East Chilliwack Credit Union (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada)
East Chilliwack Credit Union (ECCU) was a financial institution founded by East Chilliwack-area Mennonites. The credit union is still in operation today (after a series of mergers) as Envision Financial, a division of First West Credit Union.
Mennonites, primarily from the Canadian Prairie provinces, began settling in East Chilliwack, British Columbia, in the early 1940s. After several years of continued settlement and development, these Mennonite farmers became frustrated with the banks’ unwillingness to offer small loans, especially to berry, dairy and poultry farmers. Already dissatisfied with the poor prices they were receiving for their produce, a number of farmers formed the East Chilliwack Fruit Growers Co-operative Association in 1947.
With the success of the co-operative, people saw the potential for a credit union in the Chilliwack community. Several farmers had been involved with credit unions on the Prairies before settling in the Fraser Valley. In early 1954, members of the co-operative met to explore the formation of a credit union. A number of meetings were held, with the East Chilliwack community hearing from representatives from established institutions like the Edelweiss Credit Union, as well as the British Columbia Credit Union League—the educational arm of the credit union movement. On 29 March 1954, the East Chilliwack Credit Union declaration was drawn up by 22 charter members. With a bond serving East Chilliwack Co-op members, the fledgling credit union operated out of the co-operative’s East Chilliwack General Store, which primarily sold agricultural supplies.
Under the leadership of its first officers, the small credit union quickly grew. In 1956, ECCU appointed Jack D. Klassen and Ben Voth as their first President and Chairman of the Board, respectively. Klassen and Voth provided a stable foundation for the growth of East Chilliwack Credit Union, with Klassen acting as president for 17 years and Voth serving on the board of directors for 42 years. In its inception, East Chilliwack Credit Union was comprised of just 22 charter members, and was established on the principles of being wholly member-owned and democratically controlled. According to Jack Klassen, the credit union held over $12 million in assets by 1974. Through serving the area’s close-knit Mennonite community, the East Chilliwack Credit Union established itself as an important part of the credit union movement in Canada. By 1980, East Chilliwack Credit Union was one of the 25 largest credit unions in Canada.
However, British Columbia experienced a serious economic recession in the early 1980s. Faced with economic hardships and higher defaults on loans, credit unions throughout the Fraser Valley met to discuss possible mergers. Though many institutions felt that mergers would negatively impact their existing member-base, East Chilliwack Credit Union found common ground with another credit union with similar philosophical and cultural roots – Clearbrook Credit Union.
Both credit unions shared a background of service to local agricultural and Mennonite communities, and a merger proposition was accepted and endorsed in 1982. On 1 January 1983, Clearbrook Credit Union and East Chilliwack Credit Union came together under the name First Heritage Savings Credit Union. With the successful merger, First Heritage was able to provide service throughout the Fraser Valley. According to Clearbrook Credit Union board member Sam Shartner, the creation of First Heritage "was a marriage of two credit unions that were founded on the same thinking patterns, the same philosophy, and it worked very well."
For nearly two decades, First Heritage served a member base of over 60,000 with credit union branches spanning the BC Fraser Valley. Through another merger in 2001, First Heritage joined with Delta Credit Union to become Envision Credit Union. In 2010, Envision Credit Union merged with Penticton-based Valley First Credit Union, though both organizations continued to operate as divisions of the newly created First West Credit Union. In 2011, Envision Financial provided service to the Fraser Valley community through 21 branches and 20 insurance offices.
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MLA style: Dau, Ron. "East Chilliwack Credit Union (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2011. Web. 21 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/east_chilliwack_credit_union_chilliwack_british_columbia_canada.
APA style: Dau, Ron. (May 2011). East Chilliwack Credit Union (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/east_chilliwack_credit_union_chilliwack_british_columbia_canada.