WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – With the holidays falling right in the middle of the week, the challenge for many credit unions included finding ways to ensure staffers remain productive and motivated focusing on the job. Experts at the Society for Human Resource Management suggest that in addition to catching up on paperwork and planning for the year ahead, the holiday season marks the perfect time for employers to really build relationships with employees. Experts say such interactive group activities including potlucks, lunches and gift exchanges are simple, fun ways to make people feel better about being at work during the holidays and helps keep employees productive. There is no way we could cover all the credit union holiday activities so here is a quick glimpse at the unique and familiar ways credit unions chose to close out 2002: At Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union, staffers in the Facilities and Administrative Services Department kicked off the holidays by not only transforming their department into 17 Holiday Villages but also running an eight-engine/ 55- car railroad system on top of their cubicles. The “GNG Railroad Holiday Express” consists of 127 feet of track, six switch sets, 155 feet of wire, three power transformers and 1,075 lights. The train passes 66 structures, two farms, 130 figures (people, animals, etc), six four-foot bridges, 256 feet of snow trim, 77 trees and shrubs, a Church with an independent sound system and Santa’s fully-equipped workshop. Rochester, New Hampshire-based Holy Rosary Regional Credit Union spent the holidays handing out Counterfeit Detection Pens and “tip sheets” for spotting counterfeit money to merchants in the downtown area. HRRCU Central Avenue Branch Manager Donna Wyatt acknowledged that the pens are not a foolproof way to determine whether a bill is real but it is helpful in deciding whether or not to further examine a bill or call the authorities. The Tallahassee Chapter of Credit Unions held their annual Holiday Dinner hosted by Florida State University Credit Union. The evening included a Stocking Contest to benefit the Children’s Home Society. The friendly competition was a huge success with prizes awarded for the biggest, heaviest, best-looking, best theme, and most creative stockings. Credit Union ONE staff in partnership with Community Services of Oakland recently played Kris Kringle to 12 Ferndale and Hazel Park children through the Holiday Wish List Program. The program provides gifts of clothing and toys to area children whose families are experiencing financial hardship. For over 10 years Credit Union ONE has actively worked with Community Services of Oakland to make the Christmases of area youngsters a little brighter. The Credit Union Association of Oregon also opted to play Santa to three local families and made all their wishes come true. In addition to sponsoring families, this holiday season CUAO employees contributed in record numbers and hosted toy and coat drives. Chetco Federal Credit Union participated in the Giving Trees promotion to help provide gifts for children of local low-income families. Trees were also the theme for Memphis Area Teachers’ Credit Union. A total of 27 children and 11 seniors benefited from the Salvation Army Angel Tree project. All of MATCU’s 11 branches as well as administrative departments helped with the project. In Maine, the Maine Credit Union League’s annual Adopt-A-Family Program resulted in the donation of over $1,000 worth of gifts, gift certificates and food to a single mother and her two children. TruWest Credit Union has held a Holiday Breakfast and Charity Auction to raise funds for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. By the time bidding on the baked goods, candy, and homemade holiday crafts donated by staff was over, $5,365 had been raised. SECURITY Federal Credit Union lent its expertise to Old Newsboys of Flint, Inc., to collect money for next year’s Christmas program. Since 1924, the Old Newsboys have collected toys and clothing for more than 700,000 children who may be victims of fire, parental illness, deaths, desertion and other similar emergencies. SFCU helped manage the organization’s finances this year. Pacific Service CU has donated $15,000 for Salvation Army Food baskets. Each year, the Salvation Army distributes food baskets to qualified underprivileged families all over the country. The baskets are designed to feed families for up to 5 days over the holidays and include a turkey, butter, eggs, fruit, onions, vegetables and various other nutritious foods. Spectrum Federal Credit Union has ended 2002 with a can food drive for the San Francisco Food Bank and a toy drive for the San Francisco Fire Fighters Toy Program. A calendar of events was drawn up for each event. The calendars were filled with puzzles, riddles, and requests for specific items on certain days. Incentives from casual days to raffle tickets for a prize drawing made each event fun for everyone. Over six barrels of food were donated to the San Francisco Food Bank and eight bags of toys were presented to the San Francisco Fire Fighters Toy Program. Security Service Federal Credit Union has been featured among the top companies in San Antonio at this year’s Annual United Way “Closing” Breakfast for its contribution that totaled more than $84,000. Surpassing last year’s goal by more than $24,000. Employees of Robins Federal Credit Union through the Salvation Army, have donated toys and clothing for over 40 children along with enough items to fill 25 stockings. Through Meals on Wheels, employees have also donated 54 shoeboxes filled with goodies for local Meals on Wheels recipients. Credit Union Affiliates of New Jersey kept in the spirit of giving this holiday season by raising more than $6,800 for the Children’s Miracle Network bringing NJ credit unions’ total donation in 2002 to $50,000. In addition, CUANJ delivered 10 boxes of food and four turkeys to needy families in the Trenton area and dozens of presents to a needy Trenton-area family.