WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – While many companies are embracing the Grinch within by scrapping holiday plans, bonuses, and even raises there are celebrations a plenty all over credit union-land. A recent survey of 150 top companies by executive recruitment firm Battalia Winston International finds that only 83% will host holiday parties this year. Most companies cite a dim economy and recent terrorist attacks as reasons for cutting back. And employees are not just missing out on their holiday party but bonuses too. A 2001 Holiday Bonus and Gift Study by Lincolnshire, Illinois-based management/consulting and outsourcing firm Hewitt Associate, finds that 69% of 421 companies surveyed will not offer any type of holiday bonus this year. Many out there in credit union-land disagree with eliminating festivities to cut costs and say this is the perfect time to host a holiday celebration. According to experts, office holiday parties not only bring staff together to build morale and offer a visible reward for a job well done but they even signal optimism for the coming year. From the simple in-branch luncheon to the lavish gala affair, credit unions are letting the good times roll. In Manhattan, Actors Federal Credit Union employees look forward to their annual luncheon, which is held the day before the Christmas break. “Everyone brings in their favorite holiday dish usually made from scratch, we pop in a holiday music CD and everyone eats and has a great time,” said AFCU Marketing Director Steven Sobotta. At Freedom Federal Credit Union in Maryland nothing says the holidays as much as decorations. Each branch has a Christmas tree trimmed with lights and members find a constant supply of flavored coffee and cookies in the lobby. Employees enjoy gifts from secret Santas and hold a potluck luncheon. “Everyone here was just so looking forward to this year’s holiday party,” said Charlotte-Metro Credit Union Vice President of Marketing Deb McLean. “It is a great opportunity for all of us to get together, talk about life outside of work, kick back and have some fun.” This year the $100 million credit union’s staff stepped right into the pages of a Charles Dickens Christmas party complete with carolers in Victorian attire and English Poppers, which is wrapped like a candy with ties on both ends, and shoots out a gift when the ends are pulled. Charlotte Arrangements, an event planning and destination management firm, dreamed up the entire theme-based party and selected a historic mansion, the Morrison House as the reception site. The party was held in four large rooms; one for games, one for the bar, the buffet could be found in another and the open fireplace and oversized Christmas tree in the parlor invited guests to chat. “We knew we wanted something different than the usual hotel and D.J. so this turned out really well,” said McLean. “The employees were thrilled to have an opportunity to mix, mingle and get to know one another all over again- it really built a certain camaraderie.” In addition to the holiday party, CMCU managers hand out hams and host a luncheon feast for employees where secret Santas are revealed. CMCU also collects donations for the Salvation Army. Georgia Federal Credit Union President Mack Ivey also views his holiday party as a great morale booster and says the employees deserve it. “This is the one chance we have to get all our employees together from across the state so we really look forward to seeing everyone,” said GFCU Vice President of Marketing Kim Wall. Since Ivey announced his retirement at the end of this year a local comedian was added to the seated dinner party for a light-hearted roast. Employees also receive monetary bonuses based on the year’s earnings. Select Employee Group contacts are also visited during the month of December by GFCU “elves” who drop off “thank your for your support” gifts, which contain chocolate and according to Wall, are always well received. In addition, this is the 11th year the credit union has sponsored a Wish Tree program. Working with the local Department of Family and Children Services, GFCU helps grant the wishes of foster children who have been removed from abusive or neglectful home situations. Last year over 900 presents were collected. “This year everyone felt more strongly about having the party,” said Nassau Educators Federal Credit Union Assistant Vice President of Marketing Mark Head. “It gave us an opportunity to feel closer.” New York-based NEFCU employees not only had a great time this year dancing at the Rockville Country Club but they are also raising money for the National Center for Disabilities. The Center helps disabled children not only cope with their disability but teaches them how to function in the workforce. On the West coast, Chula Vista, Calif.-based North Island Financial Credit Union also decided it was necessary to maintain its holiday party tradition. The $1 billion credit union’s employee activity committee made sure this year’s event had a different tone as it opened with the Color Guard Navy Cadet presentation and singing of God Bless America. Open to employees and their families approximately 450 people attended the party. “It was important for us to invite the families and really pull together especially after the events of September 11,” said NIFCU Executive Vice President of Retail Delivery and Corporate Planning Geri Dillingham. “We wanted a more casual evening where people would regroup. We also tried to have shorter programs so we could have fun longer.” During the festivities, NIFCU took the time to recognize its employees celebrating their five, 10, 15, 25, and even 30 year anniversary with the credit union. According to Dillingham, 60% of NIFCU’s employee base has been with the credit union for more than 5 years. [email protected]

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