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Cars Line Up Across Nation For CUs' Free Gas
MADISON, Wis. (8/30/13)--Seasons FCU in Middletown, Conn., picked up the gas tab this week for consumers, with employees personally pumping $20 of free gas for the first 200 drivers in line--a total of $4,000 in free gas--as part of the national "Take Back Your Banking" campaign.
 
Employees of Seasons FCU pump $20 of free gas for each of the the first 200 drivers in line at a gas station in Middletown, Conn., as part of  the nationwide "Take Back Your Banking" event.
It was a scene repeated over and over across the country Wednesday and Thursday as credit unions and community banks in 38 cities did the same, pumping more than $150,000 in free gas to 7,600 people. The institutions used the event to urge consumers to go local in their banking and many credit unions garnered some media attention about the good credit unions do for their communities.
 
"This effort signifies a growing trend of community banks and credit unions across the country partnering up to demonstrate that there are better banking options than the megabanks," said Gabe Krajicke, CEO of Kasasa.com, a resource for consumers using free rewards checking accounts at local credit unions and banks.
 
Seasons FCU staff had a little fun while pumping gas. The credit union's CEO, Keith Wiemert--who is also chair of the Credit Union League of Connecticut and interim CEO of the league-- was in Madison, Wis., attending league staff orientation meetings while staff pumped gas. But he was there in spirit--some staff donned Keith Wiemert masks as they pumped the gas. Others wore red superhero capes.
 
Long lines of cars were the rule of the day at gas stations in 38 cities across the U.S. Credit unions participating pumped free gas to encourage consumers to bank locally, instead of at megabanks. (Photos provided by Seasons FCU).
In Auburn Hills, Mich., about 400 drivers began lining up at 6:40 a.m. Wednesday for free gas pumped Cornerstone Community Financial CU employees, said the Detroit News (Aug. 28).  Many left when they realized they weren't among the first 200 drivers.  CEO Heidi Kassab said she was surprised by the response, noting that $20 is not a lot of gas, but everyone was thankful. Staff "heard some great stories" about what the recipients were going to do with the gas--such as visiting family members and running run errands, she said.

The Oakland Press also covered the event, quoting Cornerstone Marketing Manager Stephanie Leahy, who said the credit union is "just encouraging local consumers that there are better alternatives available." Banking local, she said, fuels the local economy.
 
In Jackson, Mich., horns honked, people cheered and CP FCU employees gave away gas at P.S. Food Mart, according to the Jackson Citizen-Patriot (Aug. 28). And the reactions among recipients?  "Awesome." "Amazing."  "Really nice." "Free is always good."

The first vehicle arrived at 7:30 a.m., 1 1/2 hours early, and a line of cars continued for several blocks. Jackson police officers helped direct the traffic flow. "We're trying to spread the word around the community about banking locally," CP FCU Vice President Sarah Ermatinger told the newspaper. "High bank fees and gas prices are at the top of people's minds, and we are giving them relief at the gas pumps and how they can get a break on the [bank] fees as well."
 
One customer ran out of gas while in line, Ermatinger said. The driver pushed his car about a block and received help from employees and police to get his free $20 of gas.
 
The nationwide events attracted local press and broadcasters looking for compelling photos of long lines of cars:
  • EverythingLubbock.com reported Thursday on Texas Tech FCU, Lubbock, Texas, taking over a gas station, pumping gas and talking to local residents about banking with a credit union or community bank, instead of megabanks.
  • WCAX News in Colchester, Vt., Thursday featured a story, "Free gas giveaway highlights local credit unions" and a number of photos at the pumps where North Country CU was pumping gas.
  • KSLA.com in Shreveport, La., reported on Pelican State CU in Shreveport "using a unique technique to get you to 'take back your banking.'"
  • MyFoxPhoenix.com noted that two valley credit unions--Altier CU in Tempe, Ariz., and Credit Union West, Glendale--pumped free gas, while MyFoxAtlanta.com pointed out Family Savings CU was participating.
Such events can foster service excellence while raising awareness about the value of credit unions. Fostering service excellences and raising awareness, along with removing barriers, are the components of the Unite for Good campaign launched by the Credit Union National Association and state leagues to work toward the vision of Americans choosing credit unions as their best financial partners. Use the links for more information.
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