BETHPAGE, N.Y. – Bethpage Federal Credit Union's Volunteer Program is helping the credit union build a name for itself within the community. Granted a community charter in 2003, the $2.2 billion credit union was helping more and more Long Island causes, but faced a challenge in finding help on a consistent basis. "We were involved in more charitable events but our volunteer force was getting thinner and thinner," said Bethpage FCU Vice President Linda Armyn. "We had to get a formal program in place." After some six months of research, Armyn developed a plan designed to appeal to everyone. Discovering that many staffers didn't want to volunteer unless they knew what exactly they were getting into she launched a Volunteer Classified "Want Ads" section complete with "job descriptions" and formal applications. Published in the credit union's intranet, in-house newsletters and advisories, the classifieds are continually updated with specifics from the partnering nonprofit organization covering everything from the type of help and time commitment needed to attire. To further encourage participation, staffers earn a comp day for every 16 hours spent volunteering (capped at three days). Staffers are also permitted to volunteer when necessary during working hours. Selected Volunteer of the Quarter honorees are provided $100 and the Volunteer of the Year receives $1,000 and a special recognition pin made of real gold and sapphire stones. Armyn says establishing a team of captains consisting of managers keeps staffers and senior management alike engaged in the process. "The formal application makes it easier for everyone. It help managers with scheduling and avoids any confusion as to when employees were leaving work early to volunteer or with the comp days," said Armyn. "When we started this we thought maybe we'd get 300 volunteer hours-we ended up with 990 that first year. We discovered that our employees always wanted to be involved but it wasn't as organized before now it's so much easier for them to participate." The program has also earned accolades from the Association of Fundraising Professionals' Long Island Chapter. "We were named Corporate of the Year for the overall uniqueness of our program," said Armyn. "It was a tough fight to get this award-we actually beat out Bank of America. What has worked for us is not only do our employees like going out into the community and helping but there are constant reminders of volunteer opportunities throughout our organization and it makes a big difference." Even President/CEO Kirk Kordeleski is a hands-on volunteer. Kordeleski served as a one-on-one mentor to Roosevelt H.S. student Daryl Ogden, a Project Grad student. Keeping in touch via e-mail, phone calls and face-to-face meetings, the CEO helped to ensure Ogden made it through to graduate high school and enroll in college. Bethpage FCU now has so many volunteers for some events that Armyn has to find ways to delicately let staffers know the "positions" are all filled and redirect them to other opportunities. Volunteers are assigned individually on a first come basis, but may end up on a Bethpage Team for events such as the American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Walk. Patricia Daley of the Bethpage Community Relations Department records the hours committed by each volunteer. "Before you rollout this type of program be sure you have the buy in-if it is just senior management and a few people it won't work," said Armyn. "When you can, give 30-days notice of upcoming opportunities but sometimes a last minute request is unavoidable since some charities work on tight deadlines and they have such small staff it can be hard for them to get the word out early." Word about Bethpage FCU's volunteer force has spread and local nonprofit organizations are signing up to be listed in the CU's classifieds. Armyn says the program has proven to be a great "getting to know you" tool. "As long as the volunteer opportunity is within reason we post it," said Armyn. "We're not just limited to charities, our volunteer team takes the time to help out local smaller credit unions too." To further raise awareness of local charitable organizations Bethpage FCU has underwritten a year-long program "Community Champions" with Long Island's daily newspaper, Newsday, that profiles the region's nonprofits with highlights of their mission and how that mission is achieved. This year's goal is set at 2,000 volunteer hours and Armyn says the credit union is well on its way with already 910 hours logged as of the end of May. "People in the community see us out there making a difference and being a true community partner," said Armyn. "Employees, members-everyone can feel proud about being part of a corporate culture that values helping others." [email protected]

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