Monday, November 24, 2008

Nation's first CU turns 100 today

MANCHESTER, N.H. (11/24/08)--Today is the 100th anniversary of America's first credit union--St. Mary's Bank, located in Manchester, N.H.

We're balancing honoring our heritage and how we can continue to meet members' needs," said Elizabeth Stodolski, St. Mary's Bank director of marketing. "We have many activities planned. All of our employees feel like they're taking part in history."

The event is so historical that the governor of New Hampshire has proclaimed today as St. Mary's Bank Credit Union Day, Stodolski added.

The celebration starts Monday morning with a tour of America's Credit Union Museum, which is located in St. Mary's original site. The credit union has invited a group of fourth graders from a local elementary school to tour the museum and learn about New Hampshire history and the credit union movement.

Costumed characters depicting individuals such as St. Mary's founder, Monsignor Pierre Hevey, also will be present. St. Mary's Bank hired a historian to brief the characters on the history of the credit union and the credit union movement, so "they are well-prepared," Stodolski said.

This afternoon, St. Mary's will host a reenactment of its founding. The reenactment will be taped and broadcast on St. Mary's website. Afterward, the credit union will host an evening reception. Local businesses, the mayor, members and the general public are invited.

The credit union also will bury a time capsule. Members and the general public voted for items placed in the time capsule through the credit union's website.

St. Mary's Bank staff also traveled to New York City to invite Today Show host Meredith Vieira to the credit union. Credit union staff wore Meredith Vieira masks to get the host's attention, and brought a DVD with a video invitation to the credit union.

"It worked," Stodolski said. "We put the DVD into her hands."

The staff also gave Vieira token gifts, including silver dollars from 1908 and 2008.

St. Mary's Bank hosted member thank-you days Thursday and Friday, where staff handed out gifts and refreshments to members.

On Saturday, the general public was invited to America's Credit Union Museum. Horse and carriage rides were available. On Saturday night, the credit union staged its own show at the Palace Theater. The theater seats 900.

"We completely sold out," Stodolski said.

At the theater, viewers saw a history video about the credit union. The event also featured professional entertainers and singers. A reception held after the show honored the credit union's employees and board members.

On Sunday, St. Mary's Parish, which was the foundation for St. Mary's Bank, held a special church service to honor the credit union. Hevey was the reverend of St. Mary's Parish when he founded the credit union, which aimed to serve modest-earning millworkers and their families.

In the 100 years since St. Mary's opened, the credit union has undergone changes--such as moving to a new location and becoming more tech-savvy. The credit union launched mobile banking and e-statements this year, and gave away Garmin global positioning systems and iPods to members in contests, Stodolski said.

But although times have changed, the mission of St. Mary's Bank has not.

"We opened to serve people of modest means," Stodolski said. "We never strayed from that."

courtesy of

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