Three Meridian, Miss. Credit Unions Put Competition Aside, Focus on Community Instead

Posted June 7, 2013    

Meridian, Miss. (6/7/13) - - Turn on any television today and you are likely to encounter a number of competition-based reality shows, each depicting individuals or groups behaving badly in an effort to gain a competitive edge and claim their victory and success.   But three Meridian, Mississippi credit unions have decided to define success differently.  Despite the fact they are direct competitors, they choose to define success not based on individual achievement, but rather on how their cooperation can benefit their community.   

In 2012, 1St Mississippi Federal Credit Union, Meridian Mutual Federal Credit Union and MUNA Federal Credit Union initiated, organized and launched The Golden Apple Program, which recognizes area teachers for “going above and beyond the standard teaching methods.” 

The idea for the program came from MUNA President/CEO Bo Pittman, who was aware of a similar program in Alabama.  Pittman, married to a teacher for 30 years, knew developing a recognition program for Meridian area teachers was a worthwhile project. 

“Seeing the additional time & effort my wife Terisa has put into her classrooms over the years really highlights the heart so many teachers put into this job. They rarely get any recognition for these above- and-beyond extra efforts so when we learned about the Golden Apple Program, it was really a simple decision to try to get it started in Meridian,” explained Pittman.

However, instead of keeping the idea all to himself and his own credit union, Pittman knew the program could be better and the outreach larger if other area credit unions were invited to support the program as well. 

“At MUNA, we feel that all of the Meridian credit unions complement, instead of compete, with each other so the Golden Apple program works well for all,” said Pittman.

For Meridian Mutual FCU, the offer to join the program was an easy sell.

“Meridian Mutual was originally chartered as the Meridian School Employees Federal Credit Union, thus education is where we had our humble beginnings,” said Dennis Florreich, Meridian Mutual President/CEO.  “The Golden Apple Award was a natural fit for us.  It benefits all three credit unions by highlighting our unique spirit and willingness to cooperate, as well as recognizing outstanding educators in our community.”

The group reached out to other local businesses for support.  The Meridian Family of Stations, which includes the local Fox, NBC, and CBS affiliates, and The Meridian Star newspaper partnered to donate all of the advertising as well as manage the overall program. This allowed the credit unions to become the key sponsor. Other local businesses became sponsors which provided the needed funding.

“Our partners took the program and grew it, as well as improved it tremendously. We now not only have the city of Meridian, but county wide participation,” explained Pittman.

The program recognizes one teacher a month during the school year.  Nominations come from parents or students, and winner recognition includes a cash prize donated by the three credit unions, media coverage of their award from the program’s media partners, and other prizes, such as a school supply shopping spree, which are donated by other program partners. 

“The community response to this program has been great,” said Abria Love, 1st Mississippi FCU Marketing Director. “We get a lot of thank-yous, along with people asking how to get involved.  We’re excited for the opportunity to have credit union’s ‘People Helping People’ spirit placed in the spotlight.”

Meridian Mutual FCU’s Florreich agrees the program is an opportunity to highlight a unique characteristic of credit unions, which is their willingness to work together for the mutual benefit of all.

“The cooperation our credit unions are showing is something other financial industry competitors would probably never consider,” said Florreich.

This school year’s Golden Apple Program came to its conclusion recently when Kathy Moody, a math teacher at Northeast Middle School, was named Golden Apple Teacher of the Year.  The credit unions and their program sponsors and partners plan to continue the program next year.
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