Northeast Family Federal Credit Union has its own superhero. And a real flesh and blood hero. All within the same person.
Fred Brown, marketing director at the Manchester, Conn., credit union is not only "Credit Union Man" by day but his generous nature has literally saved the life of a local resident. Brown recently donated one of his kidneys to a complete stranger.
"Back in August, I saw a report that a guy had donated his kidney to a co-worker, and I thought, 'How neat, what a great thing to do,'" said Brown.
The day after that news report, Brown started researching what steps needed to be taken to donate his kidney. He later got tested and was a match for one of 1,000 patients on a waiting list for a new kidney. As an altruistic donor, Brown couldn't meet the recipient until after the procedure.
"Really this was about wanting to help save somebody's life and maybe help inspire others to donate, too," said Brown. "When I met her, it turns out we live one town apart and know a few of the same people. So far the implant has been a success, she is doing well and it is just wonderful."
As for Brown, he too is recuperating and says he expects CU Man will be out and about again sometime in January.
"I honestly didn't think CU Man would be this popular," said Brown. "Its getting bigger a lot quicker than I thought."
The inspiration for CU Man actually came when Brown was out visiting SEGs and as he walked in toting coffee and donuts people would greet him as "the CU man."
"Everyone would just say 'Hey, the CU Man' and I'd say call me Fred, but they'd all just say CU Man so I decided to run with it and started wearing this huge nametag with a superhero graphic that said CU Man," Brown chuckled. "I realized that I didn't care what they called me as long as they remembered me so I made it part of my e-mail signature."
As he posted answers to questions on CUNA's list serve and received positive comments from across the country about CU Man, Brown says it clicked that CU Man could be something more and he trademarked the name, image and registered for a creditunionman.com Web site.
So, born out of the frustration with big banking, CU Man has been sent to earth to teach people a better way to deal with their money. Brown adds that this superhero is "strong enough to knock down high fees, leap predatory interest rates in a single bound and is faster with loan approvals." Basically, he says CU Man can help consumers break away from the high cost of banking.
"We realized that CU Man would resonate with younger kids, and we wanted people to look at it as an educational resource where they could find out more about money and credit unions," said Brown. "So in late January, CU Man will be paying a visit to four elementary schools."
To spread the word, Brown also incorporated a blog and "Ask CU Man" section into the site. In addition, fans can request visits from CU Man, who'll bring the coffee and donuts. Brown also had a custom-made costume complete with mask created so anyone could pick up the CU Man mantle, and ordered some 5,000 CU Man temporary tattoos as part of a contest where people can send images of themselves sporting a CU Man tattoo to the Web site for a chance to win a $25 gift card. CU Man even makes an appearance on Northeast Family FCU's Facebook page. Overall, Brown says the superhero has been creating quite a buzz.
"We obviously don't take ourselves seriously and CU Man is something we've created to have fun while increasing awareness. I've been surprised by the huge response and request for the CU Man tattoos," said Brown. "When a local television station reporter came out to do a story about the kidney donation she'd heard about CU Man and thought it was cute. So when I educated her on it she told me to give her a call when CU Man goes to the schools and she'll cover it. Are we having fun? Absolutely, but we're also getting the word out that there is an alternative to big bankers."