First Credit Union & Insurance and Westview Agencies close early to enable staff to volunteer in the community.


On October 8th First Credit Union & Insurance and Westview Agencies will be closing at 2.p.m. to enable all 140 employees to make a positive difference by volunteering in the communities that they serve.

The purpose of our organization is to strengthen the well-being of our members-clients and make a meaningful community impact. To express our commitment to our community, on October 8th we’re closing all of our credit union and insurance branches early to enable our employees to volunteer in their community. This is an opportunity for us to lend a hand and show our gratitude to some of the remarkable non-profit organizations who work every day for the benefit of others; we’re calling this our Community Impact Day.”

This October, credit unions around the world will celebrate the 67th International Credit Union Day. This year’s theme, “People Helping People,” embraces the longstanding credit union philosophy and is the inspiration for First Credit Union’s Community Impact Day. Credit unions exist to serve their members, not to make a profit. Our ‘people-first’ philosophy impels credit unions and their employees to get involved in their community and support worthwhile causes. Every year we give back thousands of dollars to our communities through scholarships, donations and sponsorships – Community Impact Day is a way for us to give back by volunteering our time.

First Credit Union & Insurance and Westview Agencies are inviting members and clients to join them in branch on October 8th from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for refreshments and to find out more about the projects their local branches will be undertaking in the afternoon.

Get On Board the ORCA Bus!

success by 6
Tara Chernoff, Marketing and Community Impact Manager, presenting a cheque to Elise Statham, Success by 6 and ORCA Bus Coordinator

It’s a rainy day in Powell River, but that didn’t stop the ORCA (On the Road with Children’s Activities) Bus from making its rounds. This morning I caught up with them at their scheduled stop at Pacific Point Market to present Elise Statham, our local Success by 6 Coordinator, a cheque for over $1,500 (the concession proceeds from our 2015 Powell River Movie Night). While I was there, a van pulled up and two children tumbled out, laughing as they raced each other to be the first one on the bus.

What makes the ORCA Bus so special? Well first, this much-loved vehicle delivers fantastic early childhood programs to areas in our community that may not have access to them otherwise – from Saltery Bay to Lund, and everywhere in between. The bus delivers a Strong Start outreach program for SD#47, Family Place programming, Infant Development Programs, and many of other activities with various organizations and businesses in Powell River.

But even more than its great programming and unique way of reaching out to everyone in our community, I think what makes it so special is the collaborative spirit that makes the ORCA Bus possible. The bus receives  significant support from local volunteers, businesses and organizations – without the volunteer time, without the donations, and without the community partnerships, this bus would not be on the road. It is truly a gift to our community, from our community!

What can you do? Check out their schedule to find out when the ORCA Bus will be in your neighbourhood next. Ask Elise how you can get involved. Get on board the ORCA bus!

When a Community Rallies Around a Dream

The Story Behind the Dick van Aelst Memorial Welcome Gazebo

When the doors were open on the Bowen branch of First Credit Union in June of 2007, it was a move that flew in the face of expensive market research done by another much larger credit union. The findings of this research were that the island could not sustain a branch of a financial institution (FI). First Credit Union CEO Dave Craigen was not one to be deterred by such things. Instead of throwing up his hands and saying ‘oh well’’ like all the other FI’s that rejected the idea of opening a branch on Bowen Island, he came up with a partnership model that had been used once before. It would be a partnership with the community and would allow the credit union an out if things did not go well and the branch proved to be unsustainable. It involved forming a new set of shares unique to members on Bowen and having a separate board to represent the start up branch. The board was to be a group of islanders that had either been involved in trying to get a branch on the island or was passionate about making the idea work. Dick van Aelst was the only banker on this original board, recently retired from a 40 year career as a VP with one of the big chartered banks.

That was 2007 and in June of that year the branch was opened with second hand furniture in a small 900 square foot office with zero members and zero dollars in assets. There were many growing pains in those formative years but the community rallied behind the dream, spurred along by the positive energy and guidance of its own First Credit Union Bowen Board. In two years the branch hit positive net income for the month for the first time. It never went back to losing money again. In three and a half years the branch broke even, and by the middle of 2011 it was clear to all that the partnership model was no longer needed. The branch was a self sustainable viable economic entity that could carry on without any need of a back out plan.

At what would prove to be the final Bowen AGM in April of 2012, members voted unanimously to retire the unique class of Bowen shares and eliminate the partnership model and become a regular branch of First Credit Union. The Bowen Board would stay on, but with less regulatory requirements, as an Advisory Committee (AC). As a thank you to them, and to the community at large for supporting the branch, CEO Craigen pledged a one time gift of $5000 to be used in a manner that the new AC decided. A healthy Dick van Aelst was among those on the AC that accepted this gift on behalf of the community. They settled on the idea of a permanent multi-use structure to be built on the municipal wharf by the ferry, but sadly, by the time that they did, Dick had passed after a sudden and deadly return of a cancer battle he had waged earlier in his life. By the end of June he was gone and soon after the AC decided to name the structure in his memory.Dick van Aelst 9480 9769 9562 IMG_20150418_111402 IMG_20150418_142740

This was the birth of the Dick van Aelst Memorial Welcome Gazebo that now sits on the pier by the ferry. It was built over the summer of 2015 and true to the spirit of the man whose name it was built in, this was a community barn raising that had volunteerism and positivity at its heart. Thousands of hours of volunteer work are in that structure. It houses a large map of the island he loved, pamphlets and information for visitors, and a place for businesses to advertise. It is a shelter from the elements for all who must wait for the next ferry, a ticket booth for our annual dock dance and a welcome to all once they arrive. There will be music inside at our festivals and there is even talk of it housing a community piano for the summer seasons. Fundraising for that element has already begun with an independent grassroots movement; proof that the community has already adopted it as their own. Like the credit union, it is an island amenity brought about by the island rallying together around a dream, an idea that we can have something even though so many say it is not possible. In short, it is a small and nearly perfect embodiment of what Dick himself was. He would have been proud.

How garage sale profits can help build stronger communities

garage sale
First Credit Union staff (and family!) setting up for the garage sale on Saturday, September 12.

We admit it – over the years First Credit Union’s storage locker has collected far more than just dust. This is where displaced desks, worn-out chairs and old shelving units come to retire; every year more Christmas decorations accumulate in the corner and a summer’s worth of event supplies are added to the last. Walking through the maze of credit union relics brings back a lot of memories – but lately the florescent-lit room became so jam-packed that it was almost impossible to pick a path to the back of the room. In an ambitious effort to clear out our overflowing storage facility we hosted a garage sale this past Saturday; $565 was raised and all proceeds went to the First Credit Union Community Fund under the umbrella of the Powell River Community Foundation.

What is a community foundation?

A community foundation is a collection of charitable gifts donated by local citizens. These gifts are pooled and invested and the investment income is distributed as grants to local charitable organizations. The capital is never touched and continues to grow with each new gift, generating income to meet a wide range of community interests and needs for years to come.

First Credit Union is a proud affiliate of both the Powell River Community Foundation and the Bowen Island Community Foundation.  If you are looking to give back to your community, consider making a donation to your local Community Foundation. Anyone can give, at any time and in any amount. Whether it is profits from a garage sale, or the establishment of an endowment fund, community foundations welcome and appreciate all contributions. The larger the pool of capital a foundation has to invest, the more income can be earned and the more good can be done for our community. ~Tara

Don’t miss out on free contributions to your child’s education savings.


It’s back-to-school week, making this is a perfect time to think about saving for your child’s post-secondary education. While there are a few options available, the newest grant to be announced is the  British Columbia Training and Education Savings Grant.

The grant is a one-time provincial incentive of $1,200 available to children when they turn six years old. Parents with children born between January 1, 2007 to August 15, 2009 need to apply for the grant before August 14, 2018. Parents with children born after August 15, 2009 must apply between their child’s sixth and ninth birthdays.

You don’t need to contribute to a RESP to receive this grant, but you do need to open an RESP before your child turns nine. Contributing to a RESP will enable you to receive other grants as well – there are lots of different options for investments.

Although figuring out what grants and investments are available can seem overwhelming, there are some great tools to help.

  • Talk to us so we can help ensure you receive the grants you may be eligible for.
  • CanLearn is a government of Canada website with interactive information and tools designed to help you save, plan and pay for post-secondary education.

Ask us about RESPs and the available government grants – saving for your child’s education is one of the most important investments you will make. ~Tara

Movie Night Magic

Birthday Party at Movie Under the Stars in Powell River
Birthday Party at Movie Under the Stars in Powell River

In August we hosted our annual Movie Nights in Powell River, Bowen Island and Comox Valley.  Of all the events we are involved with, the movie nights are my favorite – hundreds of people come out to enjoy a free movie and support a local charity (all concession proceeds go to a local charity).

Besides raising funds for fantastic organizations (this year Success by 6 Orca Bus in Powell River, Tourism Bowen Island, and Cumberland Community School Society were the recipients), I love these events because they are a celebration of community. When you look out across the sea of fold-up chairs and blankets, you see children dancing, couples snuggling, parents laughing – even the occasional birthday party! It’s all part of the Movie Night Magic.


Where you bank makes a difference!

Where you bank makes a differenceWe believe this … we really, really do.  When you ‘bank’ at a credit union, you are an owner – with a voice, and a say in how things are run. Don’t like how your branch is being run? Have an idea that you want to share? You can talk to the branch manager, call up the CEO, or even join our board of directors. When you ‘bank’ with a credit union, profits go back to you (in the form of profit sharing) and your community (by way of donations, sponsorships and scholarships).  We give our profits back to our shareholders – you. When you ‘bank’ with a credit union, you are part of something much bigger than yourself – credit unions are on a mission to improve the quality of life for everyone. We like to say that it’s banking with a higher purpose! Choose to bank with a credit union – because where you bank really does make a difference.