The mantra “shop local” gets used a lot these days. It’s an important message. The challenge for many people is where to get the money to shop local.
Grasslands Federal Credit Union (FCU) is doing its part to help local communities by donating money to nonprofits that have trouble competing for loans with bigger banking clients.
Emily Guldborg, manager and CEO of Grasslands FCU, told the Sidney Herald the lender is conscious small nonprofits and individual business owners are struggling today.
“We serve all kinds of businesses,” said Guldborg, noting Grasslands FCU — with branches in Circle and Baker — has a variety of members. “Main street businesses, farmers and ranchers, salons...restaurants.”
Grasslands FCU will be distributing more than $25,000 to nearly two dozen local non-profit organizations. The money was derived from the allowable 5% loan-origination fees generated through the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Guldborg explained.
A press release stated: “The credit union stepped up to help members pay it forward by distributing the bulk of the origination fees back to the communities they support.”
“By turning around and giving that money to nonprofits,” Guldborg said, Grasslands FCU was able to help those entities. “Most of these nonprofits could not qualify for a PPP loan.”
That isn’t to imply Grasslands FCU did not actively assist local businesses, large and small, with procuring PPP funds during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We wanted to help anybody and everybody that could use one of these,” said Guldborg.
She estimated the credit union procured 56 PPP loans for members from April 3, 2020 to the end of May. The average loan, she said, was precisely $31,000.
“Some of them were as small as $1,500 and some of them were much larger,” Guldborg said, noting farmers, ranchers and oil-drilling businesses comprise a significant portion of the credit union’s members.
“A $1,000 loan to an oil company isn’t going to mean that much,” she said. “But $1,000 to a salon owner means the world.”
Referring to the distribution of the credit union’s donations, Guldborg said: “It was pretty diverse. A large segment of our members are ranchers, but these were small businesses.”
Local recipients include:
• Reba Mac’s Animal Rescue of Sidney
• Eastern Montana Bible Camp of Savage
• KGLE Radio, which operates out of Glendive.
“Each recipient of a PPP loan that originated through Grasslands FCU had the opportunity to identify which non-profit located within the credit union’s Field of Membership they most wanted to support,” the press release explained. “A sum of $750 then went to the non-profit of their choosing.”
“Non-profit organizations have been hit hard during COVID-19 due to the cancelation of fundraisers and annual events that typically fund their mission’s efforts,” said Guldborg. “With the credit union philosophy of ‘people helping people’ in mind, we wanted to do our part to bridge the gap and give back to the communities that have long supported us. We hope to inspire other members of the community to continue reaching out to help one another during this critical time.”
As for the money donated to small non-profits, Guldborg noted the money was well-received.
“It was critical to some of these businesses,” she said. “And it did get them going.”
Addressing the impact of COVID-19-mandated restrictions on rural credit unions like Grasslands FCU of Montana, Guldborg noted the institution has remained accessible to all its members and potential customers.
“We never closed our lobby,” she said with obvious pride. “It would be detrimental to our older members if we closed.
“If we had shut our doors and they didn’t have that eye contact,” Guldborg continued, “I think it would be very unnerving to people. It’s not how we do business here.
“Our farmers and ranchers need to sit down and talk to us face to face,” she added. “These are complex conversations, and they need to happen across the desk.”
Grasslands FCU is a cooperative, not-for-profit financial institution, chartered by the federal government, owned and controlled by members in several eastern Montana counties including Dawson, Richland and Roosevelt. Visit https://grasslandscu.com/