In 1950, seven Sonoma County employees formed a credit union by pooling their savings in a desk drawer. Their goals were to help one another with reasonably priced loans and to provide a safe place for members to save for their future.

Mission achieved.

That small credit union became Redwood Credit Union (RCU), now serving approximately 365,000 members. RCU is a not-for-profit financial institution with a mission to passionately serve the best interests of its members, employees, and communities.

And that means COTS is part of RCU’s mission. We are grateful for the organization’s steadfast support of our programs, especially of our programs for children and families. And we are just as grateful for the role RCU plays in pulling together the wider community to respond to disaster. After the 2017 fires, for example, RCU, together with the Press Democrat and State Senator Mike McGuire, created the North Bay Fire Relief Fund, which raised over $32 million to help in immediate relief efforts. That money, donated by over 41,000 donors, went directly to people who lost their homes. It also went to nonprofits, including COTS, to assist those who’ve been affected by the fires. The fund is one of the mainstays of our Rapid Re-Housing program. Since July 2018, ­­­­COTS’ Rapid Re-Housing has helped 449 people, including 149 children, regain and maintain permanent housing.

RCU can play an important role in community efforts like the Fire Relief Fund because of its large membership, its role as a large employer, its structure and history, says Matt Martin, RCU’s Senior Vice President of Community and Government Relations. “We’re a place where people and communities naturally come together,” he says.

Most recently, RCU helped save over 9,000 local jobs by adopting an all-hands-on-deck approach to the Paycheck Protection Program. RCU temporarily transferred 60 employees to its 20-person business services team. They worked diligently and secured loans for 1,700 local businesses.

“The effort we put into helping businesses get those loans was a labor of love,” Matt says. “It was about preserving jobs, keeping food on the table, and keeping families in their homes.”

“For us as a not-for-profit financial cooperative, it’s pretty easy to make decisions,” says Matt. “We focus on what’s right for our members, our employees, and our communities.”

“A key credit union philosophy is ‘people helping people,’” Matt says. That means RCU doesn’t need to hike fees and interest rates to satisfy shareholders. In fact, the credit union can help people avoid common traps like high-interest car loans. “We’re there when our members need us, through the highs and lows of life. And we try to smooth the path ahead by educating people about financial products and savings strategies. Helping people achieve their goals and dreams is what drives us.”

And in Brett Martinez, RCU’s President and CEO, Sonoma County has a true leader. “Brett makes financial education a priority—and not just in the communities RCU serves. He has taken the dialogue and plan of action to the national level.” As Chair of the Credit Union National Association, Brett was deeply involved with credit union advocacy efforts, actively meeting with local, state, and national lawmakers to speak about credit union issues and the importance of financial education.

“Community giving is part and parcel of improving the well-being and opportunity of members,” Matt says. “We’re all stronger when everyone has a chance.” When it comes to giving, RCU looks for causes and agencies that have shared goals with the credit union. “We give to organizations that provide the building blocks to well-being. Those focused on basic needs like housing and food programs, education, workforce development, and financial wellness. The environment is of great concern to us as well and we’re proud to house our headquarters in a LEED certified green building.”

“We give intentionally,” says Matt. “Instead of just writing checks, we carefully choose community partners that we know will produce positive outcomes. The impact we can make together is where the magic happens.”

Another RCU partner is the Downtown Streets Team, which begins operations in Petaluma this month. The Downtown Streets Team provides people without homes the opportunity to work, cleaning up their community, and the opportunity to access education and resources. Whenever the Downtown Streets Team expands operations to a new community, “RCU is the first to step up with support,” says Karen Strolia, Downtown Streets Teams, North Bay Director. The credit union not only provides financial support, RCU’s representatives show up to provide workshops, encouragement, direct assistance with opening accounts and ice cream! “We have seen our team members take this new information and apply it, which has moved them farther away from their homeless experience,” Karen says. “We are so incredibly grateful for the partnership.”

On behalf of the thousands of people who have helped through your support of countless organizations, thank you, Redwood Credit Union!

Want to read more stories about our business sponsors? Visit our Business Gives Back homepage by clicking here!

Share this story with your friends and family: