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July 2010Vol 1, Issue 3
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We can make a difference
Message From Director of Outreach Services
WOW, June was a wild and crazy month for the MCUCD Team! We had staff all over the state sharing information on our programs with credit unions, building relationships with new partners, and collaborating on one of the three grant applications we were able to get out the door. Of course, we did manage to enjoy ourselves with well-deserved vacation time. What an exciting month!
For some of us, July is a bittersweet time. While we welcome the hot summer weather (I think it's finally here!), we also bid farewell to the amazing July VISTA Members who have spent the past year (two for some) serving Montana's credit unions! I spend a lot of time during the first couple weeks of July reflecting on the experiences I've had working with such talented individuals. Each VISTA Member has made a lasting impression on our organization and the programs we offer. 
Thank you Jim, Haley, Craig, and Abby for sharing your time and talents with us. MCUCD would not be where we are today without you! 

In This Issue
Making a Difference
July Consumer Topic
Rural Montana Saves
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Making A Difference
AmeriCorps*VISTA members have become an integral part of the MCUCD team. Over the past five years, MCUCD has hosted 14 VISTA members, who have focused their efforts on free tax services, matched savings account programs, alternatives to payday lending, consumer education and much more!
VISTA Members spend their year in service working to create and expand programs that build capacity and ultimately bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty. This month we say goodbye to three VISTA Members.  Below is a snapshot of the difference they've made during their service:
Abby Wolf - VITA
VITA - 1040Abby has served in MCUCD's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program for the last two years.  During her tenure, the number of credit union VITA sites has increased from 11 to 17, and the number of tax returns prepared from 1,530 to over 2,400!  Her attention to detail and confident application of tax law was appreciated tremendously by the VITA volunteers statewide. 
"Before working with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at MCUCD as an AmeriCorps*VISTA, I truthfully had no real understanding of what credit unions were, or what their impact on their communities could be. Having now worked with them successfully for two years, I am a true believer in the ideals - like thrift, community development, and savings - that credit unions promote. The cooperation, determination, and genuine kindness I have seen while helping credit unions develop VITA sites has been tremendous. I hope to continue to be a credit union member no matter where life takes me, and I also hope to continue to share with others this wonderful alternative to traditional financial institutions." -- Abby Wolf  
Jim AuerJim Auer - Combating Predatory Lending
Throughout Jim's year of service he focused on promoting alternatives to predatory loan projects. Jim has worked to expand data collection and developed a database that will allow us to track activity and generate useful reports. Jim also worked to get the word out about the availability of predatory alternative loan products to the general public. 
"The most important thing I have gained through my year as a VISTA is an appreciation for the people I have met. It has continued to amaze and humble me to see the hard work, dedication and passion people show when they are working for causes they believe in. This year has given me an appreciation for small victories. I've seen all the tireless work that people do - all the anxiety and stress they take on - always with the hope of making some great intangible difference in the world but, deriving such great joy from the few tangible results they see."  -- Jim Auer
Craig Smith - IDA
This past year Craig focused his efforts on promoting the IDA programs. As a result, the number of IDA participants enrolled has significantly increased. Currently, 78 participants are actively saving. Additionally, Craig has been able to streamline program procedures as well as build collaboration between IDAs and other support services.
Craig Smith 
"Being a part of the AmeriCorps*VISTA program has given me a whole new perspective on the importance of helping others. Being able to interact with the people that are involved with MCUCD's programs dispel many of the stereotypes that are assigned to people looking for a little help. Most of the time, just providing opportunities to individuals empowers them to make significant changes in their lives." -- Craig Smith
Haley Nelson - Outreach & VITA
Haley has spent the majority of her year of service supporting the Butte VITA program and assisting with volunteer recruitment, organization of tax sites and providing direct support of the program during tax season. Haley was tremendously successful in the recruitment of new VITA volunteers and assisting with the promotion and coordination of the Butte VITA program.  Haley's efforts resulted in 1,279 computer tax returns prepared by the VITA volunteers in Butte (an increase of 464 from 2009).  Haley will continue a second year of service with MCUCD, focusing her efforts on MCUCD programs outreach.
Haley Nelson"Building relationships with Butte's credit unions, volunteers, and now potential partner organizations has been the most important, most challenging, and most rewarding part of my first year as a VISTA with MCUCD. People rarely respond to someone they don't know, and even though I grew up in a community only 80 miles away (Bozeman), I can easily be seen as an outsider to this unique, pride-driven place. But slowly, I've built relationships, many of which are real friendships, with some of the most caring and service-oriented people I have ever met. I was blessed to be placed at EDTECH FCU, where the staff welcomed me right away, and now I can say that I have a great relationship with many of Butte's credit unions and volunteers. Working outreach in Butte isn't just be about promoting our programs, it's about getting to know individuals, and through that seeing that our organizations are worthwhile and share common goal of service to the community. Here's to another year of service!"  -- Haley Nelson
Consumer Topic of the Month
CRC GraphicProtect Yourself from Travel Fraud 
Travel fraud takes many forms, but the outcome is always the same: the victims pay several times what they expected to, and they don't receive what they were offered. It's a common scam that swindles millions of dollars from Americans each month, according to the FTC. Fortunately, you can protect yourself from travel fraud with a little common sense and precaution.   
Visit the Consumer Topic of the Month on the MCUCD website to find a set of guidelines that will help you steer clear of travel fraud.
Rural Montana Saves
Help Us Get the Word Out About This Amazing Program! 
The Rural Montana Saves (RMS)  program is continuing into its fourth year of helping families with limited incomes save for college or job training. 
RMS ProgramThe RMS program is a special matched savings program.  For every $1 saved, the RMS program matches participants with $3. Participants who save up to $500 will be eligible for the maximum match of $1,500! Additionally, participants may be able to access additional funding to help offset the costs of supportive services. 
This past year 59 participants were enrolled in RMS from across the state. These participants saved $15,827 at 21 Montana credit unions earning $45,978 that will be used to assist with the costs of post secondary education or job training.  
To learn more about RMS please visit the the MCUCD website. Or, contact Rural Employment Opportunities (REO) with questions at 800.546.1140 or
Spots are still available so please help us spread the word about this exciting program.
RMS is a partnership between Rural Employment Opportunities, Montana's Credit Unions, Montana State Extension Service, and Student Assistance Foundation.  This project is funded (in part) under a contract with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.  The statements herein do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Department.