Credit Union Inspires Change in Nebraska

Gail DeBoer of SAC Federal Credit Union introduces financial stimulation to a struggling locale

From military families to students in low socioeconomic schools, Gail DeBoer is touching the lives of many people in her North Omaha community as president of SAC Federal Credit Union.

On the streets of a Nebraska town, SAC Federal Credit Union was poised to make a difference in what was a floundering community. Alongside the North Omaha Development Project, the credit union worked tirelessly in the area to strengthen the economic core, attract new jobs, and eventually open a state-of-the-art financial facility for the North Omaha community.

“We were struggling to find a space for a larger branch, and immediately, our thoughts turned to an old, run-down Hollywood Video store on the corner,” explains Gail DeBoer, president of SAC Federal Credit Union. “It was important that the building be a beacon to help encourage growth within the community.”

So, partnering with architecture company Leo A Daly, SAC Federal Credit Union began peeling away the old to come up with the new. In fact, Leo A Daly would eventually receive an interior-design award from the American Institute of Architects’ Nebraska chapter for its work. And once again, the 65-year-old credit union had a hand in changing lives and, ultimately, an entire community. “Our neighbors in this area are now doing more to improve their own businesses,” DeBoer explains. “I’m really proud. The quest to improve is becoming contagious.”

With two locations on Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, DeBoer says she is extremely proud to play a role in inspiring people to change their lives. “During these economic times, a $200 or $300 loan can make a difference in someone’s life,” she says. “We are actively involved in serving the military families in the area. We aren’t out there focusing on profit, but on providing safety, service, and convenience for our members. It’s about focusing on people, building relationships, and taking care of the communities we live in.”

Established in 1946 with just 12 employees, SAC Federal Credit Union serves more than 62,000 members and 200 employees at 19 different locations, providing business services, mortgages, indirect auto lending, and personal financial services. “I would say that SAC Federal Credit Union was one of those ‘best-kept secrets’ in the community for many years,” explains DeBoer from her office in Bellevue, Nebraska. “As a credit union, we have been able to serve many people that simply don’t fit into a bank’s model.”

Sarah Waldman (left) and Gail DeBoer (right) present the Institute for Career Advancement Needs (ICAN) Legacy Award to Judith Haecker at the 2011 ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference. SAC Federal Credit Union is a sponsor of the ICAN Legacy Award.

Still, the company makes perhaps the biggest impact with programs such as its Dollar Dog Kids Club savings program and the C.U.@College student checking accounts. Branch managers have also been actively involved in programs at a number of low socioeconomic grade schools to help educate students on the importance of financial responsibility. “These are schools where as many as 90 percent of students are receiving a free or reduced-price lunch,” DeBoer explains. “We go into the schools and teach the students the difference between a want and need. The sad thing is … their wants often include anything from food to just a front door. We also donate a number of school supplies for these students. It feels very rewarding to be able to make a difference.”

Additionally, when SAC Federal Credit Union added a Culture Development department in 2009, it was decided that the core values of the credit union would be: respect, integrity, service, and excellence (RISE). The acronym RISE makes it easy for the staff to remember and has served them well in serving members. Now, SAC Federal Credit Union is focused on helping small businesses, and DeBoer feels this will have an incredible impact on economic recovery. “Small businesses serve as the economic engine of this country,” says DeBoer, who routinely volunteers in a number of local charities on her own time. “There are small businesses out there that simply can’t get any financial help these days. It’s our newest initiative to make sure we help them through this current economic time.”

And though DeBoer admits that times have changed dramatically over the last few years, she knows now, more than ever, that she can help. “We want everyone out there to know what a credit union is and how we can make a difference,” she says. “Ultimately, we are here to help.”