This article is from the February 2017 Issue of Forever Young

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By Glenna Turnbull

Sometimes a name is more appropriate than we first realize. Take, for example, Valley First. Set to celebrate their 70th anniversary this year, Valley First has truly lived up to its name through their commitment to, indeed, put the “Valley” first.

For example, did you know that since 2010, Valley First has raised well over $1.2 million and close to 72,000 pounds of food for local food banks through their Feed the Valley campaign? And if you donated in, say, Oliver, then the money stayed to help those in need in Oliver; or if you donated in Kelowna, Penticton, Salmon Arm or any of their17 branches, the food or money received remained in your own community to help those in need.

Susan Ewanick, President of Valley First, said, “We’re very proud of the Feed the Valley campaign.”

But Valley First does a lot more than just help out its local food banks. They’re also reaching out to help the valley’s youth through their CanSave program. “We’ve partnered with Enactus through Okanagan College in a new financial literacy program,” explained Susan, “educating children in grades two through four on basic money management skills.”

In keeping with their community-mindedness, not only are they teaching children the importance of spending and saving wisely, but kids are learning to include the all-important philanthropic idea of donating as well. “We’re helping them learn to make decisions around their spending and saving choices as well as their charity choices – the decisions we all make on a weekly and monthly basis,” Susan said.

Reflective of their passion about financial literacy and the importance of teaching future generations sound money management, Valley First is hosting an exciting contest on Facebook, asking parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles to create a short video about how they are educating future generations about the three pillars of financial management: spending, saving and giving. “We’ll be giving away three prizes of $1,000 for the best short video,” noted Meredith Birchall-Spencer, Communications Business Partner for Valley First

The contest is open from Feb. 7 to 21 and can be found on Valley First’s Facebook page at facebook.com/valleyfirst

And because Valley First isn’t the only one marking a special anniversary, in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, the credit union has created the Simple Generoisty campaign. Every week during 2017 they’re selecting one individual or team from their communities across BC who are making a positive difference through volunteerism. The chosen volunteer then gets to select the non-profit of their choice to receive a $1500 donation from Valley First. If you know a volunteer you think should be nominated, you can find out more on the Valley First website at valleyfirst.com

A lot has changed since Valley First opened their doors 70 years ago. “If you think about our humble beginnings, we had 51 members and under $1000 in assets,” said Susan, who cites they now have over 72,000 members throughout Similkameen, Thomson and Okanagan with assets now at $4 billion.

“What we’re most proud of is that we help simplify lives, helping members of our communities to thrive. We’re committed to making a financial difference,” said Susan, pointing out that the Valley First community investments last year was just shy of $1 million and more than $3 million since 2012. This includes cash, hours of volunteer work, in-kind investments, employee giving and more.

“Every year we distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars through community partnerships, donations, education awards and in-kind gifts to many worthwhile organizations,” stated Melissa, adding, “our mandate is to make a difference in the communities we serve.”

“For me,” noted Susan, “it’s all about the people...I spent over 20 years working for a large Canadian institution and then a couple more at a global one so I’m thrilled now to be at a local credit union where I can make a difference.”