When Volunteering Is Your Life, Great Things Happen
Volunteering is deeply imbedded into Stacey Walker's identity. She's been volunteering in some capacity for a third of her life. It began at a young age when Walker attended a high school where volunteering was required.
“You had to volunteer for a certain amount of hours and that was just instilled in me to do that and continue that,” Walker, board director at the $182 million XCEL Federal Credit Union in Bloomfield, N.J., said.
Walker sees it as a way to say thanks and give back for all the people who contributed to her development. “People have poured into me from childhood until now. From family members, teachers to various professionals, they themselves volunteered. They thought enough of me to say I’m going to pour into this lady, I’m going to give her advice, I’m going to coach her and mentor her. I’m going to work with her and give her a chance and an opportunity, and I feel like I need to give that back,” Walker emphasized.
After graduating with her law degree, Walker did just that. She later completed a training class at United Way, which taught her the ins and outs of being a director at a non-profit organization. She then put those skills to use and joined the board of directors at XCEL.
Twelve years later and Walker is very proud of the work she and her volunteer board have done at XCEL. When she joined in 2005, the credit union had $83 million in assets and about 12,000 members. Now the credit union has $182 million in assets and 19,000 members, Walker said.
The numerous accolades and awards the credit union and its board members have received are a testament to the collective success of the board.
In addition to the multiple recognitions Walker has received, other board members have been recognized as well. In 2015, Chairman of the Board Dan Moffit received the Volunteer of the Year award by the New Jersey Credit Union League and NAFCU. In 2014, XCEL received NAFCU's Credit Union of the Year award.
XCEL was also named one of the Best Places to Work in New Jersey by NJBiz Magazine for six consecutive years, 2010 to 2015.
“The awards are great, but they’re really a testimony to how well we provide care in terms of service to our members and how much effort and work we put into providing for them. I’m really proud of that,” she said.
Walker is equally as passionate about traveling as she is about credit unions. Because those in the credit union community know this, they often think of her when opportunities arise for international credit union engagement.
“The credit union movement and the credit union community are bigger than any political border,” Walker said. “It's not just about helping myself but also helping people in my community. That's something that I’m still working on, because the world is so big. I want to learn more about what people do in other countries and bring those ideas back to the U.S. and my credit union.”
In 2013, Walker spent two weeks interning at a credit union in the Dominican Republic through the U.S. Department of State Professional Fellows Program. In 2014, she completed the National Credit Union Foundation's Development Education program. That same year, she traveled to Australia and in 2016 to Ireland – all on behalf of the credit union movement.
In 2016, Walker volunteered as a group mentor for the Foundation's CaribDE program in Jamaica. She later went on a vacation to Brazil to attend the Olympics. After returning, an employee from another credit union learned of her trip and reached out to Walker to see if her credit union would be interested in hosting a group from Brazilian credit union cooperatives.
In 2017, she's already on the move. In January she went to Montego Bay, Jamaica for CUNA's Volunteer Conference where attendees were able to network, get connected to volunteer tools, and learn about strategies and perspectives on the industry's greatest challenges.
“That was really important to me, my credit union directors and staff know my family is from Jamaica, so any time I have an opportunity to go to Jamaica and learn more about the credit union industry, I try to be a part of that as much as possible,” she said.
Through her 12 years on the board at XCEL, Walker has maintained her spirit of perseverance. The board director said it's important to grow no matter what position you hold. This year she wants to get more involved with advocacy and collaboration on legislative action. “Especially during this time we really need to have more of a voice so our elected officials know that we support credit unions and that there are certain things we’re in favor of,” she emphasized.
It's important for credit unions to represent a range of voices on their boards, and a diverse recruiting strategy results in a diverse board, Walker said. The credit union uses a variety of recruitment techniques including repeat banners, popups on XCEL's website, marketing at the yearly volunteer table at the credit union's annual meeting and direct personal requests. Walker said all nine of the board members responded to different recruitment methods. “On our board, we have a good balance of ethnic, gender, and professional diversity which contributes to a broad range of perspectives from which informed decisions are made,” Walker said.
If you hang out with Walker long enough, she may spread her spirit of volunteerism. For those who helped Walker in her career, she's now paying them forward by encouraging others to do the same, including her Goddaughter, who recently applied for a position on a credit union board.
When her Goddaughter expressed some hesitancy because of her level of experience, Walker reminded her she was the ideal board member candidate.
“You’re the person that’s coming out of school, that has a car loan, that’s going to buy your first house, that’s going to refinance a couple years down the road. You’re going to have credit cards. You’re the perfect member right now. We want people like you, because of that we want people like you sitting at the table because you’re a different generation, because you’re from the millennial generation. I encouraged her to apply and she did,” recalled Walker.