DATCU Credit Union: Deeply Rooted in Community and Service
It was the 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression when everything was slowly unraveling in the economy. Especially worried were the educators that had to teach the children and young adults of the country. On the campus of what is now UNT, two educators came up with the idea of a credit union to help their fellow teachers. Dr. V.Y. Craig and Ross Compton, along with 11 other educators, pooled $650 together (roughly $12,670 today) and formed the Denton County Teachers Federal Credit Union – known today as DATCU.
“Even from the very beginning, DATCU was a service-oriented idea,” says DATCU’S Vice President of Marketing Susan Passariello. “Grouping together their money, they knew they could serve other teachers and give them lower rates on loans. And that’s what a credit union really is: people helping people.”
People Helping People
DATCU’s foundation of service-minded action has stayed with the organization and remained strong, and is a fundamental part of what they do, from the very top all the way down.
“For the first 50, 60 years of the organization’s history it was strictly teachers, so we have a very strong affinity towards our schools in the community – the teachers, the administrators, the children. In 2018, DATCU gave $1 million to Denton ISD for new digital scoreboards for their athletic facilities. Since then, we have donated funds for Aubrey ISD, Lake Dallas ISD, and Sanger ISD.”
These digital scoreboards allow for many long-term opportunities for students and the community. For example, students themselves will be operating the boards, providing a valuable extracurricular learning experience. It also allows the school districts to raise funds through advertisements on the boards to help sustain them and fundraise for the school.
While these monetary donations are incredible in their own right, DATCU knows that community service isn’t just about giving away money. The best community service is the type that puts you personally right where the need is, the kind that helps build people up and creates long-lasting relationships with the people that you share your city with. To that effect, DATCU has cultivated a strong sense of volunteerism within the organization and even made it a core part of what they expect from their employees.
“Aside from schools, we’re involved in non-profits and civic organizations. Our Board of Directors and the executive team strongly encourages service on a board of a nonprofit or a civic organization here in the community. To encourage staff volunteerism, employees log every time they volunteer somewhere and at the end of the year there’s a Volunteer of the Year award. As an example, a recent branch manager was concerned about hungry kids, so all throughout COVID last year she was out collecting food, even in her own neighborhood. It’s just a part of our culture.”
Passariello says that this heart of service is not only the right thing to do, but also a recognition of how DATCU has benefited from the community as well. With over 100,000 members, DATCU is one of the largest credit unions in Texas, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. Giving back is just as important to DATCU as any other part of its business, and it shows.
The Challenge of COVID-19
Like everyone else, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted DATCU, but Passariello says that DATCU didn’t experience much of a downturn. For the most part DATCU’s day-to-day business remained steady. To keep members and employees safe, DATCU closed their lobbies starting in March of 2020 through June of 2020. Every service that could be done inside of a branch was pivoted to be accessible in the drive-thru – something that Passariello says they are especially proud of.
“Every service you could think of, we did in the drive-thru with masks. You want to take out a loan? Make your arrangements, pull in, finish your paperwork, and off you go!” Passariello says with a smile. “We made sure we could take care of our members, and from an employee standpoint we wanted to take care of them, too. Glen McKenzie, our CEO, was going out constantly, visiting all our branches making sure our team had what they needed. Each employee was fitted with a laptop, and if a member needed assistance, then their agent could work with them from home. Even now, it works so well. We require staff to come in on Mondays and Thursdays, and the rest you can work from home if you want.”
Passariello stated, in her opinion, the reason that DATCU still had a good year in the midst of the challenges posed by COVID-19 was because they didn’t skip a beat serving their members. In serving their members well DATCU saw the fruits of their heart of service and their community-oriented mindset, and they didn’t reduce their giving at all during their slight downturn.
A Heart that Keeps Growing
In the 10 years that she has been with DATCU, Passariello says it’s not the spirit of service that’s changed over time – it’s the need. In 2019, the City of Denton was rated as the second fastest-growing city in the county, with the population growing 8% between 2014 and 2018, and more residents means that the needs of our most vulnerable community members grow as well.
“Denton has a tremendous number of nonprofits here. When I came here, there wasn’t a Serve Denton, there wasn’t a large food center, HSNT has grown, too. From a community-service perspective, what’s grown the most is the need, and the requests that we get. The one area I’ve seen grow the most is that there has been a lot more attention on mental illness – that did not exist 10 years. So, you’re going to get help one way or another. Someone’s going to find a place that can help you.”
“DATCU will continue to be strong in supporting the community in many different ways. And as we grow – we’re now over a billion dollars in assets – our giving may increase as well. It starts at the very top, and it’s a part of our culture and a part of who we are.”
With an organizational culture that is deeply rooted in community and service, DATCU will continue to support and serve the community as it evolves and as the needs change.
Photo credit: Newground.com