The Ontario Co-operative Association

The Ontario Co-operative Association

September 26, 2007 15:05 ET

Meridian Credit Union Recognized for Being a Good Neighbour

GUELPH, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 26, 2007) - Meridian Credit Union wanted to reinvent neighbourhood banking. Along the way, it reinvented corporate social responsibility through its innovative Good Neighbour Program. Billed as a "new tradition in giving", the Good Neighbour Program encompasses sponsorships donations, volunteerism and scholarships. On October 17th, the Ontario co-operative sector will recognize this landmark program, and the organization that created it, when it presents Meridian Credit Union with the Co-operative Innovator Award.

Meridian Credit Union is Ontario's largest credit union, and was formed in April 2005 through the merging of Niagara and Hepcoe Credit Unions. The credit union retains head offices in both St. Catharines and downtown Toronto. In 2006, Meridian launched the Good Neighbour Program, mandated to "build strong, safe, vibrant and inclusive neighbourhoods" where its more than 220,000 members live and work. Blending the best community involvement practices of its legacy credit unions, and moving into new areas of corporate social responsibility, was achieved in an unbelievable four months.

Since its inception, the program has invested over $1 million dollars. Beneficiaries include local service clubs, sports and recreation teams, local award banquets, family and childrens' support organizations, music and art programs and a multitude of other causes and charities. Financial support could range from $500 to purchase books in Spanish for the Grimsby public library, to the $10,000 title sponsorship for Niagara region's Bigga Tomato Fest. Recognizing the importance of youth, the Good Neighbour program annually awards over $25,000 in scholarships to students in 34 communities across Ontario, and sends more than 20 young people to the Co-operative Young Leaders camp.

An important component of the program is "in-kind" donations, including the opportunity to advertise events using the Meridian branch network and through the credit union's internal website. Staff are also encouraged to volunteer their time as part of the Good Neighbour Program. Two lunch-hours a week, for example, Fergus branch staff donate their lunch hours to visit patients at Groves Memorial Hospital. Volunteer association president Norma Siebert is grateful for the support: "This comes at a time when volunteers are much needed at the hospital."

In true credit union spirit, the program is driven locally. Every branch manager may make immediate community investments of up to $3000. Larger donations are reviewed by a committee, which includes one branch manager from each of the five Meridian 'regions' across the province. The process from application through to approval takes less than 60 days.

Meridian Credit Union will be presented with the Co-operative Innovator Spirit Award on Wednesday October 17 during the 9th annual Co-operative Spirit Recognition Awards banquet and ceremony. The awards ceremony, the crowning jewel of the Co-operative Conference and Gala, takes place at the Royal Botanical Gardens, 680 Plains Road West in Burlington ON.

The Co-operative Conference and Gala, now in its 7th year, is a two-day event that brings together co-op sector supporters, champions and friends from across Ontario and beyond for professional development, meetings and networking. The conference includes tours of Hamilton-area co-ops and more than a dozen workshops and sessions. This October, the Spirit Recognition Award banquet, a tradition in the Ontario co-operative sector for almost 10 years, will celebrate the successes of 10 of Ontario's most distinguished co-operators - including Meridian Credit Union.

The Ontario Co-operative Association (On Co-op), host of the Co-op Conference and Gala, and the Co-operative Spirit Recognition Awards ceremony, is a resource and common voice for Ontario credit unions and co-operatives in the areas of co-operative development, government relations, membership and communications, and lifelong co-operative learning.

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