Oct. 28 marked Integris Credit Union’s 70th birthday and the fifth anniversary of its Vanderhoof branch’s new home.
Celebrated with cake, refreshments, and prize draw for members at its seven branches across north central B.C., the anniversaries nearly coincides with International Credit Union Day, which lies on the third Thursday of October every year.
Vanderhoof’s branch manager Audrey Carlson recalled her first day of work with Integris over 40 years ago, when the credit union was located at its original building at the southeast corner of West Columbia Street and Church Avenue.
“There were about three of us, and we also did janitorial work, cleaning after the previous day before starting work,” Carlson said. “It was very small, and I’m pretty proud of where we come from and where we are.”
Vanderhoof’s branch first started as part of the Nechako Valley Credit Union on April 18, 1950, with a small room and a tin cash box in the building where ProTec Accounting on Stewart Street is now located.
Eventually amalgamated to form Integris, the branch now has 31 staff that offers services in banking, insurance, and financial planning.
“We had paper, then a posting machine, then the first computer system, then a new one next year,” Carlson said. “It’s my third conversion of systems so far.”
She remembers the year of 2000, when a world-wide fear of the Y2K bug led to staff staying all night at work in case of system failures.
“But nothing happened!”
While she said she can almost write a book on the people she worked with over the years, the most important takeaway for her is the company’s contribution to the town.
“To see what we have been part of through foundations and donations,” Carlson said. “Vanderhoof should be proud of this community-minded credit union.”
Featuring floor-to-ceiling windows with two floors of state-of-the-art office spaces, Integris’ five-year home in Vanderhoof was criticized by some to be “too fancy.”
“I’ve turned it around and said we need to thank people for all the support,” Carlson said. “We’re able to have this building because of your support of the credit union.”
For Mark Churchill, a Vanderhoof-based director of Integris board, the success of the company lies in it being a co-operative.
“We are owned by the members, with local ownership and local control,” Churchill said. “We don’t have a head office in Toronto.
“If the organization is successful and makes a profit, it comes back to the members, through dividends or community projects, services, and partnerships.”