People Helping People
A Beehive Federal Credit Union History
The concept of people helping people is not new or unique to credit unions. Ever since there have been humans, they have collected together for common causes. In ancient times, people gathered in villages, tribes, and other units so they could reap the mutual benefits of each other’s skills and enjoy a protection from higher numbers. It has trickled through the ages in many formats such as Native American hunting parties where a group of men who excel in hunting bring back enough meat for the entire community, and are repaid by shares of vegetables, clothing, and other goods. Early settlers have grouped together to clear their neighbors’ fields and raise barns; each knowing that by extending his hand for another this time, he will be assured the return of that hand when he needs it.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the idea of pooling resources eventually came about. Financial cooperatives, specifically, originated in Rochdale, England in 1844 to combat unfair and expensive practices of England’s banks. The first credit society was created in 1849 by Germans Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch and Friedrich William Raiffeisen. The details of how credit unions came into existence through the efforts of these men are outlined more thoroughly in the Idaho Credit Union League’s ‘Credit Union Philosophy Manual’ which accompanies this history. It explains how the first credit unions were formed, how regulating organizations such as state leagues, the National Credit Union Administration, and the World Council of Credit Unions were best set up to help ensure success of all credit unions everywhere, and it lays the foundation for where our story begins.
I’m certain you will all be familiar with a man named Eldred Stephenson, who worked as a faculty member for Ricks College around 1960. During a leadership week at the time, Eldred received an unknown visitor to his office. The man is remembered only as Mr. Jacobson, and when he met with Eldred his biggest question about the two-year college was why it did not yet have a credit union for its members. Eldred had no answer to give Mr. Jacobson, who departed with the statement, ‘Well you should have one.’
Nothing was done to initiate Mr. Jacobson’s suggestion, but he again returned to the college during the next year’s leadership week. His remarks were the same. ‘Don’t you have a credit union on campus yet?’ he asked Eldred, who was beginning to feel that perhaps it was a good idea after all.
Due to Mr. Jacobson’s ‘if you build it, they will come’ attitude toward the new credit union, Eldred gathered a few of his fellow employees to enlist the help of the Idaho Credit Union League director at that time to start the process of becoming an on-campus financial institution. It was later learned that the master persuasion of Mr. Jacobson came from his position on the education committee of his very own campus credit union at Brigham Young University in Provo. While the only details of this man can be found on tissue paper documents written as memoirs by Eldred and the other founding fathers, Beehive will be forever grateful for his repeated suggestion, which led to the first board meeting of the credit union held on May 27, 1960.
While Mr. Jacobson’s prediction that the employees of Ricks College would be receptive to an on-campus credit union was right on, the infant business had much to stumble through before everything came together to run smoothly. At the very first, Ricks College Credit Union, as it was named at the beginning, charged $0.25 to become a member and required a $5 share deposit. All transactions were performed by Eldred, mostly in his office when members could catch him between classes and other duties of his regular employment. Assets, applications, and all other documentation were kept in a shoebox in a filing cabinet in room 234 of the Smith building. Records, balances, and transfers were written in a ledger by hand. Funding for loans was a major issue. The first loan made was for $100 to a faculty member. Eldred remembers that he had to ‘wait until the payroll deductions were made’ so there would be enough money to make the loan. Through the opening trials, however, the credit union held in strong.
After only a year and a half of business, Eldred was called to duty for the National Guard and had to leave his credit union to report at Fort Lewis for a year. The business literally fell into the lap of Cleo Browning, who was quickly appointed manager to replace Eldred.
Cleo continued in the manner of his predecessor with members popping in and out of his office during the day, hoping to catch him in to do their business. With membership growing quickly, and assets adding up right behind them, the credit union Ken Papenfuss inherited when he was elected Treasurer / Manager in 1966 was in need of reformating.
Ken had much to do, and quickly, when he became the Ricks College Credit Union manager. He had been appointed right around the time of the Annual Federal Reports, which Ken ‘muddled through somehow, with the help of Paddy Mulkay, who had done the posting’ in previous years. Ken looked at ‘business as usual’ and decided it needed some changes. The biggest issue was to find some funding for all the loan requests. Ken recalls telling early members that they would most likely have to wait two or three months for their loans to go through. While the members were good natured as possible, something needed to be done.
Pocatello Railroad Credit Union was the answer. Since this institution consisted of an elderly membership who had plenty in savings but no real need for loans, it was mutually beneficial when Ken approached them and asked them to fund Ricks College Credit Union’s lending needs. Once they agreed, loans went out quickly and the credit union continued to grow rapidly.
For three years, Ken kept the credit union going with the help of his wife, Robert Powell, George Patterson, and J. Wendyl Stucki. After that, he went to Utah to work on his doctorate and left the business in the capable hands of Larry Scott until his return in 1971. Shortly after his return, Ardath Carlsen’s bookkeeping skills were requested to aid at the credit union, and she was hired as a part-time manager.
At first, Ardath worked out of Ken’s divisional office in COBS 263, but was later moved when the space proved too small. It wasn’t long until business had boomed enough to require Ardath’s position to be changed to full-time, and the credit union also needed to hire Ardath’s daughter to help. Two other part-time employees, Rama Griffeth and Shirley Perry, came in to work during the busiest times around payroll.
The new office space was not much bigger than the shoebox the credit union had left, containing a desk, a few chairs, a typewriter, and a filing cabinet, and with Ardath at the helm during set times, the membership and assets rose dramatically. In fact, under her management, it quickly became clear that Ricks College Credit Union needed a larger space, a space of its own.
The founding fathers first petitioned the college, who promised them a larger space. The credit union also began searching for a piece of ground close to campus where they could build their very own office. The school was not enthusiastic about the credit union moving outside their buildings, and even though they could not give them the amount of space they needed, or even the amount of space they had promised, they believed that Ricks College Credit Union would be in competition with the school should they move from their grounds. The contention between the school’s desire for the credit union to stay and the credit union’s need to move became so heated that President Eyring attended a meeting to settle the issue. He instructed the college to allow the credit union to move to their own space, as they were their own business and the school could do nothing for them. After President Eyring’s counsel, the college ceased opposition, but did require that the credit union be renamed once they were no longer a campus based organization.
Ricks College Credit Union held a contest for its new name as it continued its search for a spot of ground. The city of Rexburg denied them permission to build across the street from the Snow building, but they were able to purchase the lot on the corner of 1st W and Viking Drive from Jon Ray for $27,000. This building still stands across the street from the BYU-Idaho Center.
With a new building and a new name, Beehive Federal Credit Union was ready for business once again. Dan Owen joined the Beehive team in 1983 and brought a wealth of technological savvy that helped Beehive become more efficient. When Ardath retired in 1985, the credit union had grown to 2,500 members and had about $4 million in assets.
With Ardath retiring, Shane Berger was hired in April as the new CEO of the credit union. During his first eight years of management, Beehive continued to grow and soon had the opportunity to expand its services. While on 1st W and Viking Drive, Beehive began offering credit cards, debit cards, ATM service, automated teller phone, safe deposit boxes, electronic transfers, drive-through night depository, and many others.
In addition to new services, Beehive evolved even further by changing its field of membership three times while in this first building. It first expanded to include married children of Ricks College employees in 1984, and then expanded again to include all church employees in 1985. The last addition was approved by the NCUA in 1987 allowing Ricks College alumni to become members.
The ever increasing list of products and services to members required even more help in staffing, and in 1989 Mindy Virgin was hired on as Vice-President of Lending. Since that time, Craig Cobia, Tim Kershaw, Ula Harris, and Craig Gummow have joined the Management team as Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Senior Operations Officer, and Chief Lending Officer, respectively.
Buiness continued to grow, and in 1993, property was purchased on Center Street, a contractor hired, and plans made to construct a new building that would supposedly maintain the credit union’s needs for the next twenty years. The ribbon cutting for the Center St. branch was held on June 8, 1994. The credit union at that time had purchased its first company car, had started using FLEX software for its computer systems, began a credit union scholarship program, initiated CUNA Mutual Insurance benefits for employees, and adopted a new logo designed by Virginia Brown. Eleven employees moved from Viking Drive to Center St., bringing with them Beehive’s $18 million in assets.
Shane Berger, CEO since 1985, has managed Beehive under the idea of growth. He has been known to say that if a business is not growing, it doesn’t mean it is standing still, but moving backwards as other businesses grow around it. The desire for Beehive to continue to grow and serve as many members as possible in the area led to the decision to change the field of membership on January 12, 2001. The change would allow Beehive to serve all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Southeastern Idaho.
The new change allowed new members to flock in from cities other than Rexburg. Our new market needed a new building, this time opening its doors in Idaho Falls. Efforts of the credit union were not completely invested in the building of this second branch, though. During the years of its construction, Beehive was also busy purchasing new ATM machines, one to be stationed in the Manwaring Center of the newly announced four-year college Brigham Young University-Idaho. It also began offering IRA CDs and electronic tax filing, moved our Visa processing system in-house, hired Tim Kershaw as a mortgage lending specialist, and continued serving its ever growing community of members.
Milestones for Beehive continued including the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Idaho Falls branch on May 15, 2003, and the final change to Beehive’s field of membership. In early 2004, Beehive was approved to serve all LDS church members in the entire state of Idaho. Assets had climbed dramatically to $65 million, and more employees were hired as service needs grew.
Once again, it became apparent that Beehive needed a new building. This time, management planned farther into the future. The growing university and community would need a building that could meet its need for the next twenty to thirty years. Development was booming west of Rexburg, and Beehive moved with it. Construction began on the newest edition to the Beehive family with plans to make it the third branch and house the administration employees of the credit union. The 16,000 square foot structure was finished and open for business in 2006, celebrating its completion on June 13 with prizes, games, food, and tours. 4,200 persons attended the event.
In 2007, Beehive’s members totaled close to 17,000. Assets reached new heights by totaling over $100 million. Members enjoy a yearly picnic and gather together annually for a business dinner to elect new board members and hear reports on the credit union’s progress.
The desire to grow is still strong at Beehive, with management constantly searching for better ways to serve our members with new technology and products. Now that Beehive is the oldest financial institution in Rexburg, it is strong enough to give back to the community that supported it all along. Management team members regularly participate in service groups such as Kiwanis and Rotary Club. The credit union donates to worthy causes in our cities such as the remodeling of Madison Memorial Hospital. The service scholarship for students of Brigham Young University-Idaho continues every year, and Beehive raises funds all year long for donation to the Children’s Miracle Network.
It has also become practice to further the credit union movement in all parts of the world. Shane was elected as the Chairman of the Board for the Idaho Credit Union League, and helped spearhead a project that would allow Idaho to partner with the less established Solomon Islands. In the fall of 2007, Shane himself traveled to these islands, located off the coast of Australia, to assess their financial needs and investigate the best methods of training their credit unions to better serve in their country. Other delegates from Idaho will spend time ‘down under’ over the years to continue to train and help the credit unions of the Solomon Islands to become as stable as those in developed nations.
Beehive also frequents Washington D.C. to ensure credit union rights in government. Our CEO and board members have met with Congress delegates on numerous occasions to help them understand how important it is that credit unions exist. Beehive employees are encouraged to donate to the Credit Union Legislative Action Council (CULAC) to help contribute to the candidate campaign committees of credit union advocates, and each new hire is expected to read the League’s ‘Credit Union Philosophy Manual’ to make sure they understand ‘the credit union difference.’
Through it all, Beehive has been about service. It is what has made the credit union stable through its forty-seven years of establishment. Without the support of its members, the credit union would have failed long ago. Ardath Carlson, first manager of the credit union, remembered that through the stressful times, through the hardest work, and the most difficult problems, the members made everything worth it.
‘Even now,’ Ardath stated, ‘years after my retirement, members will come up to me and shake my hand or give me a hug. They remember that I gave them their first loan, and they are still grateful.’
The people helping people concept that started the very first financial cooperative in the 1800’s remains strong in Beehive today. The organization will continue to grow to new areas to help even more members, research new products to make service more efficient and life easier for the membership, and continue to make its voice heard on Capitol Hill to make sure that the help the credit unions give to the little guy can progress.
It’s our pleasure.
Access interviews with original members and employees of Beehive.