By Susan Vigilante
My involvement with Visions Federal Credit Union begins with the story of TriCo Federal Credit Union, which was founded in 1936 in a closet in Morristown High School. A group of nine teachers got together and, with $50 each, they formed a credit union for teachers. Over the years the credit union grew to include education employees in Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties.
When I was first hired as a teacher more than 50 years ago, I was advised to join TriCo because they had the best rates and benefits for teachers. “Get your mortgage and car loan there,” was the advice from the district business administrator and from my local association president. I was also told to sign up for the summer savers program, a benefit TriCo offered teachers so that they could have a paycheck over the summer.
At that time, TriCo offered scholarships and helped the county associations in various ways to promote learning and financial literacy. TriCo had only one office at the time, and educators from across several counties came to that office for their banking needs.
In the early 1980s I was invited to join the TriCo Board of Directors, only the second woman to do so. Serving on the board of TriCo was a privilege. I witnessed genuine community collaboration. The board’s members were all educators in the beginning, and association members were central to the core values of TriCo. TriCo employees would visit schools and come to association meetings to share offerings available to educators. During this time offices were opened in Sussex and Warren counties.
In 2014, TriCo merged with Visions Federal Credit Union, formerly known as IBM Credit Union. Visions is headquartered in Binghamton, New York, serving eastern Pennsylvania and Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Sussex and Warren counties with local offices in all of those areas. Since the merger, Visions has continued the programs that had been set in motion by TriCo.
Because Visions is a much larger credit union, the level of programming has grown exponentially. Prior to merging with TriCo, Visions had also acquired Paragon Credit Union in Passaic, another educator-friendly credit union.
In addition to having the president of the Morris County Council of Education Associations serve on its board of directors, Visions has instituted an advisory council made up of educators and local business leaders. One of the main goals of Visions is to promote education.
In early 2020, Visions opened an in-school branch in Leonia High School, its first such branch in a New Jersey school, although it has facilities in schools in New York and Pennsylvania. Student tellers are trained and given the opportunity to earn money and scholarships.
For the faculty, Visions has a fast, efficient, and completely private opportunity to bank without leaving the building. Each of the schools worked with their colleagues at the branch to design their ideal credit union branch so it meets their exact needs. In-school credit unions are just one of the ways that Visions supports students and the education community.
While TriCo had a very positive relationship with NJEA, Visions has been able to expand its support for students and educators. Because Visions believes in the educational and networking opportunities available at the NJEA Convention, Visions has a program that funds expenses for first-time NJEA Convention attendees.
Giving resources to expand programs, bringing inspirational speakers to schools, instituting mini-grants in its Visions Loves Educators Program, and providing scholarships for future educators are just a few more examples of Visions Federal Credit Union’s commitment to educators.
Ty Muse, CEO of Visions, has pledged his commitment to the education community and constantly speaks of his excitement at the opportunity to work with NJEA. With this impressive donation to NJEA, Visions is clearly communicating its commitment to our students, our members, social justice and the power of education to change lives. From our shared history to the present, our collaboration with Visions is truly transforming lives.
Susan Vigilante is an NJREA member and former president of the Morris County Council of Education Associations and the Morris Plains Education Association. Prior to her retirement, she was a teacher at Borough School in the Morris Plains School District.