Credit Union run by team of five women

July 07, 2014

A place where caring and listening are a priority, a focus on helping people achieve better lives, financial peace of mind and a cooperative atmosphere. These goals are what Sunflower UP Federal Credit Union strives to create for its 2,000 members.

The financial institution at the corner of Ninth and Broadway in downtown Marysville is run by a team of five women. They find their workplace is one that supports not only credit union members, but each other and each other’s family needs.

Sunflower Credit Union’s women are among local residents featured in this week’s annual Women of Marshall County edition of the Marysville Advocate.

The credit union is a member-owned institution launched in 1952 by Union Pacific Railroad employees in Marysville. It has since expanded to serve employees of Tension Envelope and local school districts as well.

Inside the refurbished building are offices painted in warm colors next to exposed brick walls that create a friendly atmosphere.

“I think compassion is our strength,” said manager Janet Fritschi, the fourth woman to run the office over the past 50 years. “These women really do care about the members’ well-being.”

One function of which the staff is most proud is efforts to educate people to best manage their money.

Loan officer Maureen Nelson coordinates loans for credit union members as well as financial literacy courses offered at local grade schools, Marysville High School and to members.

In facilitating the Save at School program, Nelson said, Sunflower Credit Union has hired more than 30 children to be tellers at their schools.

The program helps young people understand the benefit of saving.

Children each morning keep track of deposits made at local schools by fellow students. Nelson then brings the funds back for deposit into their accounts.

“At the elementary schools there are more than 100 deposits every week,” she said.

Employee Amy Steenson does the same with students at Valley Heights and Fritschi works with students in Hanover schools.

“People always talk about the importance of financial education in school, but nobody’s done something about it,” Fritschi said. “We’re trying to do something about it, in small ways.”

The credit union also has provided funding for a Foundations in Personal Finance course written by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey and taught to all MHS seniors this year.

They learn about the pitfalls of debt, why it’s important to save for a car rather than borrow and why to keep emergency funds on hand.

The credit union offers Ramsey’s course to adults in the community.

The work, Nelson said, is enjoyable because the focus is on improving lives.

“I try to put it into perspective for people, to help them clean up their credit reports,” she said. “They need to understand it’s so important that credit reports look decent because of jobs, education, buying a house.”

Sunflower Credit Union’s employees say they’re pleased they can help people with small loans as a bridge to more stability. Loans range from $75 to $60,000 for home equity, cars, boats and other items, but not first-time homeowner loans.

“We stay smaller,” Nelson said. “I think a lot of times in a lot of respects we’re serving the underprivileged.”

A supportive attitude runs throughout the staff.

Alice Wohlbrandt, electronic services representative, feels she’s grown professionally since coming to work here. She runs electronic reports for members, helps them set up electronic accounts for their loans, checking and savings and helps small businesses do payroll.

“I always like to expand my knowledge and learn new things,” she said, noting that’s encouraged among the credit union’s friendly atmosphere.

“We all get along.”

Nelson said their empathy comes in part from having walked in the same shoes as others.

“We know where they’ve been and we try to help them out as much as we can,” she said.

Denise Thorngate, member services representative, notes there are good days and bad days, just as anywhere else, “but we all get along very well. We don’t have a lot of drama and we don’t bring it to work.”

As women and mothers, she said, “I think we might have a little more understanding for each other and for our members.”

“I think we’re a little more fun about it. It’s not all stuffiness. We all get along and joke around.”

Thorngate’s son, Brandon, has worked at the credit union and staff gets to know each other’s families and offer flexibility when employees have to take time off for family.

“We all lean on each other at times and do our best, but we understand we have a life outside of here,” said Steenson, member services representative.

Some folks might not think of a financial institution as a compassionate place, she said, but she and her co-workers say it’s necessary.

“We’re trying to help people make ends meet. Compassion is a big part of the job,” Steenson said. “I think when people know you’re genuinely trying to do your best to work with them, the communication’s better that way.”

“We try to take the extra step to help them figure out how to fix things,” she said. “We don’t always have the magic pill, but we try.” –

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