Meriwest Credit Union | 877-MERIWEST (877) 637-4937 | Routing Number 321176833

11:48 AM

Meriwest Fall Charity Vote

Published Sept. 26, 2016

This Friday will be the last day to let your voice be heard for our first ever charity vote. This vote was inspired by our mission to support local organizations that do heroic, painstaking and incredibly generous work in our community.

We asked our employees what charities they’d like to see in the vote. Though we wish we could highlight every single nonprofit in our community, these internal votes led us to the three organizations currently involved: Good Karma Bikes, My New Red Shoes and Operation Freedom Paws.

We are so proud to partner with such amazing charities that immeasurably help the people in our community, and hopefully in doing so, expose our members to a few local organizations they might otherwise not have been aware of. We believe in these causes and thank you for taking the time to learn more about them and support them.

To vote what charity should win a $2,500 donation, please visit the voting page.

The Charities:

Good Karma Bikes:

Good Karma Bikes works with former foster and other disadvantaged youth, as well as homeless and low-income working people to provide them with safe, reliable bicycle transportation, repair services and training. The organization has a weekly free bike repair clinic as well as a select group of former foster youth whom they provide with work readiness and college entrance via a two-year life, work and college program that gives them a solid foundation for moving forward.

Good Karma Bikes Engagement Officer Collin Bruce explains during that time the nonprofit helps the youth with tasks such as figuring out housing, getting their transcripts for college ready and helping them get all the grants they need to pay for their education.

“The reaction I think from everybody is they feel they’re making a big difference,” Bruce said adding the program is a massive prevention tactic for homelessness and crime. “I feel we are about to break out, get a lot more volunteers, get some significant recognition in the community and out of that can expand our staff, increase our grants and the reach of the youth program.”

One man at Good Karma Bike’s free repair clinic explained he has many friends, who like him are low-income, and use their bike as their main method of transportation.

“I recommend Good Karma Bikes because of the free service for sure, these people coming here and giving back in a different way always helps,” he said.

My New Red Shoes:

My New Red Shoes provides local impoverished children and youth with new shoes and a back-to-school shopping experience to improve their self-esteem, educational experience and quality of life. It partners with other nonprofits, school districts, child service agencies etc. to identify those kids in our community who have the greatest need for appropriately fitting shoes and clothing.

My New Red Shoes Executive Director Minh Ngo explained the organization had an agency tell them about a mother and son who really struggled with their relationship that was taxed by the stress of living in poverty and being homeless. The Old Navy gift card My New Red Shoes gives as part of its gift enabled them to go shopping together.

“Teachers tell us about students who ask to take their shoes off in class because their feet hurt and they can’t concentrate on the lesson,” Ngo said. “The impact of our gift is felt in ways large and small from the child who receives the shoes and clothing, to the families that get relief from the stressor that impacts their family life, to agencies who get to witness the impact.”

Ngo said being a mother of a seven-and-a-half-year-old son, she gets to experience so many wonderful moments, and she’s lucky enough to be in a position to provide him what he needs.

“To make a difference in the lives of so many other children and their families and to have the opportunity to really shape the community is personally meaningful,” she said.

Operation Freedom Paws:

Operation Freedom Paws matches veterans and others with disabilities with dogs, often from shelters, and assists them free of charge to train together as a service dog team. It also educates and raises awareness about disabled individuals and service dog team partnerships.

Operation Freedom Paws President and Executive Director of Operations Mary Cortani said the reaction from people in the community who need the organization’s services (about 80 percent are veterans) has been overwhelming.

“One of the issues all our clients face, whether they be veterans or civilians, they all hate crowds. They all don’t want to be around people and they isolate because they don’t want to feel like they’re being judged by their disability,” Cortani said adding employees call themselves “space invaders” and give clients hugs and make them have that contact.

“When you can see them go to an amusement park or a theatre or street fair where they would never, ever go and then they smile and they’re having conversations with people they don’t even know, you know you're onto something right,” she said. “When a child tells you ‘thanks for giving me my dad back’ that’s the reward.”

One woman who utilizes Operation Freedom Paw’s services explained she didn’t know what a “peanut alert” dog was and was originally just training her canine, Clover, to be her pet. The woman has had a peanut allergy all her life and the older she gets the worse her reactions do, as well.

“I didn’t realize until I had [Clover] that [the allergy] had affected my life so significantly,” she said. “Pot lucks are a nightmare. So to be able to have that freedom is just a huge gift. “

Additional Note:

Everyone here at Meriwest Credit Union takes pride in being a part of the community. In fact, one of the core messages of “The Meriwest Way” is: “It is our responsibility to provide resources and support charities and organizations to make our community a better place to live, work and play.”

This statement is not just for show – we truly want to help better our surrounding community and in turn every person who inhabits it.

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