The article below is courtesy of the Republic. The foundation appreciates the coverage given to Centra Foundation and its work.
Eight Cummins Engine Co. employees pooled their resources 75 years ago to create a financial institution in Columbus so fellow employees would have access to credit. That was timely and significant because the United States in 1940 was just emerging from a decade-long economic downturn known as the Great Depression.
What they formed was Cummins Employees Federal Credit Union, now known as Centra Credit Union. The credit union’s charter was granted 75 years ago today. Columbus-based Centra has expanded over the years, from serving only Cummins employees to now residents in more than half of Indiana’s counties, plus select communities in Kentucky, New York and North Carolina. The Louisville metro area was added this year.
“Our 75 years is owed to our member base and the communities we serve. We’re here because of that,” said Chris Bottorff, Centra’s interim president, who also serves as president of the company’s southern region. “We’ve tried to make sure we have all the products and services they need.” Centra is working to enhance financial products and services for members, while also looking for opportunities to grow, he said.
Three years ago, Centra created its charitable arm, the Centra Foundation, as a way to better serve its communities by providing grants to nonprofit organizations, financial literacy programs and educational scholarships.
“The stronger the community is, the stronger the credit union is,” Bottorff said. Centra has been celebrating its anniversary throughout the year, including member-appreciation weeks when it provided cookies or small gifts to thank people for being customers. On Friday, employees at Centra branches dressed up for a Halloween costume contest and handed out trick-or-treat goodies, said Chrissy Mueller, a marketing and communications specialist.
Centra also has been collecting the stories about its customers to use in promotional campaigns. Columbus resident Toni Held has been a Centra member for about 10 years and said her experiences have been positive. “When I’ve had a questions, somebody always will sit down and talk to me. I like that they have multiple branches, which makes them easy to get to,” she said. Held added that she likes the service Centra provides because the personal touch. “I don’t feel like I am a number,” she said.
Held’s appreciation for Centra has contributed to her supporting several Centra Foundation programs. Two years ago she donated $100 to its Holiday Giving Program, which provides gifts for people registered for the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. Last year, Held contributed $100 to the Loretta M. Burd Scholarship program, named after the person who led Centra as chief executive officers for 25 years. “That appealed to me as an educator,” said Held, a teacher/librarian at Columbus North High School, regarding the scholarship program. Held said she also plans to donate to the Holiday Giving Program again this year. “It’s nice to know you’re helping someone in some way in the community,” she said.
Working with members to make a difference in the community is a goal of the Centra Foundation, said its president, Lyn Morgan. The foundation receives $75,000 annually from the credit union but also seeks donations to increase its philanthropic funding pool. “Centra does try to engage members and the community in supporting these efforts and make a difference in the community,” Morgan said. The Holiday Giving Program raised more than $12,000 last year in Bartholomew County to provide gifts for children registered for the Angel Tree program, she said.
In the past few weeks, the Centra Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to Columbus nonprofit Sans Souci, which sells everything from discounted furniture to clothing. That money is being applied toward the cost of remodeling existing space and creating the agency’s Study and Education Center, said Erika Hefler, Sans Souci’s assistant director.
Sans Souci intentionally works with its employees to increase educational attainment and improve financial literacy skills so that they can transition to greater opportunities, Hefler said. About 50 employees will complete that education in a given year, she said. The Centra Foundation grant will help furnish the Study and Education Center with computers and computer desks, a TV or projector for multi-media needs, and furniture, Hefler said.
“If it weren’t for foundations like Centra, nonprofits couldn’t do the things we do,” said Sheryl Adams, Sans Souci’s executive director.