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LMV Day 4: Adventures in Life-Long Learning

November 25th, 2015

BrendaNov2_collageThis month’s program focus was “Education & Life-Long Learning Day”. We engaged with area educators, public speakers, and those in the education field. This is not my general area of expertise, so I learned quite a bit.

We heard from Toastmasters, local school Superintendents, BOCES, MVCC, and STEM LEGO Robotics. We learned all about our area schools’ challenges and successes, current growth strategies, and more. We learned how the funding works: where the money comes from, mandates, taxes, etc. We are very fortunate to have so many educational facilities and opportunities close by in our region!

One surprising piece for me was the change in BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services). BOCES used to be known as the place where students who struggled in traditional school went for extra help, or to find a different path. It’s so much more than that. BOCES offers non-traditional, hands-on curricula that go hand-in-hand with courses being taught in high school and higher education. BOCES works with local schools and colleges to craft programs needed to give students the extra hands-on, real-life experiences they will need in the workplace. It can work in conjunction with what they are learning in the classroom.

Our Toastmaster exercise took me out of my comfort zone with some off-the-cuff public speaking. I usually either know a topic very well and can speak on it on cue, or I have prepared in advance and chosen my words carefully. This exercise gave us a topic with no prep time, and we just had to wing it! While I got through it okay, it’s not how I prefer to speak publically. I admire those who have developed this skill and do it well!

The day lived up to my expectations, though I wish we had spent a little more time on the “Identifying our Own Leadership Values” exercise, which had been a homework assignment. It was a short, interesting exercise on this program day. Very quickly, we had to circle our most defining values from a long list of pre-selected words. We had to keep narrowing it down until we hit our core value. Mine turned out to be “Balance,” which is probably no surprise to those who know me best!

Regarding our LMV project, we are continuing to assist the Children’s Museum with creating an exhibit plan to utilize the outdoor space behind the museum as an extension of the museum. Though our project is focused on building the future plan for the space—not necessarily building the space itself—we did get together as a project team recently to clean up the outdoor area, which was overgrown with vines. We were able to get our hands a little dirty, and get a true feel for the space for which we are creating a new vision. It was hard work, but also fun and invigorating!

– Brenda Rogowski, Loan and Deposit Operations Manager, LMV Participant

Shop Safe, Shop Local

November 2nd, 2015

shopping_onlineThe holiday season is upon us, and for many that means serious shopping. This month includes some of the year’s biggest shopping days: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.

The deals are usually pretty hot, and to save money, we certainly encourage you to plan ahead and use the savings to your advantage for items you need. But we also want to help protect you financially, so keep these tips in mind as you go, and always be vigilant, to protect your accounts:

  • Check your statements and transaction history often to ensure all the purchases are valid
  • Shopping from home? Make sure you only use secure websites. The URLs should start with “https” (the “s” is for “secure”).
  • When you’re “checking out” and it’s time to process an online payment, make sure there’s a security icon on the page; most often it appears as an image of a padlock next to the URL.
  • Please be careful, but rest assured: you are not liable for fraudulent purchases on your First Source credit or debit cards!

Also please remember to support local when you can. We have a wonderful array of local businesses here in the Mohawk Valley, and choosing them means you’ll be helping working families throughout the area. As long as you’re shopping, why not support your local economy and community at the same time?

Thanks, and happy shopping!

Day 3: Arts & Culture

October 20th, 2015

BrendaGroupStanleyWhat a great day, LMV ‘Arts & Culture/Quality of Life Day’ was! I was looking forward to it as arts and culture are topics I love, plus it was a nice day out and we were going to be taking a walking tour of Utica. Well, it was even better than I had hoped.  I experienced pieces of Utica I had not before, and left feeling motivated and inspired!

We started at the ThINCubator, an entrepreneur/start-up space that provides people programs and a place to accelerate the ideas of entrepreneurs.  Here we watched a video of a recent Utica TEDx talk from Michelle Truett, Owner of 484 Design who has been instrumental in strategy for revitalizing downtown Utica and Baggs Square.  Her talk was, “Microbranding Utica – Mile by Mile”.  Then Michelle joined us live, and gave us our walking tour to the Landmarc Building.

We learned all about the Baggs Square area, what it was originally, how it’s been repurposed, and its current growth. When we got to the Landmarc Building we saw the new loft apartments and Ocean Blue Rooftop Restaurant and Bar.

Michelle did an excellent job of personifying Utica. It made me really look at our city differently and see this “person” that had been thriving, fall on hard times and get depressed, lose friends and self-worth. Then one day this person woke up and said, “I need to make a change. I don’t like this person I’ve become. I want my life back.” To look at it this way and see that a group of people has made this decision to revitalize our city, to know that’s happening and that I can get on board and contribute is pretty cool.

We also toured Gerber’s 1933 Tavern, the Children’s Museum, Baggs Square Commemorative Park and Union Station.  We continued to the Fort Schuyler Club for lunch, and then to the Stanley Center for the Arts and the F.X. Matt Brewery.  Although familiar with the Stanley, we did get a back stage tour, so I saw pieces I had not seen before.  Ending at the Brewery on my birthday was a superb bonus!

At the Brewery, we learned about the Brewery’s economic impact on Utica, and representatives from the United Way and Community Foundation presented to us regarding our upcoming projects.

The day evoked a feeling of passion for the City of Utica that I haven’t felt before.  It was great to see and feel the energy of our city.  My daily life revolves in and around the suburbs of Utica. This was a noticeable change – To be downtown and feel this new energy and vibrancy.  We learned about the history of Utica, its ascent to its heyday, then the job losses and population decline, and now this new resurgence.  Our city is on the uptick again. There’s a positive buzz and a good vibe.

I felt like I might now have a purpose with our city. I’m inspired and motivated to help, and through LMV I am afforded this opportunity.  The problems had seemed too big, but there is already a committed group of people, and I feel like I can jump in and help move things forward.  I needed this spark.

And now… The Children’s Museum. The LMV Arts & Culture Project Team of which I am a part had considered opportunities at the Children’s Museum as a choice for our project. After today, this was solidified for our team.  The Children’s Museum had started out strong, a viable entity in our area for children to learn, play and explore.  It fell on hard times and now has a new leader who is breathing new life into the museum.  But they need help, and we feel we are the group to help them.

For our next steps we’ll meet with the museum to talk about ideas, what we can offer and what they need. We’ll set reasonable expectations of what can be done in the next 6 months. We’d like to truly be a strategic resource for them with a solid action plan that they can use moving forward.

All I can say is, “Wow!” What an eye-opening and rejuvenating day.

– Brenda Rogowski, Loan and Deposit Operations Manager LMV Participant

First Rate Service

October 16th, 2015


I use First Source for many different financing needs for both my personal and business banking. What sets First Source apart in my personal experience is their “First Rate Staff”! They are service-minded, attentive to our needs and happy to help out. Their proactive approach to structuring products and services that match our business & personal needs means the kind of personalized attention that makes a difference in the long-term.

Financial services are a commodity—banking professionals who understand client needs and build relationships with their clients are not, and that makes First Source FCU unique!

– James Norrie
168 Petals, LLC

International Credit Union Day

October 15th, 2015

ICU_Day_2015_logo_JPGInternational Credit Union (ICU) Day is celebrated each year on the third Thursday in October; this year, on October 15th. The World Council of Credit Unions has chosen this year’s theme, “People Helping People®”, a philosophy we put into practice every day in everything we do for our Members and for the community.

To celebrate this year, we’re sharing coffee and treats in our branches, and throughout the week of October 12th, just a few of the many wonderful Member stories we receive and record: testimonials of how we’ve helped them and their families. Some are more recent, and a few (linked below) we’re sharing again. Some are individual Members, and some are Business Members, representing a variety of firms in Central New York.

We hope their stories inspire you. They certainly remind us to stay focused every day on what matters most: you. We welcome you to share these stories, or if you have one of your own, post that for us as well, using the hashtag #ICUDay. And thanks for making us who we are!

Read their stories:

This person, who needed a Home Equity Loan…

This couple, who considered us their “First” choice…

This professional, who needed services to match his busy lifestyle…

A Chance at a Better Life

October 14th, 2015

I wanted to take a few minutes to write about the exemplary service I have had while working with Mary at First Source. My husband and I have had many setbacks including some lost jobs, medical concerns, births of children, loss of income to name a few – all making life a little challenging.

We were both raised to pay our bills and bankruptcy was not an option for us. So rather, we have worked very hard to pay everything back and to start bringing up our scores.

I will be honest I contacted First Source on a whim looking for a debt consolidation loan that would offer us some monthly savings, as well as lower the balances on our credit cards, in turn increasing our credit scores.

We had already applied at another credit union and they refused to help due to our scores not being high enough. Well I guess their loss was our gain because First Source said “yes”. They said yes to giving us a chance to rebuild our credit and get ahead of the game.

It was very clear to me the difference in service that was being displayed right before my eyes from the way I had been treated elsewhere. Mary was so friendly with every call that was exchanged, and there were many. It was clear she was on my side asking questions to understand what our past was about and sincerely helping us build our future success. She was always so positive and inviting, eager to be of assistance to me. I felt her heart and knew she really wanted to help us. She clearly loved her job and the people she came in contact with. She didn’t go to work to simply collect a paycheck, that was obvious.

Mary went above and beyond. She took the time to offer a second loan, one that will change our future for sure. We have been with a terrible mortgage company for so long, unable to change because we were stuck it a rut where our scores were improving but not fast enough.

Mary offered to refinance our mortgage. Our credit situation was not perfect or even preferred. Our loan required a lot of work, but that didn’t faze Mary. She treated us just like someone with perfect credit. Even though our interest rate is not going to be reduced as much as we had initially hoped, there are so many other benefits that it was a no brainer. Mary Also let us know about the option for a rate modification that we can take advantage of within 6 months at no cost to us … WOW!!!

“Wow” is all I can say. Mary is in my opinion a HUGE asset to First Source. Thank you First Source and Mary for giving us a chance when others wouldn’t. Thank you for making a difference in our lives it was BIGGER than you think.

First Source Member, August 2015

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