The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) announced First Commerce Credit Union as a first-place winner of the 2020 Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Community Service Award for its #LocalStrong initiative, which was launched at the onset of the pandemic to support local businesses.
The Dora Maxwell award is presented annually to credit unions that demonstrate outstanding social responsibility projects in their communities. First Commerce received top honors among credit unions across the country in the $250 million to $1 billion asset size category. First Commerce was the only credit union in Florida and Georgia to be recognized this year.
From its start in Tallahassee, where First Commerce is headquartered, the #LocalStrong initiative created a wave of support spreading across the U.S. and into Canada that helped incuse more than $1 million into local economies during a time of great need. Upon launching #LocalStrong, First Commerce quickly challenged other credit unions, businesses and organizations to join the movement by implementing similar programs. Each time, they accepted.
The League of Southeastern Credit unions (LSCU) and the Southeastern Credit Union Foundation also accepted and helped take #LocalStrong to a whole new level by launching a regional program to match funds of participating credit unions across Florida, Georgia and Alabama. From there, #LocalStrong took off, moving across the United States and into Canada.
“It is truly an honor for First Commerce to be recognized for our #LocalStrong initiative,” said First Commerce CEO Cecilia Homison. “This effort exemplifies what First Commerce and our team members stand for — people helping people. #LocalStrong was a meaningful way for us to give back and let small businesses know we are always here for them. The most inspiring part of #LocalStrong was how personal it became for our team. They jumped in to help people and organizations they knew needed it most.”
First Commerce created #LocalStrong in March 2020, as communities began closing down in response to the pandemic — leaving so many small business owners struggling to stay afloat. The idea was simple: First Commerce empowered its team members to make purchases online or over the hone from locally owned businesses by giving them each $25 to purchase a product, service, or gift card/gift certificate from a favorite local business. Team members could then choose to donate their purchase to a local organization or individual in need. The first wave was so successful, First Commerce funded a second wave for its 200 team members.
Ultimately, First Commerce provided nearly $10,000 in support to communities across North Florida and South Georgia.
As one of many team efforts inspired by #LocalStrong, the First Commerce Accounting Department pooled together their money and came up with a plan to pay it forward. Team members contacted the activities director at Center Pointe, a nursing home facility, and asked about ways they could help.
Immediately, the activities director responded with: “They would love cupcakes!”
The team called Small Cakes Cupcakery and ordered sweet treats for the residents and patients. And, during the ordering process, the baker shared how touched and excited the business was for the support.
CUNA’s National Awards Committee selects the 2020 recipients from the winning entries submitted by their local credit union trade associations. This is the first time First Commerce has won a first place National Dora Maxwell award. In previous years, First Commerce has received recognition from CUNA and LSCU for internal programs to assist team members, community service and financial literacy, as well as for its MyWay checking account designed for young adults ages 18 to 29.
For details, stories and photos related to #LocalStrong as well as the other ways First Commerce supports the communities it serves, visit FirstCommerceCU.org/community. Also search #LocalStrong on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.