Ep. 261: How to Get Lost and Find Yourself Helping Your Community


Chief sales officer Jeff Visser and chief HR officer Shawn Premer join host Lynne Jarman-Johnson for a conversation about community service projects they are passionate about and how Consumers supports our local communities. Also, Money Minute expert Sandy Bloem shares ways Consumers supports businesses.

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00:00:07.3 Lynne Jarman-Johnson (LJJ): Welcome in, I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union and Money, I’m Home. We’ve got a fabulous podcast for you today focusing on community service and servant leadership and how you can get involved. And don’t forget, at the end of the show, our Money Minute Expert joins us: topics you have specifically asked for. Let’s get started. A half a million dollars, over 1000 events. That is what we do in a year here at Consumers Credit Union for community service and all the communities that we serve. I’ll tell you what, I’m so excited to talk with you. Shawn Premer, who is our chief HR officer. Jeff Visser, our chief sales officer. My gosh, you guys, this is so exciting because you guys are really a part of something that when I started here, became just bubbled up more and more and more, and that is really giving back to the community. I’m going to actually start with Jeff. Jeff, one of the very first things that I learned about when I started here at Consumers Credit Union was something called Walk MS. And I know that you have been an absolute huge champion in Walk MS and the MS Society. Tell us a little bit about your role.

00:01:17.6 Jeff Visser (JV): Yeah, thanks, Lynne. That’s going on about two decades now. The credit union’s had a huge commitment to the MS Society. And that goes back to a long before my time at the credit union as various team members and family members of theirs were affected by MS and they decided to start making a difference.

00:01:35.4 LJJ: When was the first time that you heard the words multiple sclerosis?

00:01:39.7 JV: So that would be back in the early 2000s. My wife’s sister was diagnosed with MS and I had no idea what it was at that time. And actually at that point there were very little treatments available. But thanks to the work of places like the National MS Society, today there’s over 20 different treatments available for people with MS.

00:01:57.9 LJJ: That is amazing, something that you’ve personally seen for yourself, how it drastically has changed people. Shawn, you are our chief HR officer. You really are helping make sure that the communities that we serve also are focused with the nonprofits that are doing great works. How is it that we engage our employees and our team.

00:02:18.6 Shawn Premer (SP): Yes, so it’s so important for us to be fully ingrained in the communities we serve. So it really starts with the employee learning about the community, what organizations are out there, where their own passions lie and then figuring out how to get us connected within those organizations. So every charity and nonprofit that we support today has been driven by employee passion, interest. So whether that’s organizations we support financially or that we support with boots on the ground, it really is driven from the employees in the communities we serve.

00:02:55.1 LJJ: I do like to say that we are not an organization that just writes a check, that it really it does have to do with how many volunteers we have, how people can get involved. On the MS Walk that we have, Jeff, we have some wonderful podcasts that you can look back on with Becky Nap, who is one of our team members. We’ll also check in with her later on this year about her journey. And Shawn, I’m going to ask you a little bit about how we support our own teammates who are going through some difficult challenges. But, Jeff, when you look at all of the changes you talked about in the medication, and how many people come out and volunteer, and how we’ve grown in our communities, it’s not just the Kalamazoo market anymore.

00:03:36.9 JV: No, no, it’s certainly not. Which is years ago, that’s how it was. We had the Walk MS in Kalamazoo, and that was it. Now, we’ve, for years now, we’ve been proud sponsors of Walk MS and Bike MS. And we’re coming into both seasons now. Not only that, but we also have a significant volunteer force out there, both at Walk MS and at Bike MS.

00:03:57.4 LJJ: And that volunteering, I think, is really what makes the difference. Tell us about that.

00:04:04.1 JV: Yeah, Absolutely. So we have an employee that is the first in and last out volunteer for Walk and Bike MS and actually at other Walk MS events and Bike MS events that we’re not a part of. And then also we have folks that run the rest stop out at Bike MS, year after year, and they do a great job. And they are the most boisterous ones in the group, that’s for sure.

00:04:28.1 LJJ: I don’t want to embarrass you, but wasn’t there a wrong turn once on a Bike MS? Just, just—

00:04:32.7 JV: Yeah, so Bike MS has a 30-, 50-, 75- and 100-mile ride. And I had somehow gotten a business member to join me on Bike MS. And this is the first year, it was just him and I and— Or second year maybe. And we missed a sign. We were so busy talking. And we found ourselves on the 50-mile ride. And I’m not much of an athlete when it comes to bikes, Lynne, so I was pretty tired after that. We kept the business.

00:05:02.6 LJJ: That was a close one.

00:05:04.3 JV: It was. It was a close call.

00:05:05.7 LJJ: And, Shawn, when we look at the communities that we serve, we talked about feet on the ground and having our own teams be very specific about what they like to volunteer. Give us some ideas of some of the charitable organizations that we’ve been helping over the years.

00:05:19.9 SP: Wow. That’s that’s a big— That’s a big question because there’s so many. But we have supported Milestone Senior Services. This year, I personally am a Woman of Impact with American Heart Association, Alzheimer’s Association, the Purple Community. List goes on and on and on. I can’t— I can’t even grasp all of them.

00:05:45.3 LJJ: When you talk about examples as you’re a Woman of Impact, this is what we mean about giving personally, not only the dollar amounts that we will give as a credit union, but also then the care and the passion. I love when you send out information, statistics, health information.

00:06:03.1 SP: Yeah. So this is a big year for me. You know, I turned 50 this year. And the number of women who will die from heart attack or stroke complications after the age of 50 increases significantly. And it far outpaces any other cause of death amongst women. So it’s, you know, it’s really eye opening. So when they asked me to do this, I’m like, you know what, I need to learn. So it’s been an educational journey as well as, you know, helping to raise funds. And I don’t regret a moment of that because I have really been able to learn some things and pay attention to my own health even better through the process.

00:06:42.4 LJJ: Jeff, when we’re asking for volunteers, it’s really not difficult here at Consumers. But anyone can join our teams.

00:06:49 JV: Yeah, absolutely. Lynne, we have our April 20th walk event and it’s a beautiful walk at Aquinas College’s campus up in Grand Rapids. We usually get a great turnout for that. We have the June 8th bike event, so we’re looking for volunteers at that rest stop. It is a fun time. And we’ve even got a few more spots if you’re if you’re interested in biking, 30, 50, 75 or 100 miles. We’d welcome you on the team.

00:07:14.1 LJJ: We promise the signage will be really good.

00:07:18.5 JV: Fair enough.

00:07:19.1 LJJ: And Shawn, let’s bring up a little bit about running, because we are an extremely healthy organization here. Tell us why wellness is so important and it is something that we do sponsor quite a bit. We’ve got the Ziegler race coming up, the marathon.

00:07:33.9 SP: Yeah, so, right now we’re— we’ve got a step challenge going on, which I think the three of us are, are helping to win that challenge. So that’s pretty exciting. But, you know, wellness is so ingrained in what we do and not just physical well-being, but also mental, financial, you know, nutritional, all of those things are so important to the whole human being. But running is a big passion of mine. So we love to get involved in those race and walk events. But we do have Ziegler coming up, and I know we have a good group of employees who are going to be running either the 5K, 10K, half marathon. I’m not sure if we have any marathoners. I have to check that out.

00:08:13.8 LJJ: Hey, Jeff, you could do the 5K and accidentally keep going.

00:08:17.5 JV: Very funny, Lynne. Very funny.

00:08:22.8 LJJ: Shawn, tell us, you know, you’ve got your “Go Green” on. Okay.

00:08:26.7 SP: Yes, the Spartans just won in their first round. Yes.

00:08:29.7 LJJ: So we actually are having a really fun day throughout our credit union today. Tell us about— That’s the kind of stuff that culture brings fun, doesn’t it?

00:08:38.6 SP: So when you build a community, right? So we have an internal community, external community, but when you build a community, it’s all about being engaged and having camaraderie with each other. So we like to plan as many fun events as we can. So when Lynne asked me to do this podcast, I’m like, “That’s all right, but I’m wearing my Spartan hoodie.” So …

00:08:54.5 LJJ: You know, it is March Madness. Now, you might not be listening to this during March Madness, but it’s taped during March Madness and we are Spartan fans.

00:09:05.7 LJJ: Go green.

00:09:07.2 LJJ: Thank you.

00:09:08.1 LJJ: Well, you guys, thank you so much for your time. I’ll tell you, we are so proud to be in the community. And any last minute comments you’d like to make, Jeff?

00:09:15.8 JV: Well, I guess one thing: it’s really incredible, the amount of support that this credit union and its team offer to the community. It’s amazing to me to see how these events have grown over the years, the level participation. And I think you’re right, Shawn, it comes back to just a really engaged culture. And I love working at Consumers Credit Union.

00:09:35.1 SP: Yeah, me too.

00:09:35.3 LJJ: How about you, Shawn?

00:09:38.3 SP: It all boils down to helping employees find their passion. You know, so whatever it is that they are passionate about, they want to get involved in. I love that we will find a way to make that happen for them. So whether that’s allowing them to volunteer their time. Or helping them put together a team. Whatever that might be. I think cultivating passion and community involvement is really key to that in our organization.

00:10:06.8 LJJ: Well, if you’d like to know anything about what we’re doing here at Consumers, head to ConsumersCU.org. And then also you guys, there’s a hashtag that we use called “#InsideConsumersCU.” Do us a favor and take a look and you’re going to see it … all the things that we do: Not only events, but the internal fun that we have. And we’d love to see you on our careers page if you’re interested. Thanks, you guys.

00:10:31.2 SP: Thank you.

00:10:34.5 JV: Thanks, Lynne.

00:10:38.4 LJJ: And now it’s time for our Money Minute Expert, Sandy Bloem, with our Consumers Credit Union Business Services team. Credit union. Businesses. It’s something sometimes that people go, “Really? I didn’t even know credit unions help businesses.”

00:10:52.7 Sandy Bloem (SB): We hear that quite often, Lynne. One of the things that we can do is serve businesses along with the business owner, and so we can serve the small business owner anywhere from a $25,000 loan up to 10 or 15 million. We can serve a very large business community in West Michigan here.

00:11:12.5 LJJ: How about transactions and technology? What do we offer?

00:11:17.3 SB: We hear very often that our business owners love our website. Anywhere from transactions on the loan, to ACH, to fraud prevention, our team has products we can offer to any size business.

00:11:33.1 LJJ: So if you’re interested in a business partner like Sandy and our entire team, contact Consumers Credit Union. Thank you so much for being with us today. What a great podcast. And you can get involved. Just head to our website, ConsumersCU.org.

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