When South Hill resident Craig Ellison arrived at the Washington State Employees Credit Union (WSECU) the morning of Nov. 29, he was going about his normal business.
When he approached the teller window of WSECU employee Caitlin Hutt-Martindale, he was surprised to find that he was the first of eight recipients that day to receive a $100 bill.
His task? To pass on that money to an individual, organization, cause, or charity of his choosing.
“I was surprised,” Ellison said. “And I thought, ‘Wow — what a giving (credit union).’ It does seem like something this credit union would do.”
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As four-year member of the credit union, Ellison pops into WSECU’s South Hill location frequently, often starting conversations with the employees there.
His conversation with Hutt-Martindale on Nov. 29 ended with the her explaining about Giving Tuesday — an international initiative taking place the day after Cyber Monday that encourages people to give back to a cause of their choosing.
For the past several years, WSECU have been involved in Giving Tuesday by encouraging each of its 20 branches around Washington state to pick an organization to donate money to. Last year, WSECU chose to support Helping Hand House, an organization on South Hill dedicated to preventing and ending family homelessness, and donated more than $1,000.
This year, WSECU changed it up.
“This year we decided to do something different by getting our members involved,” said Ann Flannigan, vice president of public relations for WSECU. “So besides our branches choosing (an organization), we put it into the hands of our credit union members and then ask them to go do good with it in the spirit of Giving Tuesday.”
This year we decided to do something different by getting our members involved. So besides our branches choosing (an organization), we put it into the hands of our credit union members and then ask them to go do good with it in the spirit of Giving Tuesday.
Ann Flannigan, vice president of public relations for WSECU
The idea is new territory, added Flannigan, because they can’t control the outcome. But she says that’s the fun of it.
“It gives us the opportunity to learn what (members) are doing in the community,” said Lisa Beach, manager for the Puyallup: South Hill branch. “It’s really heartwarming. There’s so much need in this world.”
With each $100, recipients also received a flier explaining how to give back and spread the word in three easy steps. After donating the money to someone in need, WSECU encouraged recipients to “capture yourself doing good” and post it on social media with the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #WSECU.
All 25 branches of WSECU participated in the #GivingTuesday, donating around $25,000 in total.
For Ellison, he was so surprised by the money that he wasn’t sure where to give it yet, but wanted to make sure it’s “someone who’s on the swing up and can benefit.”
When Audrey Ahrens found out she was a recipient, she knew immediately how she was going to use her donation. As a member of WSECU for 34 years, Ahrens is retired but remains a member of the Yesterdays Chevelles & El Caminos Car Club in Tacoma. For years, the club has supported the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization dedicated to supporting injured military veterans and their families.
“(The veterans) come from far away and they’re dealing with who knows what,” Ahrens said. “Whatever people give can help the families to function.”
Supporting the project is important to Ahrens on a personal level, whose husband served in the military.
“My husband was in the military and he was shot down three times but he kept going,” she said.
As a registered nurse, Puyallup resident Eulaida Collado wanted to support local hospitals, and decided to give her money to Mary’s Bridge Children’s Hospital. The Mary Bridge Children’s Foundation puts on its annual Festival of Trees every year in December in support of children and families.
One recipient posted on Twitter that he donated his $100 to the Ronald McDonald House in memory of his daughter, Angelica. Another recipient chose to give her money to her church, which raises funds to support an orphanage in Africa.
“At the end of the day we were all exhausted,” Beach said, adding that it was “humbling” to see what causes their members were involved in, and why. “It was pretty emotional, just the stories they were telling us.”