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Rachel Dionne

CHICOPEE — Polish National Credit Union (PNCU) announced that Rachel Dionne, assistant vice president and credit risk officer, has joined the board of directors of Providence Ministries.

PNCU, a full-service community credit union, is committed to meeting community needs and fostering growth. The organization emphasizes community engagement through corporate leadership and volunteerism.

“We encourage our team members to actively participate in community and volunteer activities,” said Mike Sugrue, executive vice president at PNCU. “Currently, our employees are engaged with around 40 local organizations through board or committee roles. Rachel’s decision to join the Providence Ministries board is commendable, and we are excited for the board to benefit from her insights.”

Dionne is dedicated to community service. Her volunteer work includes more than a half-decade on the board of trustees for Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School, membership on the school’s finance committee, involvement in a youth ministry group, service on the Southampton Finance Committee, and as an eucharistic minister at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church in Westfield. She now adds the Providence Ministries board membership to her list of contributions.

Providence Ministries, a nonprofit organization serving the Greater Holyoke region since 1980, offers life-sustaining and transformative programs to those in need. Sr. Margaret McCleary, SP founded Providence Ministries, which includes McCleary Manor, Broderick House, Loreto House, Kate’s Kitchen, Margaret’s Pantry, and St. Jude’s Clothing Store. They are affiliated with and sponsored by the Sisters of Providence.

“I am thrilled to join the board of directors for Providence Ministries,” Dionne said. “Their impactful work in providing essential needs like food, clothing, and shelter, as well as sober housing for men in recovery, is inspiring. I look forward to contributing to the mission.”

With nearly 35 years of experience in accounting and finance, Dionne joined PNCU in 2017. In her role, she analyzes complex commercial financial information, oversees commercial lending policies, and manages loan administration, loan servicing, and credit teams. She is a two-time graduate of American International College (AIC) with degrees in accounting and nonprofit management.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Polish National Credit Union (PNCU) announced a spring charity event in partnership with Marcotte Ford in Holyoke to benefit Kate’s Kitchen, a program of Providence Ministries. PNCU’s Mike Sugrue, executive vice president; Rachel Dionne, assistant vice president and Credit Risk officer; and Shane Hall, Marketing coordinator, will serve as guest chefs at LugNutz Café within the Marcotte dealership for breakfast on Tuesday, April 23 from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m.

“Kate’s Kitchen is a vital and, in my humble opinion, under-recognized community necessity,” Dionne said. “Each day, 365 days per year, they serve a lunchtime meal to anyone in need with a no-questions-asked policy. They estimate they provide 200 meals per day. It is quite remarkable.”

Polish National Credit Union, through its Community Giving Program, has in recent years donated more than $500,000, thousands of pounds of food, school supplies, and household items to charitable organizations, as well as educated and supported area seniors through its Financial Elder Abuse Workshops. In addition, PNCU highly encourages team members to participate in community initiatives and volunteer their time.

“I feel very lucky to be part of a team where giving back is valued,” Sugrue said. “Currently, our team is involved in about 40 different local organizations through board or committee participation, and we’re always looking for ways to get involved. That is why, when the idea to join the team at LugNutz Café for charity was brought up, my colleagues and I jumped at the opportunity. Although I cannot promise how great my cooking skills will be, I can assure you that giving back to Kate’s Kitchen will make it taste Michelin Star-worthy.”

All proceeds from the April 23 breakfast event will benefit Kate’s Kitchen, which will also be collecting non-perishable food items for donation.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Polish National Credit Union (PNCU) announced two community events.

A veteran’s coffee hour and Galaxy Community Council food drive for servicemen is slated for Tuesday, Nov. 7 from 8 to 9 a.m. at Goodworks Coffee House, 46 Center St., Chicopee.

Meanwhile, a toy drive to benefit Westover military families is ongoing until Monday, Nov. 20. All PNCU branches will accept donation drop-offs.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — On Oct. 25, Polish National Credit Union (PNCU) announced a donation of $25,000 to the Chicopee Boys and Girls Club. These funds will support the construction, in the spring of 2024, of the club’s Teen Center across from the club’s main building located at 664 Meadow St., Chicopee.

“Our focus has always been on building relationships, and most of our giving is targeted to help strengthen our local communities,” said Jim Kelly, CEO of Polish National Credit Union. “Through this donation, it will not only enrich the lives of today’s youth, but also lay a foundation for the future.”

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Polish National Credit Union (PNCU) will host a grand reopening celebration for its East Longmeadow Office, 232 North Main St., on Friday, June 16 from noon to 5 p.m. In December 2021, PNCU acquired Premier Source Federal Credit Union (PSFCU) and expanded into the East Longmeadow market.

“This was a win-win situation for both PNCU and PSFCU,” said Jim Kelly, CEO of Polish National. “The joining of these two organizations made sense for several reasons. First, we were able to grow our geographic presence and access for both members. Second, we were able to preserve the credit-union culture by combining with a congenial partner, like PSFCU. And third, we were able to take advantage of the enhanced scale to focus on selecting the best systems and processes to benefit the credit union and our members going forward.” Kelly added that he is “thrilled finally be able to celebrate properly.”

On Friday, June 16, the public is welcome visit the East Longmeadow Office for on-site activities including face painting, cornhole, a visit from Say Cheese Food Truck, Batch Ice Cream Truck, and music provided by Dina McMahon of 94.7 WMAS. Attendees can meet the PNCU team, including East Longmeadow Branch Manager Diane Afonso and Assistant Branch Manager Donna Samson.

Founded in 1921, Polish National Credit Union provides a full range of financial services to individuals, families, and businesses. The organization operates eight Western Mass. branches, plus a satellite office at Chicopee Comprehensive High School; PNCU Insurance Services; PNCU Financial Services; and a Commercial Loan Office located at 94 Main St., Westfield.

Banking and Financial Services

‘A True Win-Win’

By Mark Morris

Jim Kelly

Jim Kelly says PNCU and Premier Source offer services and expertise that benefit each other.

Polish National Credit Union started in 1921 with an investment of $325 and has grown to more than $700 million in assets today. But there are always ways to improve and expand its services, said President and CEO Jim Kelly, who describes PNCU’s recently announced merger agreement with Premier Source Credit Union as a joining of two forces.

“No one at Premier Source will be losing their job,” he said. “In fact we are counting on their expertise on offering credits cards to members which is a business we’re not in right now.”

Meanwhile, confronted with rising costs to keep up with technology, compliance, and talent retention, Premier Source had begun looking into a merger as its best way forward. CEO Bonnie Raymond said that, after considering a number of factors, Polish National emerged as the best fit.

“As a larger organization, Polish National offers in-house mortgages and commercial lending, while we bring our credit-card portfolio to expand to their membership,” Raymond said. “Along with the credit-card business, they will benefit from the expertise of our staff, so it’s a true win-win.”

Kelly added that organic growth in Western Mass. is not easy. That’s why he called the merger with Premier Source a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” The current Premier Source headquarters on North Main Street in East Longmeadow will become the ninth branch for Polish National, which is headquartered in Chicopee. That location also addresses one of Kelly’s strategic goals in finding additional space.

“We’re a growing credit union, and there’s not much room left at our headquarters in Chicopee or at our operations center in Wilbraham,” he said. “The Premier Source building is large and beautiful, so it helps us in a huge way.”

What has become known across the U.S. as the Great Resignation has also affected the two credit unions. Between retirements and just leaving the job due to COVID-19 concerns, both organizations felt the impact of people leaving. Raymond noted that the merger will help address staffing issues for both.

“This was another win-win because our staff will stay employed while Polish National will be able to bring on experienced help to fill any openings they might have.”

“This was another win-win because our staff will stay employed while Polish National will be able to bring on experienced help to fill any openings they might have,” she explained.

In recent years, both organizations have grown through mergers with smaller credit unions. On a national level, Kelly told BusinessWest, approximately one credit union per day is involved in a merger.

 

Strategic Partnership

Premier Source began in 1941 as Kelko Credit Union, founded by employees of the Kellogg Envelope Company. Over the years, Premier Source acquired employee credit unions from companies such as Spalding, Hasbro Games, and Western Mass Electric. While membership now exceeds 4,500, Raymond said its growth still doesn’t provide the economies of scale of larger institutions.

“For example, interactive teller machines have become popular, but they are extremely pricey, and just buying one doesn’t recoup the investment,” she said. At $80,000 each, an institution needs to own several ITMs to find any economies of scale.

By agreeing to the merger, Premier Source will not be investing in ITMs, but its members will see a direct benefit. A common practice when a credit union merges involves paying a dividend to its members. Raymond explained that members are the reason Premier Source has a strong capital foundation, so the board will soon vote for a special dividend to compensate members for staying with the credit union.

“It’s a way to reward members for their longevity. Members who have been with us for more than 10 years will receive the largest dividend,” she said, adding that most members have belonged to Premier Source for more than 10 years.

Far from a cold and calculated business deal, Kelly said a credit-union merger is typically a more personal type of transaction, done only with people who have earned one’s trust.

“You don’t merge with someone you’ve only met a few months ago,” he noted. “It usually involves people you’ve known for at least several years because you want to make sure your members and employees are taken care of as a result of the merger.”

Kelly said he and Raymond go way back, having crossed paths many times because they work in the same industry. “I’ve known Bonnie for a long time. She is a high-quality and talented person.”

The next step in the merger process involves regulatory approval from the Massachusetts Division of Banks, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Massachusetts Credit Union Share Insurance Corp., as well as approval from the memberships of both credit unions.

A recent news release suggested the merger could be completed by the spring of 2022. Kelly, a former regulator, said he would not offer a timetable because it’s completely in the hands of the regulators as to when they complete their work on the merger.

 

Healthy Outlook

Polish National ranks 174th among the top 200 healthiest credit unions in the country, according to the Cooperative Credit Union Assoc. Kelly is proud of this accomplishment and noted that it’s positive news considering there are 5,164 credit unions in the U.S.

For now, the numbers Kelly looks forward to involve the 4,500 Premier Source members joining the 25,000-plus members of Polish National. It’s a fitting way to start the next 100 years of the credit union,” he said.

“While our founders were Polish, we have always been a community credit union and will continue that tradition,” he added, noting that the quote credited to the revered TV22 meteorologist John Quill still rings true: “you don’t have to be Polish to be a member.”