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While most are cutting back, Pacific Service Credit Union in Walnut Creek, Calif., is giving more. The credit union’s board recently approved a $50,000 extension on funds the credit union can give out to local charities and organizations through the end of the year.“We’re a large credit union in a so-called sand state, and we’re doing extremely well financially. We have the good fortune to be doing well in a state hit hard by the economy,” said Steve Punch, president/CEO.In the first three quarters of 2009, Pacific Service donated more than $70,000 to nonprofit organizations in northern California.At Pacific Service, community organizations submit requests for assistance to the credit union. A committee of employees then evaluates the requests and looks over the organization’s financials to make sure it meets the credit union’s requirements. The credit union then selects which organizations it will give to based upon how much of the money donated will go directly to the community and how many people will benefit from it.Benjamin Kmetz, the CU’s public relations representative, said that this year it has cut back on donations to gala events and dinners to ensure that the most money possible is going directly to help people in the community.The credit union requests detailed information from the organizations on what specific programs they offer and require that the organization tells them exactly what programs and projects the donated money will be going toward. The credit union also does not make donations to cover overhead for a nonprofit organization.“Most organizations are seeing contributions down, and with people becoming unemployed, they’re seeing people that were once supporters of the organization becoming part of the group it serves. We’re hearing that organizations are seeing people come in for help that they never thought would need it,” said Noelle Fischer-Herbert, vice president of corporate development.Fischer-Herbert added that most of the organizations the credit union works with have reported a 30% to 40% increase in need this past year and the Salvation Army, specifically, is reporting a 50% increase in need.Punch said that the requirements they have in place are extremely important right now to make sure that they find the highest giving dollar. He said that the credit union tries to find organizations and smaller groups that are overlooked by large corporations and that are getting particularly hit hard right now.Fischer-Herbert said that the credit union is currently looking at organizations to give the additional $50,000 to. Two food banks will receive a bulk of the money. Both banks are volunteer run and are able to give 99% of the money they receive toward the purchase food. Pacific Service will look to donate the remaining funds to organizations that help children with food and toys during the holiday season.One area the credit union said is slightly down is donations from employees. Pacific Service does a lot of in-house fundraising and projects that benefit the organizations it partners with.During the holiday season, employees decorate four trees to give to families in crisis, so they can have a Christmas tree. Employees participate in a buy-a-bag program that benefits a local food bank where they purchase paper bags or Christmas stockings for a financial donation. They also fill food baskets for the Salvation Army and participate in a toy drive.Recognizing that its employees are also strained and experiencing difficulty with spouses that may have lost their jobs or suffered pay cuts, Pacific Service is matching and giving more than the employee contribution with the buy-a-bag program to ensure that the food bank does not receive a cut in donations.Punch said the credit union is also doing everything it can to ensure that the economy is having a minimal impact on employees. The credit union is continuing to give raises and implemented a vacation buyout program so that long-term employees that have racked up vacation days can trade them in for additional income.For 2010, Punch said the credit union has its budget in place and it has the same funds allotted for donations as this year and the year before.“Any credit union doing anything to help people in need at this time is very generous,” Punch said. “There are a lot of credit unions struggling and because we aren’t we’re committed to picking up the slack.”–[email protected]

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