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VALLEY STREAM, N.Y- When Francis (Frank) De Mita attends NAFCU’s 37th Annual Conference and Exhibition this week, he’ll be taking the first step in winding down from what has been a 50-year career as a credit union volunteer by retiring from the NAFCU Board rather than seeking reelection to a third term. De Mita was a young high school mathematics teacher in need of a car loan in 1954 when he first became introduced to the world of credit unions. A fellow teacher handed him an application for membership in what was then known as Valley Stream Teachers FCU (now Nassau Educators FCU) and an auto loan application, and a few days later, De Mita had the funds he needed. In appreciation of the service he received, De Mita began serving as a volunteer on the CU’s credit committee and has been an active volunteer ever since-spending the last 30 years as board chairman. On June 2, 2004, a statement honoring De Mita and his 50 years of volunteer service to credit unions was read into the Congressional Record by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of Long Island. The honor was undoubtedly well-deserved. Credit Union Times had an opportunity to speak with De Mita before the conference about his experiences and his plans for the future. CU Times: What does it take to be a volunteer for 50 years? Why do you continue to do it? De Mita: It’s something that probably was instilled in me through my upbringing, by my mother and father, and started when I was a boy scout. Whether it was helping a little old lady across the street or raising funds for an organization, I had to be involved. . Living and teaching in the same community made it easier and got me more involved. But, I just grew up with that feeling-there are people out there who are less fortunate than me-and it makes me feel good to help them. CU Times: What stands out as some of the proudest memories in your experience? De Mita: The scholarship programs-both for high school seniors going on to college and for learning disabled youngsters who need money for job training and job coaches. As small as it is, that one stands out. I’m very proud of that because people just don’t give scholarships to special education. I present the award every June, and it always brings a tear to my eye. We’ve even hired some of the students [from the BOCES Rosemary Kennedy School in Massapequa, NY] at the credit union. There’s one young woman in particular who, even with her limitations, has such a talent with computers-word processing, spreadsheets, all of it. The Congressional Record also stands out; it came as a complete surprise. When I decided not to run again [for the NAFCU Board], I thought that 50 years would be my milestone, and I would go out on a high. Well, this really confirmed it and sums up all my efforts. When it was presented, I was floored. CU Times: How did you balance all your involvements-between the different boards you’re involved with and your family? De Mita: I pick organizations that don’t conflict with each other in terms of meetings. The first question I always ask is, “When do you meet and how often?” Then, I check my Palm Pilot. If their meetings are in direct competition with something else I’m already doing, I won’t join. I only join if I can make a contribution. But, the bottom line is that I couldn’t have done it all without the cooperation of my wife and the love and support of my family. CU Times: What do you see as the role of volunteers in the future of the CU movement? De Mita: Other than policy making for their own CU, their most important role is to get involved in political activism. They have to get out more-beyond the boardroom-to the state and national level. There are so many laws that may affect us; tax exemption has been a problem since the early ’80s. So, they have to get to know their legislators, not only locally but also in Washington, D.C., and at every level of government. There’s nothing wrong with a volunteer supporting a candidate of his or her choice. Imagine what a force it would be if a couple hundred thousand volunteers came together to talk to legislators on behalf of their membership. CU Times: What do you plan to do with all your free time when you retire from the NAFCU Board? De Mita: I wish I had all this free time. People wonder when they retire what they’re going to do. Well, I’ve always said, “There’s more to life than playing golf.” When I retired from teaching high school in 1990 and from teaching college in 1996, I gave more time to volunteering. I went from four or five boards to 10 boards. This time, I will slow down. But, unlike when I stopped smoking 26 years ago and quit cold turkey, I’m not going to cut everything off. I won’t assume more leadership roles, and I’ll gradually let go. Travel with my wife will come first and time with my grandson. After the NAFCU conference, we’re going on to Alaska, Then the ideal trip will be to rent a villa in Tuscany and go on to Sicily. We’ve been to Italy eight or 10 times, but we’ve never been to Sicily. And, it will be nice to go without the pressures of knowing I have another meeting to attend.” -kmrospond[email protected]

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