VyStar Credit Union’s Innovative Approach to Community Involvement

People often choose credit unions because of their customized approach to customer service. VyStar Credit Union understands that and works hard to stand out among competitors. That is why the credit union offers its members great rates, low or no fees, and a wide range of high-quality products and services. While fulfilling its role as a trusted financial institution, VyStar also embraces the responsibility of being a strong community leader.

Each year, VyStar gives millions of dollars to hundreds of nonprofit organizations that share its commitment to improving communities for its members. Additionally, VyStar employees contribute thousands of hours of volunteerism to support local neighborhoods. 

People support these efforts when they become credit union members, even as they receive the tools necessary to achieve their own financial and life goals. Credit unions exist to advance the well-being of members. Because VyStar is a not-for-profit financial institution, it focuses on providing excellent service to its members instead of generating income for stockholders.

VyStar also takes an innovative approach to community involvement that centers on “strategic giving pillars”: military, youth, and community building.

Explaining the Strategic Pillars of Giving 

VyStar focuses its philanthropic and community-building efforts on three main areas: supporting active duty military, veterans and their families; empowering youth; and creating financially strong, culturally vibrant and interconnected communities. 

The credit union directs these efforts through the recently launched VyStar Foundation, the charitable arm of VyStar that strives to support others and strengthen communities through a variety of programs, partnerships and grants.

Supporting Active Duty Military and Veterans

The military is part of the heart and soul of VyStar. As a credit union founded at Florida’s Naval Air Station Jacksonville in 1952, its employees are honored to support past and present military members and their families. 

The financial institution supports active duty military members, veterans, and their families through internal programs for employees and external programs for credit union members and community partners.

The credit union has a military-focused employee resource group, VyStar Employees That Served (VETS), to help with professional development and networking. VyStar also offers an array of distinctive perks and benefits for the military, such as the Military Heroes Mortgage Program and unique military-themed debit cards.

The credit union also is sponsor of the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in downtown Jacksonville. A quarterly event at the arena honors veterans, with arena guests donating to the VyStar Veterans Fund. VyStar matches those donations up to $50,000 every year. VyStar also offers ticket, parking, and concession discounts at the arena to credit union members who are veterans.

The credit union has sponsored the state-of-the-art arena since March 12, 2019. The multipurpose space, built in 2003, can seat up to 15,000 and is a northeastern Florida sports and entertainment hot spot. It is the home arena of the ECHL hockey league’s Jacksonville Icemen, the American Basketball Association’s Jacksonville Giants, and the National Arena League’s Jacksonville Sharks.

Five-time Grammy Award-winning singer Elton John performed the arena’s first concert. Since then, it has welcomed a slew of entertainment superstars, such as Cher, Paul McCartney, Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Kevin Hart, Rihanna, Eric Church, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and Dave Matthews Band. In addition, Disney on Ice and Cirque du Soleil have also performed at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

Empowering Youth

The credit union recognizes that financial wellness is essential at every age and encourages youths and young adults to build better money management habits from childhood. 

Since 2006, the credit union has been uniting with local school districts to offer high school students firsthand, real work experience at a VyStar branch. A group of students, supervised by their school’s career academy teachers, manage the day-to-day operations at each of VyStar’s 18 high school branches as a part of the program. As a result, more than 106,000 students have been reached with financial education during that time. 

It’s an excellent way to instill critical financial skills in the students and teach them the importance of savings, credit, and proper money management. In addition, students in the program learn marketable skills to help them in the workforce. As a result, many past participants have gone on to work for VyStar.

Strengthening Communities

The credit union strives to build improved morale all around. VyStar focuses on establishing better, more vital communities that everyone can enjoy. Not only does it employ a diverse group of employees, but it also supports a wide range of initiatives. VyStar is passionate about endorsing the credit union industry motto of “People Helping People.” 

“I believe financial well-being for all is the definition of people helping people as we go forward,” Jim Nussle, CEO and president of the Credit Union National Association, stated during the keynote address at the 2022 Co-Op Think Conference[1] .

VyStar took a big step toward better accomplishing that goal by establishing the VyStar Foundation in March 2023.

What Is the VyStar Foundation? 

The credit union established VyStar Foundation to bolster its ability “to do good.” By operating as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the foundation is committed to leading by example and empowering others through collaborative partnerships and strategic grant making.

“The credit union’s purpose is to do good. That simple phrase describes the spirit of philanthropy that is deeply embedded in our organization. It inspires our teams in all we do, whether serving our members, volunteering with nonprofit organizations, or donating to community partners who share in our commitment to improving the places we call home,” said Patricia McElroy, SVP/president of VyStar Foundation. 

“We have seen the incredible power of what we can accomplish when we work together for the common good. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead VyStar Foundation to further expand [the credit union’s] dedication to the community.”

Military and veterans, youth, and community building are the focal points the foundation focuses on helping. The foundation aims to ensure military members, veterans, and their families receive the social services they need and the recognition they deserve. It also prioritizes empowering youth by providing equitable access to creative learning opportunities while fostering financially robust, culturally vibrant, and interconnected communities.

The foundation will offer grants in cycles that focus on specific priorities. For example, the first cycle focuses on supporting nonprofits that help veterans with food and housing security, employment, small business counseling, and mental health services.

“VyStar Foundation’s launch will take our philanthropic efforts to new heights,” said Brian Wolfburg, VyStar president/CEO. “As [the credit union] continues to grow across Florida and Georgia, the foundation will serve our new and existing communities, help us build important relationships with community leaders, and support organizations that make a difference each and every day.”

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