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RALEIGH, N.C – The State Employees’ Credit Union Foundation has found a way to harness its members’ generosity to benefit communities across the state. Recently, through the SECU Foundation, members opened the doors for 343 deserving graduating high school seniors to make their dreams of attending college a reality. “Really it is not SECU or the Foundation, but our members who are awarding these grants,” said SECU Foundation Board Chairman Tom King. “Collectively through the Foundation the members have helped benefit the educational and economic process in the state-demonstrating the true `people helping people’ credit union philosophy.” The SECU Foundation’s “People Helping People” High School Scholarships will provide four-year college scholarships valued at $10,000 each for study at one of the 16 University of North Carolina campuses. Each North Carolina high school will receive one scholarship, representing a financial commitment of $7 million over the first two years of the program. Scholarships will be awarded to students entering a UNC institution in the fall of 2005, and applications will be available through local school systems by the end of January, 2005. Recipients in good academic standing will continue to receive their scholarship for a maximum of eight consecutive academic semesters. In addition, the Foundation has established a major new scholarship program to help students in each of the 58 community colleges in the North Carolina Community College System. Each North Carolina community college will receive two, two-year scholarships valued at up to $5,000 each – representing a financial commitment to the entire community college system of up to $580,000. “Our members are delighted to help NC students obtain an education and move forward in life to improve their economic status,” said King. “The foundation is still a work in progress and it is great that collectively we’re able to accomplish so much statewide that individually we would never be able to do.” According to King, the Foundation’s primary goal is to help identify and address community issues across the state so that every SECU member and their communities will benefit. Approved in 2001 and officially kicked off in July 2004, the Foundation has spent time researching “atypical, unique high impact projects that will change the lives of members and their communities.” To make it easier for governmental agencies and other nonprofits to partner with the Foundation on future projects it has been structured as a separate 501c(3) charitable foundation. Funding for the Foundation comes from SECU members’ $1 monthly credit union checking account maintenance fee, which members voted to have routed to the Foundation. The monthly fee is considered a charitable contribution by the individual member, who would then be entitled to a tax deduction. Over 99% of SECU members responded favorably in support of the SECU Foundation and King says he believes that once those who opted-out via the SECU Foundation Web site at www.ncsecu.org see how the funds have been used they will change their minds and opt back in. “About $1 million a month is being raised and we think it is wonderful what credit union members are able to do for their communities, ” said SECU Senior Vice President of Education Services Leigh Brady. “ In terms of really reaching across the state this has been an excellent way to make a difference while giving back to North Carolina.” The Foundation will fund initial planning and development for projects that have the potential for attracting broad-based local and state partnerships and will be self-sustaining. Priority will be given to the low resource areas of the state. Project proposals are initiated though local SECU branch advisory boards to ensure resources are fairly distributed and approved by the Foundation board. Each of SECU’s branches has its own advisory board of about eight volunteers who are representative of their community. Considered the credit union’s “eyes and ears” in the community, the advisory boards serve as a liaison between the branch and its members. The Foundation board meets often and while no set schedule is in place King says he thinks next year the target will be to meet quarterly. “We are still a fledgling foundation and we try not to be so structured that it limits what can be accomplished,” said King. ” As for future projects we are looking into providing additional grants that can help get some community initiatives off the ground -more one-shot deals rather than being a funding source on an ongoing basis so that more can be accomplished statewide. Our members have given us the opportunity to make an impact and be a part of something bigger than we ever imagined.” [email protected]

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