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MANCHESTER, N.H. – From the front door lace curtain to the state-of-the-art, wireless infrastructure, there probably isn’t a part of American’s Credit Union Museum that’s unfamiliar to Executive Director Peggy Powell. Whether she’s doing a presentation to raise museum funds or leading a tour for a group of visitors, you get the sense that Powell thinks of her role as much more than a job. It’s a labor of love. “Without a doubt, my favorite part is the one-on-one contact with museum visitors – whether they’re credit union people or non-credit union people,” Powell says. “I love seeing their surprise because they didn’t expect the quality and quantity of exhibits. I love seeing their pleasure in reading the chronicled history. And, I love seeing them leave here re-energized for the credit union movement. “I’ve developed a real belief in what credit unions stand for and a real passion for the museum. I hope, when I’m giving a tour, that I’m able to communicate that,” she says. It is precisely that passion and Powell’s energy that earned her the position of museum director and executive director of the New England Credit Union Heritage Foundation, which oversees development and operation of the facility. Having left a job of 10-and-a-half years in the fundraising department of Anselm College in Manchester, Powell began working on the museum project as a fundraising consultant in 1999. Two years later, as a means to expand outreach efforts, a decision was made by the original member organizations to expand the museum board and create a regional fundraising foundation. Lure of History “We were fortunate to have Peggy come on board when she did,” says board of directors member Dan Egan, president of the New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island credit union leagues. “When the need for an executive director came about, she submitted her rsum for the job, and we’re very happy that she did. The more she got involved in the project, the more she liked it. She brought a great spirit and a positive attitude, and she truly immersed herself in CU history.” “One of the things that first attracted me to the project was the historical aspect,” the New Hampshire native says (Powell was born in Manchester and raised in nearby North Conway). “I’ve always loved history, and I’m constantly trying to educate myself about credit unions. I read everything I can. I talk to people from different states about how CUs developed in their areas. I go to conferences all the time. If someone asks me a question and I don’t know the answer, I make sure to get it and learn something else new.” Overseeing operation of the museum and foundation also has been a learning experience for Powell. She credits members of the museum’s exhibit committee with helping her to determine what types of exhibits make sense for the museum and what points in the development of CUs to emphasize. “Because this is America’s CU museum, we felt it was important to represent the overall history.not just the history of St. Mary’s [the nation's first CU], even though the facility was its original home,” Powell says. “Peggy has been extremely successful in bringing together people with prior experience to help achieve the desired look for the museum,” says Ronald Rioux, president and CEO of St. Mary’s Bank CU. “Her ability to attract and retain a solid board also can be attributed to her leadership skills.” By developing the Museum Advisory Board, Powell has increased her ability to reach out to leagues and credit unions across the country in terms of both new acquisitions and financial support. To date, fundraising efforts have reached nearly $2 million – two-thirds of the foundation’s goal. “This is a great opportunity for the credit union movement to get behind a project like this and make sure we preserve our heritage,” says John Murphy, president of the Maine Credit Union League and a new advisory board member. “We all tend to forget and not really know what our roots are,” adds H.C. “Hank” Klein, president and CEO of Arkansas FCU. “Every organization in the credit union movement should give an effort to their history. Lots of times, we have things that are part of our heritage but end up in someone’s desk drawer or a box in the garage.” An ardent supporter of the museum, Klein has been instrumental in helping Powell generate awareness on the part of other credit unions and CU organizations. And, it is through Klein’s help that the museum is preparing to display a new exhibit from the Credit Union Executives Society (CUES), another group with which he is actively involved. “This is a real opportunity for credit union organizations to capture the history of their people who are key to the development of the credit union movement,” says Barb Kachelski, senior vice president and chief information officer for CUES. “[Gathering exhibit items] has been really interesting to me because CUES touches a lot of different executives at various points of their careers.particularly at the last part of their careers, as they’re passing the torch on to someone else.and you see how the experience has affected them.” Coordination of the museum exhibit also has sparked CUES to develop its own historical display at its offices in Madison, Wis.. “We used duplicates of items when there were some, and we took photos of items with no duplicates,” Kachelski says. “This way, we have something available to people who can’t get to the museum.” Moving forward Powell’s work at the museum is far from over. She still faces the challenge of raising $1 million to establish a permanent endowment for operations and programs. Through these funds, she hopes to develop a large enough collection to rotate exhibits on a regular basis. She also hopes to develop special exhibits, such as those for women involved in credit unions during Women’s History Month and African-Americans involved in credit unions during Black History Month. New this year, the museum has created a financial literacy committee to work with math students from a Concord, N.H. middle school and their teacher, who will sit on the committee board. Work also has been completed on a traveling exhibit that the museum will make available to credit union leagues for their use at annual meetings and other special events. “It’s a great way to give people a feel of what is in the museum,” Powell says. “It also will help us get the word out that we’re here. We’re still pretty much a well-kept secret, but we’re working hard to change that.” For more information about America’s Credit Union Museum, log on to www.acumuseum.org or call Executive Director Peggy Powell at (603) 629-1553. -

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