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EUGENE, Ore. – An unusual “statewide open house” sponsored by Northwest Community Credit Union to support Oregon charities hard-hit by the state’s economic downturn proved a media hit “though we didn’t see the branch traffic that we thought we might get.” That was the assessment of credit union management after the Eugene-based CU kept all of its 12 branches open on Saturday, March 13-a departure from policy-as part of a partnering arrangement with more than half a dozen non-profits to help with fund raising. Under the charity arrangement, members and the public were invited into the branches to “support” individual charities and meet with non-profit executives to discuss projects while at the same time the CU pledged $5 to the charity for every account opened. “We got in $1 million in CDs which was a big gain for us,” said Kent White, vice president of marketing. The open houses “are a way for us to celebrate and support our local communities and to give our members another reason to feel good about doing business at Northwest Community,” explained Helen Byrnes, NWCU president/CEO. Ordinarily only a handful of NW branches are open on Saturdays, but more were open March 13 to allow groups like the Oregon Humane Society, Boys & Girls Clubs, food banks and the Salvation Army to make pitches for financial support. “We let each of our branches pick the charity group to showcase on that day,” said White. At the Springfield branch, at which the Humane Society brought in “therapy dogs” in connection with animal visits at retirement communities, Byrnes lauded the Society for its work in Oregon adding “we hope that local members of the community will stop by to show their support by opening a new account or learning about how to get involved with the Oregon Human Society.” The CU said it decided on the “statewide open house” project as a way of supporting beleaguered non profits in Oregon which have seen contributions fall sharply in recent months as the state undergoes one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates at 8.9%. The average U.S. rate is 6.3% and it was reported at least two Oregon counties have rates at 14.9% and an astonishing 16.4%. Though March 13 was billed as a special day, the promotion “is going through the rest of the week,” said White. “We got lots of excellent feedback and coverage by newspapers, TV and radio,” said White. -

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