by Cori Hilsgen
Collegeville Community Credit Union president and CEO Mark Douvier remembers when he became a member in 1973. His mother gave him $5 for Christmas and marched him over to the CCCU and made him deposit it. He wasn’t very happy having to hand over the money, but the CCCU had “Jolly Rancher” candies and he was happy about that.
The CCCU has been operating for 75 years. After all those years, its board of directors continues to serve and operate in the best interests of its members.
The CCCU opened in 1938 during a time when the economy was very depressed. Farmers, small business owners and others in the area were having a hard time paying bills and getting banks to give them the loans they needed. Many people had lost money in the banks and did not trust the banking industry.
Local town citizens formed the CCCU with St. John’s fifth abbot, the Rev. Alcuin Deutsch, as the first member. Fifty other local individuals invested $5 each in the new cooperative. Six of the 50 members were females.
The purpose of the CCCU was to support and share in one another’s farm growth, business risks and successes. By joining resources, they were able to help families survive and grow during hard economic times.
Former board members Harold “Hal” Roske, 84, and Robert “Bob” Dumonceaux, 74, both served on the CCCU board of directors. Roske is the only remaining living charter member. He was 9 years old when the credit union was formed.
“I remember in the late 1930s or early ’40s, my dad coming home buying sugar, gas and tires,” Roske said. “They had a way of community buying and purchasing things you couldn’t normally go to town and buy. They offered them to members. I remember that sugar and tires stood out to me when I was 10 years old.”
Roske was born and raised in Flynntown, located by the university campus. He worked as an electrician at the SJU physical plant and served on the CCCU board of directors for 12 years. Roske said what sticks out in his mind is where it started and how it moved. Originally located on campus, the credit union moved several times, including into a mobile trailer, until the building on Fruit Farm Road was built in the 1980s. He also remembers why the CCCU became important to him.
“I was two years out of school and I bought my first car through the credit union,” Roske said. “If it wouldn’t have been for the credit union, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a new car. It would have been a hand-me-down somewhere along the line.”
Many members of his family are credit-union members – some living as far away as California.
Dumonceaux, 74, is a St. John’s University math teacher. He also served on the CCCU board for 36 years, retiring two years ago. Much of his time on the board was spent serving as the board chair.
“I was at St. John’s from 1957 and on,” Dumonceaux said. “When we got into the parish there were people like Hal, Wally Goerger, Al Vogel and other people we became friends with and lived next door to. I was so impressed with these men and when I saw they were involved in the credit union, I thought, well that’s a good thing for me to be involved with.”
Dumonceaux said he became a member in the 1960s when another member asked him to be on the board of directors.
When he first started on the board, he brought an Apple computer over to work on loans. He said they always tried to get the members the best deal and remembers when they went to daily interest and other things that were in favor of the members.
“It was the example of people I admired and the concern for their neighbor, the helping to serve the community and to serve its members,” Dumonceaux said. “All those years I was on the board it always made me feel good when the emphasis was on how is this going to benefit our members, not are we going to have a profit at the end of the year. The members always came first. I think that is something that hasn’t changed. The members are the number one concern.”
Many of his family members also belong to CCCU. Some of them live in Germany.
“I wouldn’t have my children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren members of this if it wasn’t important to me,” he said.
Dumonceaux was on the board that hired the current president, Mark Douvier.
Douvier was also born and raised in Flynntown. He attended SJU for his bachelor’s degree and St. Thomas for his graduate degree. Douvier worked in several bigger financial institutions, including banking, before becoming president of the CCCU in January 2005. He said his position at the CCCU requires a variety of skills to serve members.
“It’s not only a banking job, it’s a job that requires a unique skillset to be a jack-of-all-trades,” Douvier said.
All three men spoke of the changes they have seen at the CCCU.
Douvier said the first meeting of the CCCU was held on Sept. 15, 1938. It was organized by mostly citizens from the community and employees of SJU. He explained a movement to form credit unions started on the East Coast in the late 1930s. People felt like they were taking control of their destiny and could help other members of the community.
“People were very angry at their banks and we didn’t have the insurance programs we have today so people lost money in banks,” Douvier said. “At the same time, banks weren’t borrowing money so people couldn’t borrow money. Credit unions popped up through church organizations. Our initial charter was employees of SJU and the College of St. Benedict and the three Catholic parishes of St. Joseph, Avon and St. John the Baptist here in Collegeville.”
He said it’s an interesting parallel to what has happened here in the last five years. Many people are keeping their money local because they feel they have better control of it.
“In a credit union, the members own the credit union,” Douvier said. “Members have a right to become involved in the operations of the credit union and set policies by being a member of the board or any other committee. It really is an interesting parallel and it has benefited us greatly.”
Because of the 75th anniversary, Douvier has been reviewing past board minutes. He said the university had a real vested interest in helping their employees succeed. They were concerned about their employees and the abbot was always at the meetings. The abbots would often speak and commend the board on how well they did.
Douvier was quick to point out different business models work for different people. He said at the time the CCCU was formed there was only one other model available.
Douvier said the CCCU continues to serve the area well. Membership has grown from the original 50 to a couple hundred and then to thousands in the 1970s. Current membership is around 2,200 and is split between young and old members. It now costs $25 to join. The money is placed in a share account. That share is the member’s ownership interest in the CCCU.
Membership is open to surrounding areas including Sartell, Albany, Cold Spring, Rockville, St. Augusta and others. In 2010, membership also became available to students.
Douvier said there have been many changes in banking, which is much more formal than it used to be. He said all the new banking regulations are much more difficult to stay abreast of and new technology changes are a big deal.
The CCCU used to offer savings accounts and loans. It now has full-service checking accounts, online banking and bill pay, debit cards and all the services that other financial institutions offer. Changes are constant and they have to constantly keep refreshing themselves and reinventing themselves.
“It’s definitely a more challenging business landscape these days,” he said. “The credit union works hard to offer good services such as lower loan rates and better dividend rates to members. We work to help members get through financial situations and pride ourselves on doing so. No transaction is too small or too large.”
Douvier said the CCCU has always worked for its members.
“We are here for our members first and foremost and we don’t care if that member has $25 or $25,000, they get treated the same,” he said. “We have relationships with these members over many many years. We have relationships with their great-grandchildren. That relationship is what differentiates us with other institutions. We pride ourselves with that and try to keep those relationships.”
Douvier shared his first experience of the CCCU board values.
“Those values were instilled in me by the person I took over from,” he said. “I got my first car loan from him. Not only did he give me the car loan, but he taught me how to manage my credit and how to handle things correctly. He gave me that car loan right when I graduated from college when other financial institutions wouldn’t give me that car loan. I really took pride in that and I knew I would pay that back because I almost, in a way, wanted to make him happy that I would do this because he believed in me.”
Douvier gave examples of members stopping by just to say “hi,” dropping off fruit when they return from winter snowbird vacations, calling to get a calendar and other things. It’s those types of things that keep the CCCU special and unique and they are in no way interested in letting that go. That is what stays the same. For a while new people didn’t see that as a benefit, but Douvier said he thinks they have had an influx with a lot of younger members who now do see that benefit.
“I am not saying others aren’t like that, but that is our difference,” Douvier said. “That’s what we do and we do it well.”
He said CCCU continues to operate because of the seven board-of-director volunteers and three supervisors. They and other members continue to volunteer their much-needed time.
“The people on the board and myself – we are just stewards of this place,” Douvier said. “We’re just really trying to keep it for the next generation. It’s sort of a gift and it’s a precious thing. We don’t want to take it for granted.”