OLYMPIA, Wash.-The Washington Credit Union League has seized a novel approach to seize the “credit union difference” message: use a local film festival. The concept might be a springboard for a longer-running film on the Public Broadcasting System. CUNA likes the Washington League idea, too, with top leaders planning to discuss a possible PBS project this month. Since a debut screening Nov. 7 at the Olympia Film Festival of “The Story of TULIP” recounting the struggles of a small food co-op CU here, staffers at the Washington CU League and top brass at CUNA are enthused about finding more screens for the 20-minute film and getting PBS interested in a full-length production. “This film project stands as a tremendous example of credit unions cooperating with each other and truly helping people,” declared Don Larsen, CUNA secretary, calling the film inspirational and deserving to be seen by more of the public and policymakers. Larsen who also is president/CEO of Community CU in Tacoma was planning to hand deliver a DVD of the film to Dan Mica, CUNA President and CEO at a meeting Dec. 1 for possible distribution within CUNA. The film was made at no cost to the Washington League through services contributed by a Tacoma TV producer, Anita Beninger, who had previously worked at PBS with the Washington CU League’s Director of Public Relations, Jamie Chase. The two had collaborated on this film which documents the chartering of Thurston Union of Low Income People Cooperative Credit Union, the first CU chartered in Washington in 10 years. “The Story of TULIP” portrays the triumphs of a group of low-income volunteers who struggled to raise nearly $2 million from 16 U.S. CUs to found the CU in December 2003. A large part of the film features the philanthropic contributions of two of the 16 CUs, Boeing Employees CU and Washington State Employees CU. Highlights of the movie include the CU’s first loan to a homeless single mother, as well as teary eyed confessions of self sacrifice and testimonials about the CU difference from an ex-banker of 25 years. The Film Stars CU Regulator, League and CU Leaders Featured in the film are Linda Jekel, director, of the Washington Division of Credit Unions; Kevin Foster-Keddie, president/CEO of Washington State Employees CU; John Annaloro, president/CEO of the Washington CU League; and TULIP founders, directors, members and employees. The league said the film should be particularly helpful in showings to Washington lawmakers in line with a defense against banker attacks. “With our legislators returning to session in January, it’s a great time to hear the credit union difference being talked about in our state capitol,” said Stacy Augustine, senior vice president of policy and public advocacy for the League. “We’ve already received favorable reports of credit union members talking about the debut of the movie at the festival.” Chase said a benefit of showing the film in public arenas like film festivals is that it makes the underserved work done by CUs “more tangible.” “We tend to lose the public with lengthy definitions instead of examples,” explained Chase. “The banks have their duck. What is our duck? This example brings the CU difference to life. It is memorable and easy to understand.” Annaloro said considering the many changes in the CU movement, the film is “a fine opportunity to reassure legislators and the public that credit unions are on the right track.” Chase and Beninger have a long history with PBS. They met while producing separate projects at a PBS affiliate three years ago. Beninger, who donated hundreds of hours to the TULIP film, “is an extremely talented professional and a volunteer with a huge heart,” said Chase. “She understands the credit union difference and decided to bring the story to life.” Chase herself has distributed three shows to PBS including two series and one hour-long program broadcast on over 100 stations nationwide. “The Story of TULIP” is formatted as a DVD and in distributing the film, the league is considering hiring a public relations firm to offer it to stations as a video press release. Depending on CUNA’s response, a decision would be made later as to re-film or re-edit TULIP to transform it into a half hour- or hour-long program for distribution to PBS or some other national broadcaster. Two possibilities might be ABC’s Oprah Show or Good Morning America. The CU itself said overall league support for the $2 million institution has resulted in doubling of new membership in the last two months, according to Darlene Morales, TULIP’s general manager. “TULIP is operating on the most fundamental basis of a group of people getting together to pull their savings to make low cost loans to one another,” she said noting that the CU with 410 members could not exist without the cooperation of other U.S. CUs and the nonmember deposits from the large benefactors. [email protected]

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