Can We Matter?

When I write, my intent is to speak about the culture of Freedom, our purpose and, if possible, to inspire. I want members and employees to know that we are more than a bank, more than a financial institution. We are a partner; striving to serve and improve the lives of those with whom we come in contact in any way possible. Yet, I look around at the world and I wonder just how much we can do. What role can we play in making our community better, safer, and can that in turn create a better world? Can saving a member money, providing a loan for that first home, educating on how to budget, or providing employment that supports a family, make a difference and set people on a better path? Can that have a positive ripple effect? Can we matter? Tough questions and a grand idea to be sure.

I don’t know if financial institutions think about that a lot. Sure, commercials will say they do. Ads will pull at your heart strings to convince you they are more, but when you look at the profits, the growth, the mergers, etc., it’s easy to question the true motivation. Obviously any business must earn enough to pay their bills, pay their employees, and so on, but how much is enough? Freedom is a not-for-profit and, as such, our obligation is to take care of the same things as any business (infrastructure, salaries, products and services, etc.), but also take earnings and give back in a variety of ways; keeping fees down or eliminating them, maintaining competitive interest rates, reinvesting in the organization and supporting our community. Our earnings do not go to pay a Board of Directors; they volunteer for that role. Earnings do not go to stockholders to make a select few wealthy; they go to the membership. The best part is that how much we can give back is directly impacted by members themselves because the more they do, the more we earn and the more we give back. Seems simple, but it’s not.

See, we don’t believe, as some other financial institutions, in selling things to members they don’t really need or want. We have all the necessary products and services as any bank or credit union, but strive to give something more; a place you can count on and trust. A place that will meet member’s needs, but also talk to them, listen to them, and help them make the most out of their finances and decisions. It would be great if the world worked more like a credit union. Where people came together to support one another, do the things they do and use the things they use every day and, as a byproduct, help others as well as themselves. Where the greater good is placed above the individual. A member’s value at Freedom is not based on how much money they have on deposit or what position they hold in life. We don’t set out to offer the best products, rates or services for a select few. Our goal is to provide the best we can for all members.

Our mission is “to be a trusted partner by creating a culture of people helping people that meets the needs of our members and the communities we serve”. So, whether you’re an employee, a member, or both, if you want more out of your credit union, do more with your credit union. You’ll get more than you realize.


It’s All In How You Look At It.

I should have been in Ireland today. Had it all planned out; flights, accommodations, itinerary, pocket full of euros. I was even packed days before departure. Nature, however, had other plans. Hurricane Irma developed and started on a collision course with Florida. My daughter, who is a TV Reporter for WPEC in West Palm Beach, got the news that her vacation was cancelled. It’s an all hands on deck situation. I could not leave her behind. There goes Ireland. I knew this was a possibility; I bought flight insurance, booked as many places as possible that I could cancel without penalty. All the preparations were made to go and not to go.

Yet all the provisions and planning, all the lengths to account for almost every possibility, none changed the emotional response as the maybes became definites and the inevitable began to unfold. Anxiety, uncertainty, led to disappointment and a little anger, but those feelings quickly passed and turned into concern and fear. While I was focused on a trip, an adventure, I forgot what was really at stake. There is a category 5 hurricane, a hurricane being called “potentially catastrophic”, heading straight toward my little girl and her job is to report on the impact of this historic storm; to be in it. Trip? What trip? There are bigger things at play and if a canceled trip is the worst thing that comes from this then I will consider myself blessed. That’s called perspective.

Knock on wood, cross your fingers, light a candle, we won’t have to deal with a similar situation or other form of hardship, but it makes you stop and think about the ones we do experience and how we react to them. We have a tendency to get worked up about lesser matters. We get anxious about change (almost any kind); we lose patience when systems are on the fritz or don’t respond fast enough; we get frustrated by a hectic day or offended by a misspoken word or email.  We forget to put things in perspective. This is not to say we should accept mediocrity or allow things to inhibit our ability to serve our members or each other. We should, instead, recognize that life will have its share of disappointments and inconveniences and that they can be viewed in a different light. Think about it. We’ve all found ourselves in unexpected situations. Things happen, perhaps outside our control, and that’s the time to ask yourself; is this a problem to be dealt with or an opportunity to be embraced? Something you’ve been wanting or waiting for with anticipation or excitement is easy. The stuff that tests what we’re made of comes from circumstances we didn’t foresee or thought might come about, but didn’t give much thought.  No matter what changes come, what opportunity or setback, no matter what preparation is done, success or failure ultimately comes down to the individual’s ability to take a breath, put things into context, focus on what’s important and change things for the better. This requires we embrace the possibilities, even if they are small in nature, short in duration, or come with an extra burden, because each one builds on the foundation that ultimately creates a person’s character or the culture of an organization.

I’m not foolish (no really), but I do believe in the power of positivity and if you focus on what matters, things will eventually work out as they should even if we can’t recognize it immediately. Life is a culmination of experiences; failures and successes, chances and misses. You persevere, keep negativity to a minimum, avoid excuses or placing blame and find solutions; you adapt and move on. I guess you could say I’m an optimist; which is not always easy.  I believe there is good in most people, positives in most situations and opportunities around every corner; we just have to look for them (sometimes really hard).  And yes, opportunities can seem few and far between, but the right ones will come if we have the desire, focus on the good and, whenever possible, strive to change the things that hold us back.  We are trying to build something better at Freedom.  A better place to work; a better place to bank. This takes time.  Not everyone will share the vision, not everyone will succeed, not every step will be easy, but good things can happen just from being the best we can be each day regardless of our assigned role. Support your team, be open to learning and sharing your knowledge, seek and find how to serve, listen and build relationships with members and each other, find solutions and, most importantly, remember that “people helping people” is not just a credit union philosophy; it’s a way of life.


DID YOU KNOW: Where the idea for Credit Unions comes from?

How and Why Credit Unions Got Started

The idea for CREDIT UNIONS began in Germany in the mid-1800s when peasants were being charged unfair rates to borrow money from their landlords. They got together and pooled their resources to help each other.  Then when someone needed to borrow they were able to lend the funds at a very reasonable rate. They got better rates on savings, too. They made enough to continue.

Credit Unions were born — for the benefit of all their members. People Helping People!

Freedom Federal Credit Union began as MATCOM in 1953 in Baltimore. We moved to Harford County in 1956 to what was then Edgewood Arsenal, the Army post, which later merged with Aberdeen Proving Ground. We still have a branch there today, serving the military and civilian employees of APG. Now we also have four additional branches, and a charter to serve all of Harford County.

What has not changed? The CREDIT UNION PHILOSOPHY!  People Helping People.  Charging fair rates on loans and credit cards, awarding fair dividends on savings.  When our members participate fully, bringing all their banking needs to the credit union, we can do the most.

We are not the biggest or most well-known of Maryland’s Credit Unions, but we live in and know about Harford County. We take pride in our community and give back every way we can—through sponsorships, donations, scholarships, and employee volunteerism. If you, too, care about Harford County and helping your community, join us and be a part of something special!