MED5 FCU kick-starts community mask initiative
South Dakota CEO starts ‘virtuous cycle’ with initial donation.
A South Dakota credit union CEO has leveraged a single donation into a community effort to provide supplies for frontline workers battling the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Pam Brown-Graff was watching the local evening news April 5 when she saw a segment highlighting the need for protective medical masks to protect workers at facilities including Monument Health, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in Rapid City, S.D.
That evening, Brown-Graff, CEO of $79 million asset MED5 Federal Credit Union in Rapid City, pledged $2,000 on behalf of the credit union to support crafters who were making masks for the local community.
“Before we became a community charter, we were a medical credit union, so it really hit home with me,” Brown-Graff says.
MED5 Federal’s donation’s set off a virtuous cycle. By the next morning, 10 people had volunteered to sew the much-needed masks. Within 24 hours, the number of volunteers doubled, with 20 crafters shifting into high gear.
In addition, the credit union partnered with another Black Hills-area organization, makeSPACE (Spearfish Partnership for Arts, Cycling, and Equity), that distributed fabric and patterns to the community.
On behalf of MED5 Federal’s efforts, makeSPACE donated enough materials for 1,500 masks.
This wasn’t the credit union’s first venture into charitable service. In 2019, it opened a new office building that included a co-branded coffee shop the credit union owned. MED5 Federal donates all profits from “The Bean Counter” to local charities.
The coffee shop drive-thru has remained open during the pandemic.
“The coffee shop has helped us develop a social media presence,” Brown-Graff says. “That helped us spread the word about this project.”
Word spread within the credit union community as well. Alloya Corporate Federal Credit Union provided an additional grant to MED5 Federal so volunteers could continue the sewing projects.
To date, the initiative has funded more than $6,000 for supplies and delivered more than 5,000 masks to Monument Health and numerous medical clinics, nursing homes, assisted living homes, a blood bank, a surgical hospital, and food banks.
“This turned into something bigger than I imagined,” Brown-Graff says. “It’s touching.”
Thinking Big and Dreaming Bigger: Med5 Federal Credit Union
Written by Jeff Pflipsen
A new main office for a credit union is more than just a building. It’s a trusted destination for members seeking advice and support on life’s big decisions. It’s home base for a brand and its many employees. And for Med5 Federal Credit Union, it was an opportunity to think big, dream bigger and create something truly their own. This is the story of how Med5’s new main office came to be.
A Time for Change
Med5 Federal Credit Union knew something needed to give. Their main office in Rapid City, South Dakota was no longer meeting their needs. And in some ways, it was holding them back. When Pam Brown-Graff, Med5’s President, decided it was time for change, she was already familiar with HTG Architects. Knowing our firm’s reputation, experience and values helped Pam decide to partner with HTG.
“It became obvious to me that the commitment that Jeff brought, on behalf of HTG, meant way more than me going out and trying to show this new building. I knew he brought the kind of relationship I wanted for a project this big.”
It was at these earliest stages of the project where Pam’s intricate knowledge and expertise of her credit union was a perfect pairing for HTG’s approach to financial architecture.
“Going in, I didn’t have the language for credit union design and architecture. Everything in and around how a credit union functions and operates, of course. But HTG found the way to make sure I felt comfortable and capable of communicating my vision."
"I took a trip to Minneapolis and spent the day with Jeff touring tons of banks and credit unions HTG had designed, which gave me a feel for what institutions in the city were doing. And I got to see examples of co-branding in action, which was something I knew I wanted. At each location, I was able to see what I did and didn’t like and communicate it with HTG.”
“There were moments, especially early on, where I felt stuck in my decision-making. And every time, the team at HTG was there to help me through it. Not to tell me what to choose, but to present the information they had to help me make a choice.”
One of those decisions was whether the project would be a remodel of Med5’s existing building or new construction—with a new location and everything that comes with it. With a Site Selection Study, we helped Pam weigh the costs and benefits of the options before her, and once she decided new construction was the way to go, it was full steam ahead.
“During the InVision process, it’s so obvious that HTG is working to make everything I wanted a reality. I mean, they do such a good job at providing justification for the things I wanted, the things the board wanted. They really commit to making it happen.“
The Lost Art of Listening
At HTG Architects, we listen. In fact, listening is one of the five core values upon which our firm is supported. When it comes to client relationships, new and old, we place a premium on keeping our ears and eyes open to what our clients have to say.
“My ideas and aspiration for this building were all over the board, but HTG listened to my every word. And I have to laugh now because that first rendering they shared with me, it was pretty much spot on. Not only did they find a way to integrate everything I wanted, but they also expanded on my vision.”
Making Co-Branding a Reality
“Having our credit union co-brand with a coffee shop was an idea I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long time. And it was when we took on this project that I saw the opportunity, I thought, we’ve got to go for it.”
Among the financial institutions we toured alongside Pam in Minneapolis, there were plenty of successful examples of co-branding. But what Pam had in mind was different from anything we’d ever attempted.
“I always feel the drive and desire to give back to my community and make charitable contributions, and I saw this project as the perfect opportunity to make charity work part of the vision for this building.”
At the time, we didn’t know if it could be done—co-branding a not-for-profit coffee shop within a credit union—as far as we know, it had never been done before. Still, the one thing we couldn’t find was something saying it couldn’t be done. In order to make it happen, Pam spent time working with the regulators to get the right approvals.
The first of two co-brands within Med5’s main office building is The Bean Counter. In addition to serving delicious cups of comfort to all, it is the only not-for-profit coffee shop in the entire state of South Dakota. They have a mission of giving back, one cup at a time.
On the upper level of the building, among the corporate offices, a board room, break room and rooftop patio, you’ll find the second co-branded space—currently home to a law firm.
The shared approach made possible via co-branding provides near-endless opportunities for non-member traffic to visit and get to know Med5. Ongoing non-member traffic becomes more important for brand awareness, especially as lobby transactions continue to decline, industry-wide.
Making Partners Out of Members
Something that was important to Med5 was to have the ability to work with local contractors on this project.
“Med5 has multiple local contractors who are also members, and HTG was extremely open to us wanting to include them in the bidding process. It meant a lot to us to have the drywallers, painters and other tradespeople we have existing relationships with have the opportunity to be a part of this project.
Looking back, I would say HTG went above and beyond what other architects would do to include these people who are so near and dear to us.”
Supporting the Member Experience
“The member experience we provide is something we’re really proud of. To see our members walking in that first time, grabbing a cup of coffee and taking in this trendy, nontraditional experience is unlike anything else. From the separate drive-ups for the coffee shop and credit union to custom-designed concierge stations, it’s a credit union experience unlike any other.
It smells amazing, it looks amazing and it provides an atmosphere of comfort where members can get their financial needs met.”
Community Members Welcome, Too
One thing that was important for Med5’s new building was that it was a welcoming place for the entire community, not just members. The population of Rapid City, SD is over 77,000 and growing. There was intent from the very beginning that the greater community would see Med5’s new building as a destination and a resource.
Beyond The Bean Counter coffee shop, there is a stunning conference room where community members and credit union members alike can use, free of charge.
“We have doctors, nurses and business people who come in to hold their weekly meetings. We have groups who hold book clubs, sewing clubs and more in the space. It’s taken off even more than we thought it would, and it is just wonderful to see all these groups of people having their cup of coffee and just experiencing community.“
Pushing Limits and Planning for the Future
“Partnering with HTG on this building gave us the support we needed to push the boundaries a little bit. Their expertise in the financial industry gave us the knowledge and the bit of courage we needed to feel confident in pushing the envelope.
And now, looking back on what we’ve done and knowing what we’ve created, I’m beyond thankful we went big.”
Thank you, Pam! We appreciate your partnership and your willingness to share your experiences.
Published on October 28, 2020