According to Kim Thore, director of marketing at Piedmont Aviation Credit Union in Winston Salem, a 6'1" employee dressed up as the Little Guy wowed employees and members on a visit this summer to CU branches as part of a now three-year-old campaign to raise funds for the Micro Community Grants program of the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation.
That program, with Little Guy's help, has now topped $500,000 in donations, making it one of the largest gift of its kind among foundation charities. The funds will aid more than 20 needy groups in the two states--from foster homes to medical clinics.
Meanwhile, the two leagues have picked up on CUNA's Little Guy caricature, assembling Team Little Guy for the second year in a row from 12 CU runners, testing their endurance and leg muscles in the grueling 208-mile Blue Ridge Relay Race across the mountains of North Carolina and western Virginia. That two-day race is scheduled Sept. 5-6, and for weeks the leagues and the participants have carefully documented and blogged all the pre-training and coaching. The runners include an assortment of volunteers, members and management executives from the North Carolina league along with individual CU staffers.
"We're ready for this one," said a primed Esteve Coll-Larossa, business development marketing manager at United Services CU in Asheville, N.C.. Coll-Larossa is a Team Little Guy member who will don a Little Guy T-shirt and run ahead of a truck emblazoned with CUNA's cartoon character.
The plan, said organizers, is to raise $10,000 to $30,000 more than last year in pledged donations from CUs across the two states, with the funds earmarked for the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation.
"We'll do it for sure," forecast Coll-Larossa, who will be joined in the race by John C. Radebaugh, president/CEO of the North Carolina league as well as his son, John Jr. Another runner, Mark Caverly, executive vice president of Local Government Credit Union, said he has been training three or four times a week, averaging 15- to 20-mile runs.
Pushing for CU participation in the two states and elsewhere, the organizers said they will be sharing information on the team's progress through the Team Little Guy blog at www.teamlittleguy.com. "Since it debuted a year ago, this blog has gotten more than 20,000 hits," noted a league spokesman.
The Blue Ridge Run is expected to have many more CU cheerleaders, including those at the $220 million Piedmont, where CU employees "are having a great time" celebrating the Little Guy achievements while participating in several fundraising projects--from car washes to dress-down days--said Thore, the marketing head. She added, "We've been talking about the good work being done by MCG and encouraging members to think of charities they know that might benefit." The CU is conducting a member raffle with a three-day Orlando or Hawaiian vacation as the grand prize.
Maurice Smith, president/CEO of Local Government and chairman of the Carolinas Foundation, said he is pleased with progress the foundation has made in helping many of the small local charities flourish "and in many cases the $10,000-$15,000 grants we provide represent 50% of their yearly budgets."
Apart from Little Guy, he said the foundation also is earning interest through community investment funds linked to the National Credit Union Foundation.
Meanwhile, the $106 million Premier FCU of Greensboro said it, too is a strong Little Guy backer, though it has no executives in the race. "We love the Little Guy since it represents the people helping people message so well, and so this is our second year for our credit union to be a $5,000 sponsor," said Lori Thompson, executive vice president.
Premier received particularly good media coverage for a micro-grant for a small group home helping mentally challenged adults, said Thompson. "Those grants are our way of giving back," she said.