In September of 1966, Joe "Papa" Manale had a dream. He took $25.00 from his own pocket and opened up opportunities that would benefit his fellow employees for years to come. Together with John Ravas and Charlie Carter, a concrete foundation was built for a credit union that could serve Alcan employees and their families. These three men were the driving force behind today's very successful credit union. Papa Manale gave us a beginning that has helped us to make our own dreams come true.
In that year of 1966, a credit union at Alcan, in Oswego, was born. The original Board of Directors parenting this birth consisted of six people who believed they could help make it work: Joe Manale, Charlie Carter, Dick Schuler, Bob Bush, Everett Robinson, and Jane Waldemar. Working together, they gathered all the basic knowledge and ideas for a financial institution, and in October 1967, received the official charter under the name: "Oswego Aluminum Employee's Credit Union." Monthly business meetings were held in each board members' home and employee business transactions were conducted in the main office lunchroom from 12:00pm - 1:00pm. The membership total at this time was 74. Total assets for year ending 1967 were $294.50.
1968 brought new benefits for credit union members. The first personal loan was given for $200.00 and a car loan was given for $2,000.00. All loans and transactions were personally handled by Joe Manale including free consultation and advice, whether you needed it or not. Joe felt personally responsible for everyone.
A loan committee was formed early in the life of the credit union with Joe directing each loan individually and then having it approved and signed by the loan officers. Total assets for year end 1969 were $82,800.00.
In 1970 the credit union had its own office, a small cabana in the hot line and then moved on in 1973 to the east wing office building. At this time, Joe Manale retired from Alcan and managed the credit union office during afternoons. In January 1974 the credit union's name was formally changed to the "Alcan Employee's Federal Credit Union."
A bigger and better office was provided in 1979 in the Industrial Engineering office building, and for the first time, Joe was able to have an office for himself to conduct business. This year also brought the credit union's first employee into its fold: Denise Dennie. Once again, Joe moved forward in this step. He interviewed and selected (with the help of the Board of Directors) Denise for the job. Quoted Joe, "I picked her because she is a nice girl and that's what counts." Total assets for year end of 1979 were $1,040,000.00. Total membership was 974 and loans were being given at 14 and 15 percent.
These were the years "Papa" taught all of us how a credit union should run. We fell back many times but he just kept moving us forward. We were new and untrained, but we were loyal. Some of us came in with some knowledge and skills in running a banking institution, while others participated with no previous knowledge. We worked hard under Joe's guidance and learned lessons in a way no-one else could ever teach us.
Then, in 1981, Joe announced that he would be retiring at the end of the year, and we realized that we must learn to continue on without his presence. December 31, 1981 was his official retirement date and we were on our own. But Joe was still with us in the background offering his assistance whenever needed (about once a day).
The credit union installed its first computer system in 1982, and Joe returned full-time for a while until we were able to wean away from him. We were now a "new age" banking institution. In 1983, members watched loans drop from 15% to 13% and in 1985, much needed college loans were added to the growing list of C.U. services. The C.U. office moved once again in 1988 to a newly remodeled and larger area in the main office building (the former medical dept.). The company officials truly did credit us this time with our new surroundings.
This area was remodeled again in 1996 with new sit-down teller stations, more filing and counter space, a new back room and manager's office. As in the past, Alcan has always been 100% supportive of the credit union. They have provided excellent office space to do business at no cost to the members.
In March of 1996 the credit union opened a full service branch office with a drive-thru window and ATM machine at 300 West First St. Denise Grinnell was appointed branch manager and over the past 10 years, this added convenience has attracted over 1500 new family members to the credit union. Soon after we started the Young Bucks Club which quickly became popular do to its' annual Halloween and Easter parties. This proved to be a great way to connect with our younger members.
We cautiously moved forward from 1999 to 2000. Fortunately, there were no glitches to be found at the Credit Union with the date change at the end of the century. In the year 2000, we added a debit card program and installed an ATM at the plant office. On February 1, 2001, the Credit Union installed an in-house computer system. The following year, Alcan Aluminum established a true electronic direct deposit for its employees and the credit union offered members the convenience of online access to their accounts which was named "CU online". Early in 2004, the credit union offered online bill payment and e-statements as more people became comfortable with the internet. Another milestone in 2004 was the change of our charter from a single sponsor group to a multiple-group sponsor credit union. This allows us to add other employee groups and their relatives to our membership. The Oswego postal employees and Oswego Wire employees were quickly added to the charter and membership grew to 3,146 with assets of 16,885,925 by the end of 2004.
In 2005, following our original sponsor's name change from Alcan to Novelis, the Board of Directors changed our name from Alcan Employees to Compass Federal Credit Union. Compass also purchased land on George Street for the future site of a new home office, another important milestone in the history of the credit union. After much hard work, we moved into the new, 4,900-square foot brick building at the end of January 2006. We were then prepared to serve the entire population of Oswego County.
In 2007, progress at Compass continued with the installation of a generator at our George Street office -- a generator that would keep the credit union operating in the event of a power loss. We also enhanced our online banking security with a secure sign-in authentication. Although no accounts at the credit union had ever been compromised, it was important to upgrade the program and ensure the security of our members' funds.
Later, in 2008, Compass responded to the temporary closing of Oswego's Bridge Street bridge by opening a new branch office on the west side of Oswego, on 7 Fourth Ave. in Hillside Commons. Even when the bridge re-opened, Compass was committed to offering this service for members who find it more convenient to do their banking on the west side of town. In addition to the new branch office, Compass also established a relationship in the summer of 2008 with Place Financial Advisors in Manlius, a firm that used a front office in our George Street building to offer financial planning to our members. We also tested our "Disaster Recovery Plan," which would allow the credit union to operate off-site in the event of an emergency.
In 2009, despite the onset of a worldwide recession, Compass received exciting and welcome news to help ensure its success in the future. The National Credit Union Administration granted Compass a "community charter," a designation that allowed the credit union to open its doors to the community, allowing anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Oswego County to join. It also allowed people to become members if they were related to a Compass member or if they lived in the same household as a person who is eligible to become a member. Prior to this change, only members of select sponsor groups or associations could join Compass.
2009 also brought another new and positive change for Compass. The Oswego Hospital Credit Union, with about 600 members, voted to merge with Compass on June 13, 2009. The merger, which became official Oct. 1, allowed members of the hospital's credit union to have a much wider array of services. A credit union office at the hospital continued to operate, offering the same convenient location for Compass members who work at the hospital. Additional services in 2009 included new money market accounts, which were offered to members in the first quarter of the year, and a new VISA Rewards cards, which allowed members to earn gift certificates, cash and other prizes with the use of their Rewards credit card.
2010 brought continued growth to the credit union, despite an economy that continued to struggle. Loan growth increased 10% over the previous year. Membership increased 9%. The credit union performed well overall, but the Board decided to close the west-side branch in Hillside Commons in early 2011 because the small amount of business it generated did not support the cost of paying for staff and leasing the space. A committee was put in place to examine other possible locations for a branch. Meanwhile, a "Bank at School" savings program in Oswego elementary schools continued to grow, adding two new elementary schools in 2010 -- Kingsford and Leighton -- after an initial launch at Riley Elementary School in 2009. Compass also forged a new financial planning relationship in April 2011 with Angela Renna of AXA Advisors, LLC. The switch took place because Bryan Place, of Place Financial Services, had died unexpectedly in 2009. Other changes came about as well. Our branch office at Novelis was moved to a new location, to an area that used to be the Novelis store. Similarly, our branch office at Oswego Hospital was moved from the third to first floor, a more central location for most of our members there.
In 2011, the economy continued to improve, although gas prices remained high. For the third year in a row, Compass offered a "no closing costs" home loan sale for members that proved quite popular. The credit union also launched "courtesy pay," which offered up to $200 for members who overdrew on their accounts, saving them some of the costs and humiliation associated with bounced checks. A new Allpoint ATM network defied the notion that credit unions are local-only institutions, giving members access to more than 60,000 free ATMs across the United States and other parts of the world. The Bank at School program continued to grow, with Kingsford, Leighton, Riley and Fitzhugh participating. The grand-prize drawing for Bank at School participants was called "Millionaire for a Day," allowing the lucky student banker and his/her friends to enjoy a limo ride to school and a class pizza party. On the Board of Directors, President George DeLong decided to retire after giving more than 17 years of volunteer service to the credit union. He later re-joined the credit union as a member of its Supervisory Committee.
The following year, 2012, saw more changes for Compass. With more and more people using computers and especially smartphones, Compass advertised a mobile-friendly online banking service. The credit union also celebrated its 45th anniversary and made an unprecedented donation to Oswego Hospital: $6,777 for a baby apnea monitor. Our first-ever Charity Golf Outing raised $2,600 for youth sports in Oswego: soccer, baseball and hockey.
In 2013 and 2014, the credit union's financial health remained strong. Compass formed a Contributions Committee that analyzed donation requests and continued a tradition of donating $500 to each of the school nurses in "Bank at School" buildings. The nurses used the money to buy winter clothing for students in need. In the same vein, the Compass staff organized a "Relay for Life" team, for the first time, which raised close to $2,000 for the American Cancer Society. Internally, Compass switched to a new Visa provider called Vantiv to take advantage of better behind-the-scenes services for members. On a hot summer day, Compass celebrated with a free community picnic that drew hundreds of guests to the lawn outside our main office at 131 George St.
By 2014, the credit union was thriving and the worst of the recession had faded, especially with Novelis finishing a multi-million dollar expansion to supply more aluminum to the auto industry, which was under federal law to lower emission levels. As a way to give back to members, Compass launched a new, interest-bearing checking account for members who were 50 and older. Called Premier Checking, this account offered 1.25% APY for members who kept a $500 minimum daily balance, used their debit cards for signature-based transactions at least five times per month, and had a direct deposit. Compass also "gave back" to its members with another Charity Golf Outing (this time raising $5,400 for baseball, soccer and softball) and another free community picnic.
From a beginning of $294.00, a membership of 74, and a loan limit of $200.00, we have grown to a full-service banking institution with assets of $37 million and membership close to 5,500. This could not have been achieved without the leadership of the more than sixty volunteers that have willingly given their services since the beginnings of the credit union. We have had eight members who have served as Presidents, beginning with John Ravas from 1967 to 1970; Dick Schuler from 1971 to 1978; Carol Russell from 1978 to 1979; Jim Sperino from 1979 to 1985; Steve Sucher from 1985 to 1989; Lou Vulcano from 1989 to 1997; and Hank Madura from 1998 to 2006; Dick Axtell from 2007 to early 2009; and George DeLong from the first quarter of 2009 until early 2011. Mike Ferlito followed George, while Michael Pisa is now the current Board President. We shall always remain indebted to all of our volunteers for their contributions over the years.
This is the credit union story from the beginning and how we have developed to where we are today. We have mentioned the people who started us on our way and the ones who have guided us over all the years. The full story cannot be told without acknowledging the faith and trust that you, the members, have shown in your credit union.