MANCHESTER, NH – Mayor Joyce Craig said she was extremely grateful when she learned about the $50,000 donation coming from Members First Credit Union, which was delivered ceremoniously on June 19 via a big check outside of Central Station.
“As we know, Safe Station is not yet a sustainable model so these funds will help tremendously, helping the people coming in on a daily basis, proactively asking for the help they need. The credit union has been so focused on helping the local community, and this is just another way of contributing in a very positive way,” Craig said.
City Health Department Director Tim Soucy mentioned that the history of Members First Credit Union mades this particular donation meaningful – the bank was founded in 1949 by Manchester firefighter John Walsh, who ran the credit union from his briefcase at the Somerville Street Fire Station.
By 1950, Walsh’s idea – of helping local firefighters with their finances – expanded, and the credit union officially moved into Manchester’s City Hall on Elm Street.
“Members First has been engrained in the community, and was actually started by a Manchester firefighter, so this is really coming full circle of their support for Manchester firefighters and Safe Station,” Soucy said.
Chief Dan Goonan said the mission of the city’s fire department, as first responders to all in need – continues with Safe Station, which has since 2016 been an open door for those seeking relief from addiction.
“I’m so proud of my firefighters for embracing Safe Station. We’ve had 3,700 people come through, which shows you how great of an access point it has been. We’re seeing a lot of good outcomes. This is a model nationally and internationally,” Goonan said. “And most important, this is a stigma-free zone and we treat people like human beings, no matter where they come from. We greet them with an outstretched hand and a handshake.”
Goonan said the state is still grappling with the issue of how to reduce the number of people who come to Manchester from elsewhere for services.
“The state knows that’s an issue and we’re working on it, but we’re still welcoming people from all around the state. They’re trying to make a dent in that, but if someone needs help, we’re here to help,” Goonan said.
Craig emphasized that Safe Station has done what it set out to do, which is provide a seamless pathway to treatment. She has been working closely with area agencies to improve delivery of services.
“People are coming in to ask for help, and there’s no stigma – they feel comfortable coming in and asking for help, which is the beautiful part of this model. And then we work with treatment partners, which is the critical component of this. But the Safe Station model is one that allows people actively seeking treatment to find it, and we know there’s a higher percentage of success for those who come seeking help,” Craig said.
About the grant
The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) announced in 2017 anticipated reimbursements totaling $600-$800 million to federally-insured credit unions nationwide. In an effort to support community programs in critical need, Members First Credit Union has decided to reinvest their portion of the reimbursement in critical community programs.
“Receiving this refund is like winning the lottery – we didn’t expect it,” said Bruce Leighton, president and CEO, Members First Credit Union. “We feel that the best course of action is to use the funds to deal with issues happening right outside our very own doors. Everyone, including our members, will stand to benefit from this.”
Members First embraces the motto, ‘People helping people,’ and encourages its fellow credit unions in New England and across the country to join them in committing to donate their refund to charities in their local communities. “We don’t know how much money to anticipate from the NCUA, but we do know that our contribution – whatever the amount – will have an even greater impact if others join us in this effort,” said Leighton.