positive impacts on their members and their branch communities. We are delighted to recognize their outstanding contributions with the 2022 award,” said Clayton Shold, OCUF’s Executive Director.

 “Kawartha extends our sincere thanks to the Ontario Credit Union Foundation for recognizing our credit union for this award. Our Community Involvement Program was introduced in 1998, and to date, Kawartha has donated over $3 million to charitable and social causes that support health, education, youth, and the environment. In 2021, we supported over 60 organizations and causes in 16 branch communities from Parry Sound to Cornwall,” commented Norah McCarthy, Kawartha’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

Added McCarthy, “Giving back to our communities is a vital component of Kawartha Credit Union’s culture. We grow stronger as an organization, as a team, and as individuals when we give of our time and talents to enhance the well-being of the communities we serve. We truly live our value of care for others.”

Nancy Herr, Chair of Kawartha’s Board of Directors commented, “Each and every year, our employees participate in dozens of activities that are above and beyond our corporate Community Involvement Program. They challenge one another to make a positive impact, and we are thrilled that their efforts have been recognized with this award. We are proud to work alongside OCUF and our Ontario credit union system colleagues to make a difference.”

 

Jean Wansbrough’s Legacy

We were saddened to learn of Jean Wansbrough’s passing on March 28, 2022, in her 95th year.

Tim Dauphinee and Jean Wansbrough were inducted as “Friends of the Foundation” in 2016.

Born in Lindsay, Ontario, Jean was a lifelong environmentalist and pioneering outdoor educator. In her 25 years teaching at Swansea Public School in Toronto, followed by her tenure as residential outdoor educator for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Jean touched countless lives, gifting a keen appreciation for the natural world to all those she worked with. Through experiential outdoor learning, Jean’s guiding philosophy was to help establish a life foundation of self-esteem for young educators and youth. The positive, formative impact she had on so many is a testament to this.

Jean’s Bachelor of Arts (University of Toronto) and Masters (Michigan State University) studies were done after-hours over a number of years. Among her many public accomplishments, Jean was the recipient of the 1984 Robin Dennis Award for outstanding contribution to outdoor education. In addition, Jean was a founding member of the Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario, and proudly served as Chair of the Girl Guides Future Trends in Camping Committee.

Jean was a truly joyous person, with boundless enthusiasm and an unforgettable laugh. She was an avid skier, cook, canoeist, camper, and gardener. She was an admirable host, her pantry packed with homemade soups and buckets of ice cream. Beloved by all who knew her, Jean cultivated wonderful communities over the years, from Swansea to Claremont, Albion Hills to Geneva Park, Balsam Lake to Parry Sound. Upon her retirement, Jean’s abundant travels took her from Australia to Iceland and Denmark, with new friends and loved ones growing wherever she went, their smiling faces captured in thousands of photographs. 

While she may have missed her bountiful vegetable gardens in Markham, Jean’s last years were spent comfortably at Tapestry in Etobicoke. Jean was so grateful to be there, especially these last two pandemic years. 

“Funny Aunt Jean”, as she was lovingly known to her family of 20 nieces and nephews, leaves behind her sister Ruth, her treasured friend Norma of 70 years, and is predeceased by her brother, Sandy, and husband, Tim.

Jean’s final passion and legacy is her Jean Wansbrough Leadership Training Fund. Established in 2010, the fund has supported more than 230 youth leaders-in-training at Outdoor Overnight Camps and will continue to do so for many years to come. In lieu of flowers, and in Jean’s honour and tribute, charitable donations can be made at: https://www.jwltf.com/charitable

 

A Decade of Change

Anyone connected to the cooperative sector in Ontario knows the past decade has been one of much change. The number of co-ops and credit unions has changed. Legislation and regulatory oversight have created new challenges. Technology continues to evolve at a blistering pace.

Change is driven by responsiveness to existing, or future unrealized customer needs.

A decade ago, we were known as Ontario Credit Union Charitable Foundation (OCUCF). Our CRA purpose read: “The Foundation provides funding to agencies delivering support services such as housing and food for the poor, children’s hospitals and health agencies, research organizations, scholarships, and bursaries for deserving students, family support and seniors’ services. The Foundation also provides funding to the co-operative development foundation in Ottawa to assist cooperative development worldwide, and the Red Cross for relief efforts worldwide.” There wasn’t too much we weren’t attempting to do. Our primary “service” was our matching program where credit unions would apply to the foundation to have their fundraising activities matched for their charitable works.

The Board, through their strategic planning efforts, realized the Foundation had to adapt to a changing world. Requests for matching funds were declining, the organization was not focused, either on purpose or geography. The establishment of memorial funds was less in vogue. Frankly, our relevance was dwindling. We simply could not continue to be all things to all people.

In 2015, we embarked on a fact-finding exercise to better understand how the OCUF could support our Ontario Credit Union partners. In speaking to over 70% of our stakeholders, they overwhelmingly told us to focus on supporting Credit Union’s in delivering support and services that were relevant to a younger demographic. Senior credit union leadership also expressed a desire to partner with the Foundation to build Credit Union awareness.

The Board made some key decisions. The first was to change our mission to focus on supporting youth education and leadership. In addition, we also change the name of the Foundation to remove “charitable” as it was redundant being a registered foundation (which is permitted to carry on a charitable purpose). Lastly, we limited our geographic footprint to Ontario.

What didn’t change was the Foundation supporting credit union philanthropic activities and administration of donor-advised and permanent capital funds. This service is available to co-operatives in Ontario! The two Bernie Daly funds established by GROWMARK are examples.

The CU Succeed Youth Bursary (CUSYB) program (pronounced see you succeed) was launched in 2016. It assists deserving students who actively give back to their communities by providing bursaries for post-secondary students for academic, technological, or vocational learning. Since its inception, the CUSYB program has provided $436,000 to 327 students. Our member credit unions increasingly are supporting and promoting the bursary.

In 2020 we clarified our value proposition: “Providing member Credit Unions an effective, professionally branded youth bursary program that helps increase awareness, attracts youth members and their families while reinforcing local community engagement, impact and contribution.”

So how are we doing? The denominator keeps changing with the number of member credit unions due to mergers and acquisitions, that said 79% of the credit unions in Ontario are members. In the past two years, we have welcomed five new credit unions. We continue to work at increasing that percentage. Feedback has told us our brand is well recognized in the Ontario credit union space. By all measures, the CUSYB program has been well received.

Are we there yet? Our work continues. In November the Board at their planning session will be looking at our progress against our value proposition, how our efforts can help increase awareness of credit unions to attract younger customers, and the creation of a new program we hope to launch in early 2022.

No one needs to be told the world continues to change. OCUF like credit unions and co-operatives must remain responsive to our member’s needs. It drives our compass.

[This article was initially written for the Ontario Cooperative Association blog.]

BC Disaster Relief Appeal

Our hearts go out to all those impacted by the extreme weather and resulting flooding in British Columbia. We understand there has been one confirmed death with that number potentially rising as rescue efforts continue.

With major highways washed out, the impact will be felt well beyond the interior of B.C. Major supply chains have dramatically changed, impacting the whole province and other parts of Canada. Truck are routing through the U.S. as the only viable option. The province has declared a state of emergency. If you are interested in helping those directly impacted, you can make a donation to the Red Cross. They have set up the B.C. Floods & Extreme Weather Appeal.

Some additional information many won’t know. The Abbotsford area was once covered by Sumas Lake and lies below sea level. The lake was drained and reclaimed in 1925 with the completion of the Vedder Canal and Sumas Pump Station, which diverted the Sumas River along four creeks. As well, 40 km of flood protection dikes were also built at the time. One of the reasons for this reclamation was the mosquito infestations were so bad due to the widely changing water levels of the lake. In fact school children would be kept home from school sometimes as long as six weeks, and livestock would die from loss of blood.

Within a few years, tens of thousands of acres of farmland were added to the Lower Mainland, becoming the Sumas Prairie of quilted, pristine green fields. This area of the former lakebed became some of the most productive farmland in Canada. 

This background information isn’t provided to undermine the severity of this disaster. A record 275 mm of rain fell in one day, after two weeks of rain having saturated the ground and surrounding mountains. 

 

The dying art of the handwritten card.

When was the last time you received a note, a handwritten note, inside a card saying thank you? Made you think, didn’t we?

In today’s world we are quick to fire off an email, or text message. And more and more of our youth say, what every you do, don’t leave me voice mail, I never listen to them.

How the world has changed!

Yesterday OCUF received the card you see below. Handwritten. Unsolicited.

Addressed to “CU Succeed Youth Bursary” which represents not just our Board, but the many credit unions, supporters, and sponsors that make the bursary possible. This card is for you.

Kaleb, we say thank you. Thank you for taking the time to express your gratitude in a way that left an impact in todays fast paced world. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of saying thank you. Your “reaching out” suggests your thoughtfulness will take you as far as you wish to travel in your post-secondary journey and beyond.

We liked the card very much. If you are interested, check out this website nativereflections.ca

What can I do?

Today is National Truth and Reconciliation Day. Lots of orange shirts around. Many companies and organizations are closed to make this a day of reflection.

The day comes with many emotions, with many perspectives, and deep feelings. Not everyone is aligned in their feelings. It is unrealistic to believe we all will align.

We can choose to use the day to reflect and understand other’s points of view. Understand more about Canadian history. Perhaps it can be a day with less judgement and recognize we all share this great land we call Canada.

If you want to move past reflection, you might consider donating one day’s pay. The background on the initiative can be read here. Or you can visit their website.

CU Succeed Youth Bursaries Announced

We had 275 individuals register for the bursary this year with 118 completing the full application by June 30th. After much deliberation, and careful consideration, 69 applicants were chosen to receive a bursary award this year.

Our top recipient, Huynh My Linh D. (left) was one of the strongest applications we have ever received. Her community involvement, scholastic achievement and demonstrated need was recognized by the reviewers. Huynh My Linh receives our top award of $3,000. An equally impressive application came in a very close second from Silma M. (right) who is receiving $2,000. Six individuals tied for third spot, each receiving $1,500. Congratulations to Reauna V., Benjamin G., Zoe M., Jose N., Syeda Taliya R., and Lilly V. The remaining award winners each will receive $1,000.

We were delighted to have receive applications from members of 33 different credit unions, and award are going out to members from 28 of those credit unions. This is our highest participation rate yet. We extend our thanks to all the credit unions who promoted the CU Succeed Youth Bursary to their members.

A big thank you to the nine adjudicators who worked through 118 completed CU Succeed Youth Bursary applications. Congratulations to all the bursary recipients. We wish everyone who applied a successful school year ahead.

Bursary Boosters Bust Out

The 2021 Bursary Boosters came together to exceed the planned goal of $10,000 by reaching $11,236!

Congratulations to all our credit union friends and supporters who made this possible. Kudos to Northern Credit Union who raised an amazing $2,000 through a variety of different initiatives, one of which involved getting to throw a cream pie in one of the executive’s face. Tickets for that one sold faster than a Bruce Springsteen concert!

Alterna was also very much a grassroots campaign then not only raised funds, but awareness for the CU Succeed Youth Bursary. Different branches too part with Lakeshore West the number one fundraiser, followed closely by the Contact Centre and Bolton branch. All together over $1,500 was raised.

Kudos to our Gold Boosters, Alterna Savings, Ganaraska, Heritage Savings, Kingston Community, Luminus, Northern, Sudbury and Tandia. Special thanks to our Silver Boosters, Equity, Frontline and Oshawa Community!   

At the end of the day, the recipients of our CU Succeed Youth Bursary are the beneficiaries of your support, so on their behalf a hearty thank you!

Friend of the Foundation Inductees 2021

It was a pleasure for OCUF to announce the induction of two new “Friend of the Foundation” recipients at our Annual General Meeting.

Joel LalondeJoel Lalonde was the first inductee. Joel served on the OCUF Board for nine years. He was a strong contributor to the Foundations leadership and strategic direction. For six years as Secretary – Treasurer Joel ensured there was strong oversight of the Foundations finances. As Chair of the Audit & Investment Committee he was the key contact with our auditor.

Joel oversaw the move of our permanent capital funds to an investment management firm, Jarislowsky Fraser at the end of 2016. That move has been fortuitous as we have experienced a return of 7.2% since inception.

Joel, we welcome you as a Friend of the Foundation and thank you for your contribution to OCUF.

Our second inductee was Dan Coldwell. Dan completed nine years on the OCUF Board, the last six as Chair.

What can we say about this larger-than-life individual? Dan tirelessly prompted the Board to think bigger and to be better. Dan ensured good governance. He ensured every Director had an equal voice around the table. He challenged us. He led us through a metamorphosis, embracing the past, but knowing we had to change as our member credit unions were changing.

Under Dan’s watch OCUF recruited a new Executive Director, rebranded, and grown the number of member credit unions. Dan oversaw the creation of the CU Succeed Youth Bursary, and he attracted solid talent from the credit union sector to serve as Directors.

Dan thank you for your nine years of service, your commitment, and your passion.