BY ANDREW SMITH
LISTOWEL – The community of North Perth was declared the real winner at the opening of the new United Communities Credit Union on Saturday, with $17,000 invested into local initiatives.
The grand opening of the new branch at 165 Mitchell Rd. S. was highlighted by the announcement of the winners in the My United Online Community contest. Dennis Hogan, vice-chair for UCCU board of directors, said the prize money is just part of the money that UCCU has invested in local communities over the past five years, amounting to over $3.5 million.
Representatives from each of the four projects selected as finalists in the contest had their fingers crossed as Hogan announced the winners, with the Listowel Minor Baseball Association taking the grand prize of $10,000 to assist with new dugouts at the John Bell North diamond. LMBA president Jan Kellum said she was very thankful and overwhelmed with the news.
“United Communities Credit Union has supported us ever since they’ve been in town,” Kellum said. “We’re very excited about improving our ball diamond and making it safer for the girls.”
Kellum said the online poll added an element of surprise to the news, with the number of votes kept hidden in the last week, leaving them unsure of which project was ahead and spreading the word for support.
“I think we just put the push on,” she said. “You didn’t know what the numbers were and everybody was just sending emails to get support.”
Kellum said the money will go towards improved dugouts for the diamond, and additional equipment storage if funds allow.
The second place prize of $5,000 went to the Listowel Kinette Club for their splash pad project in Listowel Memorial Park. Hogan said the amount of participation online led to the creation of two more prizes for the other finalists, the North Perth Arts and Culture Council and Listowel Rotary Club.
“In order to further demonstrate our commitment to the community, we’ve decided to add two additional prizes of $1,000,” Hogan said. “Each of the finalists here today will receive at least $1,000 to help support their initiative.”
Jim Lynn, president and CEO of UCCU, said the community has supported them since they arrived in Listowel 10 years ago, and they simply outgrew their previous location. With the opening of the new branch in Goderich, UCCU increases their number of locations to 11 in southwestern Ontario, with more than 36,000 members.
“We’re small enough to cater to our local memberships, but large enough to offer the latest in new technology and really broad services,” Lynn said.
North Perth Mayor Julie Behrns thanked UCCU and its board of directors for their decision to re-locate in the municipality, and their continued support for a number of initiatives in the community.
“There were some challenges along the way, but all of us working together, they were completed as you can see,” Behrns said. “It’s evident because of your hard work and great customer service that this branch has experienced such great success.”