$2M for islands, but only if vote for merger ‘yes’

Island Savings and First West Credit Union plan to establish a $2 million endowment to benefit Island communities if their planned merger goes through.

The two credit unions announced the idea Tuesday, in the thick of debate about what they are calling "a partnership."

Vancouver Island and Gulf Island communities that are served by Island Savings will be the ones benefiting from the funds granted from the endowment.

Because the debate surrounding the merger has been getting heated, an obvious question emerges about the timing of the funding announcement.

Is the handout of funds being done now to help the Island Savings credit union get a "yes" vote in the controversial merger with First West?

Rod Dewar, Island Savings CEO, said it’s a logical question.

"You’ve come to a conclusion, and I’m not surprised but it’s not the primary reason for doing this. We’re doing it is to address a concern that came up from our members," he said.

At recent meetings, Island Savings members have asked

what would happen to their credit union’s outreach into the community.

"Members have been expressing concern around our supporting our communities. Will that change in the new partnership? It’s been an important part of the work we do in our communities. It’s almost what we would call our DNA. It’s the reason we attract the kinds of employees we do. And it’s a very important part of our brand.

"This is consistent with what First West has done in the past with other partnerships," he said.

It might have been missed in the sometime acrimonious debate, he said.

"We realized we hadn’t been communicating this plan of ours to create an endowment based on what’s been going on in the past," Dewar said. "Of course, it’s conditional on the deal going forward. There’s no doubt about that. We can’t write a $2 million cheque if our business is going to stay the same size. But as we put the two businesses together we do become substantially bigger which creates a lot of other capabilities," he said.

"One of those is our ability to give back to our communities in an effective way," he said.

"This just complements the work we’re already doing with our G.I.F.T. [Growing Island Families Together] program."

Launi Skinner, CEO of First West Credit Union, called the creation of the Island Savings Community Endowment "the largest contribution into the First West Foundation to date."

The First West Foundation manages nearly $11 million in endowment funds.

The Foundation also specializes in the management of legacy funds that benefit specific community causes and organizations. Grants from the First West Foundation will generate funding for Island communities above and beyond ongoing community investment activities and nonprofit relationships already established in the region, partnerships that saw Island Savings invest $562,000 back into Island neighbourhoods in 2013.

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