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First Commerce Credit Union Encourages Employees to Support Local Businesses

Summit East Financial Center
First Commerce Credit Union's Corporate Offices in Tallahassee

What began as a way for employees at a Tallahassee credit union to help support local business has grown well beyond that original goal. The institution's "Local Strong" outreach is now in its second phase.
The institution is First Commerce Credit Union. That's where Kim Howes is the senior vice president of strategic initiatives. One of those initiatives, she said, was encouraging all First Commerce employees to support their communities in whatever way they thought best.

"Each of our team members has their own unique story and experience when it comes to the impact of the coronavirus. We recognize there's no better way to help them in a way that's meaningful to them than to empower them with a way to help at that very personal level."

Thus was born the "Local Strong" campaign.

"We deposited $25 in the accounts of each and every one of our team members and asked them to spend it with local businesses to help them and their families. And then if they could, we encouraged them to pay it forward to a friend or a neighbor or another one who's been impacted or in need."

One First Commerce team member had a 100 year old relative isolated in a local assisted living facility. So co-workers decided to lend a hand.

"She was really down. She hadn't been able to see anyone for a long time and they wanted to find a way to really cheer up her day, those of fellow residents and staff people working there. They pooled their funds together and purchased more than 250 cupcakes from a locally-owned bakery and delivered them to bring some tears to some of our must vulnerable residents, every single staff member and caregiver in that facility."

Howes said the Local Strong effort was just too good to confine to a single organization.

"We challenged some of our fellow credit unions from our area to join in. We quickly had five of them accept our challenge: First Florida, Envision, FSU, Flag and Tallahassee/Leon. And then even First Federal Bank, which has locations throughout North Florida, accepted our challenge. We had credit unions from as far as Kansas City reach out because they wanted to implement Local Strong in their own communities."

Howes said matching money came from the federal credit unions' national industry association to make the effort even more effective. Phase one of Local Strong, which kicked off in March, amounted to some four-thousand First Commerce dollars distributed among about 150 employees. She added Phase Two, comprising a local investment of around $6,000
dollars, is now underway.
"And this includes this time our more-than-70 new team members and communities in our new locations in South Georgia, including Valdosta, Adel, Nashville and Ray City. So we are really excited about seeing the creative ways that our team spends those funds with local businesses this time."

And, even with limited business reopening now in effect in both Florida and Georgia, local businesses still need all the help they can get.