WEIRTON - With its humble beginnings in what is now North Weirton, First Choice America Community Federal Credit Union has grown over the last 75 years to become the largest credit union in West Virginia.
That history and the credit union's continuing growth were celebrated Tuesday during its annual membership meeting held at the Serbian-American Cultural Center in Weirton.
Originally chartered in 1939 as the Steel Works Employees Security League, First Choice credit union now has approximately 40,000 members and assets of nearly $400 million.
75 YEARS — Ken Watts, president of the West Virginia Credit Union League, spoke Tuesday during the First Choice America Community Federal Credit Union membership meeting in Weirton, congratulating the credit union and its members for 75 years of operation. -- Craig Howell
Despite economic hardships in the nation, the local credit union earned a "Superior" rating in 2013, built assets to a record $395 million, increased deposits to a record $337 million and maintained a strong capital position, according to credit union officials.
"As a result, First Choice America retains its position among the elite of America's 6,700 credit unions," Robert Mrvos, chairman of the board of directors, announced.
Ken Watts, president of the West Virginia Credit Union League, was on hand Tuesday to congratulate First Choice America and its members for the continued success and for reaching the three-quarter-century milestone.
"This is a special occasion," Watts said, noting credit unions were not allowed to operate in West Virginia until 1934 and only five in the state are older than First Choice America.
Watts said while times have changed, and even the name of the credit union has changed, its practices of customer service and being a part of the community have not.
"The name has changed a little bit," Watts said. "The reason for being has never changed."
Credit union officials noted they have grown because of the community's support, so they have made it a point to return that support.
"Throughout our 75-year history, our credit union has earned countless awards and commendation for our intensive year-round community involvement practices," Mrvos said. "We work to increase our value to society by generously supporting a variety of charitable organizations throughout the communities that we serve."
The credit union also took time to recognize the achievements of another local organization, presenting its annual Community Spirit Award to the St. John's Home of Children in Wheeling.
The St. John's Home was established as an orphanage in 1856 by Bishop Richard Whelen and the Sisters of St. Joseph. Today it provides a 12-bed residential facility for boys aged 8 to 14 who primarily are associated with behavioral or emotional difficulties or are victims of abuse and neglect.
Executive Director Terry McCormick was on hand to accept the award, saying the credit union has given so much by providing the children with positive opportunities through its programs, such as the Cool Kids days in the summer.
"You create for them life memories they may never, ever experience," McCormick said.
As part of the recognition, the St. John's Home received a $2,500 contribution and a plaque.
Also during the meeting, board members John R. Thayer and Edward L. Kennedy were re-elected to new three-year terms.
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)