Merck Sharp & Dohme Federal Credit Union of Chalfont, Pa., raised $23,600 for charity this year with the help of a generous membership base and a 4-H cow named Bessie.
At the 11th annual MSDFCU Charity Cow Plop in October, members looked on as Bessie moseyed around a horse show ring divided into three-foot by three-foot plots that the credit union had sold "deeds" to for donations of $10 each. Guided by the call of nature, Bessie did her business where she pleased and the three members holding the deeds to the plots with the biggest "plop" got a portion of the sales.
Manna on Main Street, a multi-service, interfaith outreach organization serving the North Penn community, received $11,800, as did The Shepherd's Shelf, an emergency food pantry serving the North Penn and Indian Valley areas and operating under the auspices of Christ Lutheran Church in Kulpsville, Pa.
A cow plop might be an unconventional fundraising method, but it seemed perfect to MSDFCU CEO David Whitehead when he read a newspaper article about a football team that collected about $40,000 that way. Because it doesn't take a lot of work and has the potential to produce a sizeable sum, it seemed ideal for a fall activity to complement the credit union's other charitable event, a spring golf outing.
"I'm a believer in giving back to the community your members come from," Whitehead told Credit Union Times. Since it started 11 years ago, the credit union's annual cow plop has generated more than $180,600 toward charity.
According to Domenic DiPillo, vice president of marketing, it helps to have members who are as altruistic as the credit union.
"A major portion of the success is the membership base, their commitment to community service and helping those less fortunate than they are," he said. "[Merck] employees have always gone out of their way to support charitable events. Even in these economic times they're coming through."
And times are certainly still tough for those who seek assistance from Manna on Main Street."You would think that we've come out on the tail end of this and things have gotten better, but we're serving 25% more people than we did last year," said Tom Allebach, executive director of the nonprofit, which runs a soup kitchen and food cupboard in addition to providing emergency financial aid and youth programs.
Thanks to donations from MSDFCU and other companies, he said, "We've been able to respond to the needs. We haven't had to turn anyone away."
The Shepherd's Shelf has also seen a rise in hardship in the community recently. "The requests for food from local residents has just grown enormously over the past year or two," said the Rev. Thomas Kadel, senior pastor of Christ Lutheran Church. "It's a struggle to keep the appropriate good and nutritional food on hand that we can share with people."
Like Allebach, Kadel emphasized the importance of the credit union's contribution. "When something like the proceeds from the cow plop come along, it just makes an enormous difference in our ability to serve people the way we'd like to," he said. "That kindness from the credit union touched a lot of families and will continue to do so throughout the year."