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WEST PALM BEACH – Somewhere a curtain is rising or an artist is being discovered-thanks to the sponsorship of a credit union. While much has been made of major league and minor league sports sponsorships, credit unions are just as devoted to supporting the cultural arts in all its forms both big and small. For Navy Federal Credit Union September is Multicultural Month to honor employee diversity with events such as dance performances, fashion shows, ethnic dress day and trivia contests. As far as the arts Navy FCU has sponsored the annual Thoreau Middle School Art Reception at its headquarters in Vienna, Virginia for the past twelve years. Students’ artwork is displayed for 3-4 weeks during which time employees are encouraged to view the art and vote on their favorites. The last week of the “gallery showing” Navy Federal CU invites employees, teachers, students and their families to an art reception. Refreshments are served as the Thoreau Middle School String Ensemble provides musical entertainment. In addition, first, second and third-place winners are recognized and awarded a cash prize. “Although cultural events are not a main focus for us, we do try to sponsor projects that bring culture and art to kids in the greater metropolitan area,” said Navy FCU Public Relations Manager Loren Moeller. CCSD Federal Credit Union in Elmira Heights, New York has a certain portion of its budget for community events so they are constantly being contacted to fund events. “Since this is a small community it doesn’t take long for word to spread,” said CCSD FCU Director of Marketing Kathy Dilmore. “It is great that we can do something like this because people see our name in the programs and besides getting our name out there it shows that we care enough to further dreams and skills.” This year the credit union sponsored vocal choral group Chrystal Chords; the New York State Tournament of Dance at the Clemens Performing Arts Center; and Summer Cohesion, an arts and crafts cultural program for kids up to age 12. Children learn about nature; tour museums and area libraries; and even create and participate in their own special performances. Experts agree that in addition to altruistic rewards supporting such programs provides unique publicity opportunities. Not horsing around ACMG Federal Credit Union Vice President Marketing/Business Development Cheryl Welles agrees and cites the credit union’s recent participation in “Horses on Parade” as an example. “Our Marketing Design Specialist Christopher Yost did an internship for ad agency that promoted this in Rochester and we thought it would be perfect to have a credit union horse. It was such a wonderful experience and we got so much exposure,” said Welles. “Our horse `Stars and Cents’ was not only a good member relations builder because it got people talking but it also showed people here that we do things beyond the everyday financial institution.” The “Horses on Parade” art project allows community organizations, businesses, schools, etc. to sponsor and decorate a full-size fiberglass horse that is displayed throughout the community. Proceeds from the event benefit the Children’s Miracle Network, Museum of Science and Technology and Syracuse Symphony. Yost,who is also an artist, collaborated with the entire staff on their horse’s design and name. “We decided we wanted a patriotic theme while incorporating the credit union brand logo because we wanted the horse to encompass all credit unions in general,” said Welles. “And we picked the name because the stars are our members and although we used the word cents it actually represents the sense that members have for choosing credit unions as their financial institution.” “Stars & Cents” was decorated right in the Solvay, New York-based credit union’s main lobby and according to Welles added to the “buzz” as members came in just to watch. On display since May in Clinton Square-in the heart of downtown Syracuse where all the festivals are held-the horse will be auctioned to the highest bidder at the end of this month. Wild animals will also soon be turned loose on Rochester streets thanks to ESL Federal Credit Union. The Rochester, New York-based credit union will sponsor the city’s second large-scale community arts project -”Animal Scramble”. Similar to the recent “Horses On Parade” “Animal Scramble” features more than 200 giant fiberglass animals from around the world, ranging from a 12-foot trumpeting elephant to a giant frog, to be sponsored by area businesses. Local artists will paint the life-sized animals, which will then “stampede” throughout the Greater Rochester area. Animals may be adopted for $5,850, which includes $2,500 for an artist honorarium, delivery costs, a 1,000-pound concrete slab and a plaque. ESL’s Animal Scramble will hit the streets in May 2003 with an auction scheduled for October 2003 with proceeds to benefit local charities: The Arc of Monroe County; Epilepsy Foundation of Rochester, Syracuse and Binghamton; National Center for Missing and Exploited Children/ N.Y. Branch; Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong; and American Lung Association. Each will receive an equal portion of 50% of the auction price of each animal. The remaining 50% will go to a charity of the winning bidder’s choice. Two additional charities – Rochester City Ballet and School of the Holy Childhood – will receive a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Animal Scramble books. “We figure this event will raise over $1 million for local charities,” said ESL FCU Executive Vice President Marketing Dave Deffenbaugh. “Funds are hard to come by lately for non-profits so we really like that and something like this really ties you into the community.” According to Deffenbaugh, this event is just a different twist on an established program of giving back to the community. ESL FCU sets aside about 25% of the marketing budget to sponsor at least four to five major events a year. Always on the lookout for unique partnerships, the credit union has also sponsored the Diva, a children’s play series that introduces kids to more “artsy” plays that go beyond storybooks and fantasy. For example this year’s Diva production told the story of Anne Frank through the eyes of children who were there. Over 500,000 tourists visited ESL FCU last community project. The credit union spent $25,000 to bring in two giraffes to the local zoo and the net proceeds went to support other zoo activities. “Our brand awareness has grown tremendously,” said Deffenbaugh. “And it has a lot to with our community projects sometimes more than our advertising spots. Since they see us in so many places they just tend to associate us more as a part of the community.” Deffenbaugh says it has also made the credit union more in demand and not just for money but volunteers. “Our employees here are really exceptional,” said Deffenbaugh. “When we needed 150 people to work the Blue Angels special show for disadvantaged kids with severe disabilities, within an hour of the request all positions were filled.” [email protected]

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