Mandi Haynes of Streator Onized Credit Union described her co-workers' pride as overwhelming.
Credit Union National Association named Streator Onized the Credit Union of the Year in the "under $250 million assets" category out of more than 6,600 possible credit unions in the United States.
With winners last year based in cities with populations more than 70,000 people, Haynes and her co-workers were excited to see their accomplishments in a smaller community like Streator measure up.
"It speaks volumes to be from a rural farm town and be acknowledged," said Haynes, vice president of lending. "We couldn't do it without the support of everyone. Right now, the No. 1 feeling is a sense of pride and excitement to actually own this for real."
This is the first time Streator Onized has won the award.
Each year, Credit Union National Association recognizes community credit unions that excel in the advancement of the ideals of the credit union movement, are proactive in their community and provide a wide-array of services that meet the needs of their diverse communities.
First- and second-place awards are given in categories of more than and less than $250 million assets.
"During a time when most financial institutions have been struggling, Streator Onized Credit Union has continued to offer a new array of member services," said Kathy Lucas, president and chief executive officer for Streator Onized. "The credit union's success is due to conservative and sound management, a passion for improving member's and the community's quality of life and developing great relationships with both the members and business partners."
The credit union has donated more than $105,000 to nearly 100 different charities since the beginning of 2010. These donations were supplemented with several hundreds of hours of community service from employees and members.
Since December 31, Streator Onized assets have grown 10.28 percent or $7,439,000, while total loans have increased by 17.07 percent or $8,033,902.
Streator Onized has 77 full- and part-time employees, two branches in Streator, a student-run credit union at Streator Township High School, a branch in Dwight and a branch in Pontiac.
The credit union was organized in 1939 and was originally limited to the employees and families of Owens Illinois Glass Company. In 1984, membership was expanded, until it eventually expanded its membership to include anyone working in La Salle, Livingston, Marshall, Grundy, Putnam and Bureau counties.
Members of an all-female executive board led by CEO Lucas credit her for guiding SOCU in a positive direction. Other officers include Haynes, Cheryl Davis, vice president and chief financing officer, and Angie Kusnerick, compliance and membership development officer.
"She's a fierce leader who thinks outside of the box," Haynes said of Lucas. "She started here 25-plus years ago and worked her way from the bottom to the top. She has a respect for every employee here, because she's been in their shoes."
The executive board maintains a motivational atmosphere throughout the credit union that flows from the top to the bottom.
"The environment here is always upbeat," said Dana Stillwell, SOCU marketing director. "Typically, there's always something going on either with a community service project or an in-house project. We're always busy and always working together."
Streator Onized will receive the award at the Community Credit Union and Growth Conference from Monday, Oct. 24, to Thursday, Oct. 27, in San Francisco. The special awards luncheon is scheduled at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Wednesday, Oct. 26. A representative from SOCU will be given a free registration to attend the entire conference and to accept the award.