usergroup Behind the Mask: a UKFCU Blog

We all have stories that make us who we are. Our new series, "Behind the Mask", highlights our employees and those moments that make us who we are behind our masks. Connection is a powerful force at the heart of our guiding principle of "people helping people", and we hope you find that sense of connection in the stories we share in this series.

Join us each month as we share a new story from one of our team members, and connect with us as we learn about the special moments that lie behind the mask.

usergroup Episode 7 | November 2021

"Family and Community" - Laura Thompson

From a very early age, I recognized that family and community were paramount to me. At each corner, it was clear that helping others would play a vital part in my life. My family put a strong emphasis on giving back to the community through service to others.

My mother perfected the art of working and volunteering to support our family and care for my father. My father had been a firefighter when an accident sent him home, leaving him with a chronic illness and unable to return to work. My school day afternoons were filled with duties of caring for my disabled father, while my mother worked. However, she always found the time to volunteer at our church, my school, and our local community.

Summer vacations would be spent in Rhode Island visiting my great-grandmother. I watched as she took care of my great grandfather, Poppy who suffered from Multiple Sclerosis. I could see the joy she received from helping others.

When Poppy moved into a nursing home, I would accompany my great-grandmother on her visits to see him. Poppy was never short on visitors thanks to our large family on the east coast, but I noticed that other residents were not as fortunate. Some residents went weeks or several months between visitors. That inspired me to volunteer at the nursing home.

I fondly remember the weekly visits. A volunteer would play songs on the piano and I would sing off-key while carting around my cookies and lemonade. I loved the interactions and the stories the residents would share. Getting to know them and the smiles on their faces were priceless to me.

As a young adult planning a career, I decided that giving back was my purpose and chose social work as a path. While pursuing this, I quickly learned the demanding emotional toll and attachment that this career path held. I needed a change but wasn't sure what the path to making a difference would be.

Enter credit unions into my life. Each day from apartment to campus, I passed a building labeled "Credit Union". Unfamiliar with the term, I did a quick internet search for this credit union. Words on the screen like "help, people, and community" jumped out at me. Soon enough, I showed up to that exact same credit union I had driven by an endless number of times for an interview as a teller. I quickly began to work with members and their financial needs, truly enjoying the relationships created. Later, I transitioned into a role where I assisted members to improve their credit scores and helped them through difficult times. I shared in the joy of their first car, their first home, or the vacation of a lifetime. It brought me so much joy to help. Although my career didn't go where I thought it would in the path of social work, I am happy for the opportunities to serve it has brought me today.

Credit union members have helped define me both personally and professionally. I get to come to work and not just serve but also be surrounded by a team and co-workers who are dedicated to helping others as well. I have been able to fulfill my passion and dreams of making a difference through service. An added bonus- I get to now share my mission and stories with my husband, son, and soon-to-be 99-year-old great-grandmother!

tip Episode 6 | July 2021

"Taking Chances" - Roy Wagner, CFP® CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™

I was raised in Pineville, a small town in Eastern Kentucky. For me, Pineville was safe. It was a familiar place and I was always so comfortable there. I had the freedom to spend time with friends and as long as I was home by dark, everything was okay. Most of the time I felt like I didn’t have a care in the world. As years passed, I lost touch with most of those childhood friends but I always feel a bit of joy when I think back to my childhood in Eastern Kentucky.

The safety and comfort of Pineville that I had grown to love so much made it difficult to leave when I graduated high school and decided to go off to college. Leaving home was scary, exciting, and ultimately worth the risk. College introduced me to new friends. Friends that were different than me and with who I shared some of the best times of my life.

While in college at a music festival, I heard a person speak about taking chances. He spoke of an experience describing a group of elderly people that had been gathered to discuss life. When the topic turned to biggest regrets, many individuals in the group regretted they had not taken enough chances in life. This resonated with me, and to this day I have never forgotten the way I felt hearing those regrets. While not all risks are worth taking, that story motivated me to pursue a “go-for-it” attitude and to continue to challenge myself outside of my comfort zone.

I now have three sons who are all currently under the age of ten. We enjoy lots of outdoor activities and I often get questions from them that are ultimately about risk. It may be something as simple as touching the fish we catch or hiking up a steep hill. They start to worry as they think about facing the challenge in front of them. I try to tell them that it’s okay to take a chance, even to fail. I explain that if they fail at something, it just means they are pushing themselves to the limit. We have to take risks to find that limit. Coming out of the pandemic, I have even more excitement to foster this attitude. Let’s take chances, go for it, and find out where our limits might be.

dumbbell Episode 5 | June 2021

"Gains and Losses" - Amy Deskins, Commercial Credit Analyst

I’ve struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. In my early twenties I had high blood pressure, cholesterol issues and my sugar levels were borderline diabetic. I was overweight and miserable. A few years back I started working on my diet. Losing weight felt amazing! I started feeling so much better that I joined the YMCA, and over a period of about 3 years I lost 125 pounds. I was so proud of myself for achieving one of my biggest goals. My accomplishments were definitely challenged in 2020.

The thought of going through a worldwide pandemic never crossed my mind before 2020. What a terrifying experience. During that time our local YMCAs were closed to members and instead, offered childcare services to healthcare and frontline workers. We all had to get creative and find a new way of doing practically everything. All while wearing a mask!

I started getting creative at home since I wasn’t able to go to the YMCA. I had worked so hard to get healthy. At first, my workouts consisted of a mixed set of dumbbells and basic cardio moves. Often, I used a weighted jump rope and a bench for step ups. I found some great kickboxing videos online and practiced the new moves in my backyard. I hope I didn’t scare any of my neighbors!

As a previous indoor-only runner, the pandemic set a new challenge and suddenly I began running outdoors. I met all the horses in the park at Masterson Station and even a few groundhogs that would often bask in the sun near the indoor riding arena. I never pet the groundhogs.

I was constantly looking for ways to keep it moving. Eventually, a group of friends and I would gather on a zoom meeting and workout together. They were a great source of motivation, support and encouragement. I needed them as much as they needed me, and now I call them my “pandemic sisters”. They will always have such a special place in my heart.

As I reflect back on 2020 it reminds me of a quote by Vivian Komori:

"Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb, but how well you bounce."

Last year I was forced out of my comfort zone. I continuously searched for new ideas and ways of keeping my mind and body healthy. It wasn’t always easy, but we all have struggles. Change was good for me and I’m grateful for an experience that I will never forget. Discovering a new way of living taught me so much about myself. I can do anything and so can you! Leave your comfort zone. Bounce. Don’t be afraid. Find your “pandemic sisters”. Have fun, be good to yourself and show kindness to those around you.

stock Episode 4 | May 2021

"The Bucket List" - Kathy Begley, Vice President of Lending

Setting goals has always been important to me both personally and professionally. They motivate me, measure success, and help me prioritize.

Life goals are often categorized as “Bucket List Items” and I certainly have a few. These are nothing more than GOALS.

Living on a 50 acre horse farm as a child did not allow us to take very many vacations as a family. After all, there was just too much work to be done in the gardens and too many animals to take care of. Yes, that was how my summers were spent.

Around the age of 10, my parents decided to take a brief break from the farm and took our family on a 3 week-long road trip. They hitched up a camper and we headed west from Ohio. Until this, I had never traveled outside of Ohio and Kentucky. I became fascinated with each new state we entered. In fact, I remember singing a little song for each one. “Hello Kentucky, Good bye Ohio, here come the Horns right through.” As corny as it may have been, we sang this over and over at every state line we came across. I kept a list of each state we drove through. I remember amazement at the Bad Lands of the Dakotas and the Old Faithful Geyser in Wyoming. Texas introduced me to “hard-shell opossums” (armadillos) along the side of the road, and New Orleans was full of inspiring sights and sounds.

When we returned to Ohio, I wrote down all of the states we visited in my baby book, and continued writing them there as I grew older. In later years, visiting all 50 states has become a “Bucket List” item for me. Currently, I have 13 states left to visit and look forward to the day that goal is met and I can write those states in my book.

Another bucket list item for both my husband and myself was to buy a house in need of repair, rehab it, and flip it. For years, we watched every Chip and Joanna Gaines show, along with several others. Feeling prepared, we finally decided to bite the bullet, and bought a house in Richmond a few years ago. Our plan was to complete all the work ourselves. We spent an entire summer on demo alone. After filling 3 large dumpsters, we began working again in the spring of 2018. Each day after work, my husband and I would head down I-75 to Richmond and many nights did not make it back to our home until midnight. Sweet, sweet completion came in June 2019 and we were able to rent it that year. Fast forward to March 2020 and a pandemic, we decided to list it for sale. Much to our surprise, it sold within 2 days to the first couple we showed it to for a full price offer! Working hard is nothing new to me, but this was such a special and rewarding experience. I cannot begin to tell you how much we learned from cutting and laying tile to installing kitchen cabinets, to selling without using a realtor. It was a great experience and glad to check that one off of my Bucket List!

What’s next? A visit to the 4 states I have left in the north east. Maine, Vermont, Delaware and Maryland. Lighthouses, maple syrup, beaches and Crab. What’s not to love?

heart Episode 3 | April 2021

tyler polley with his dog

"Ruth to the Rescue" - Tyler Polley, Risk Management Analyst

We often think of rescuing an animal as setting a pet free or helping them find their forever home, but, for many of us in isolation during the pandemic, our pets have saved us more than we saved them. During the first months of COVID-19 isolation, all our travel plans and fun events were getting canceled. At the same time, we were all stressing about the well-being of those around us. 

I’m fortunate enough to work from home, but there were months at a time that I never left my house except for the occasional trip to the grocery store. I passed the time by reading, working on projects around the house, and taking long jogs around my neighborhood. With all of this free time, my wife and I decided to rescue a dog to accompany our two cats, and so began our search.

We got in touch with a rescue in Michigan that specializes in saving Doodles from around the nation. After interviewing a half dozen times and waiting for six months to find the right dog, we were finally matched with a “Newfiedoodle” puppy, a mix between a Newfoundland and Poodle. Once we learned of our match, we seriously couldn’t wait to make the nine-hour drive to Michigan to pick up our new family member.

Our new puppy, Ruth, was six weeks old, weighed eleven pounds, and had been sent to the rescue from a breeder after her entire litter was born with a mild birth defect that would require surgery at an early age. She was so sweet, and we knew she would be the perfect companion to go with our two older cats. 
Ruth is now seven months old, fifty-five pounds, and brings so much fun and excitement to our family. We often find her cuddled up with our cats before playfully chasing them around the house and forcing them into much needed exercise, only to have the cats return the favor later in the day. 

The lonelier pandemic days at home have been brightened by her big smile and bursts of energy. Ruth has come to our rescue and has turned what would have otherwise been long boring walks into peaceful adventures of new smells and endless bird watching.

She has turned my search for new books into long games of fetch in the backyard. She has also turned my home projects into finding ways to protect my garden from her digging (still working on that.)  

map Episode 2 | March 2021

"Roadmaps" - Chase Oliver, Director of Human Resources

I believe we draw strength from those who came before us - from the examples they set, lessons they taught and the love they gave.

I don’t remember much about my grandfather. He passed away when I was young, but I know the stories passed down about his love for family.

A veteran of the 2nd World War, he left a small farm in southern Ohio to meet the sandy beaches of Normandy, France on Tuesday, June 6th 1944. D-Day. He was 26 years old.

After surviving Omaha, he pushed through the hedgerows of France and marched on through Europe. His weary campaign finally culminated at the battle of Leipzig, Germany in April of 1945.

He was awarded numerous Presidential citations and a Bronze Star for bravery in combat.

As the war was winding down, his brother got to pay him a visit in Paris. It was now July of 1945, less than a year before he would marry my grandmother. A strong, remarkable woman whom he’d share his life with for the next 40 years.

His brother wrote back home to the farm of his experience visiting with my grandfather.

An excerpt from his letter reads:

“Bob has changed, but not too much. He talks more, but that is just nervousness that will soon pass. His eyes are tired and sad, but thank God they don’t have that stare – like a beast of prey – that I have seen on so many of our troops. We can all feel proud of him, for he has walked in hell, fought in hell, and walked out the other side the same man. That took more than just guts.”

Whenever I have a tough day, I look to that letter as a reminder of what a tough day really looks like.

I am told that he never spoke much of the war. The horrors besieged on that generation were usually not willingly revisited. He simply came home and set out to provide the best he could for his family. For all that he endured, he never stopped moving forward - though he undoubtedly carried the echoes from that shoreline in France for the rest of his life.

Years later, he would provide the opportunity for his children, including my mother, to get something he never could - a college education.

We stand on the shoulders of so many who came before us, and I am eternally grateful for that.

When times are tough, remember there are those who braved them before you - who showed us a roadmap on what it means to sacrifice, persevere, and move forward.

They did it.

So will we.

home Episode 1 | February 2021

"The House that Built Me" - Sarah Baker, Marketing Communication Specialist 

I grew up in the woods.  As in, IN the woods. Gravel roads, a mirage of deciduous trees, and a wildflower lined path to the lake.
Progressive for the 80’s, our home had large panes of glass sweeping across the front separated by beams, reminiscent of railroad ties.  It was our full-time tree house.  

It’s home to incredible geographical landmarks named by my sisters and I.  Really thoughtful and distinguishable names like: The Rock, The Point and The Tree. I guarantee we could lead you right to each of those places today even though they are surely grown over and nature has had its way with them.

It all held a sense of peace.  A peace that allowed freedom and independence. Our minds were free to experience imagination, and we roamed in play all day. 

It was where my mother taught me the importance and joy of growing your own food, where she fried the squirrel and rabbit that the boys brought in from the morning hunt.

It was a place where our Ukrainian neighbor Fedosi would visit, regularly bringing treasures from his farm and offering a warm “Good Morning Folks”.  Sometimes he brought a calf or baby lambs! It was always an adventure with him. My mother loved him dearly, even when 3 puppies were the gift.

It was a place where being an adventurous eater earned you stripes.  “Smurf Spaghetti” was born.  Tuna gravy reigned with utmost respect, while the threat of Dad making his famous Garlic ice cream always wrinkled our noses. 

A place where fishing was a true sport: Friends and family would visit from miles around to join us for summer time “Noodling” aka Hand fishing. Those are the days of legend.

 It was a family affair.  I often held the stringer….because the fear of sticking my hand in one of those catfish holes can only be described as excited torture.  I saw the damage it did to a 6ft 225lb man, and early on I made a decision that I wasn’t going to test my luck.  

It was a house that taught me the best privacy curtains are trees and distance, and the only sound machine we needed was our screen door to hear the spring peepers calling.  One night, even through closed doors, those pond frogs seemed to all be screaming at once and I thought sleep would never come.  Today, I treasure hearing the warning sounds of spring when that first little peep arrives after a long winter.

As I reflect, I hope my children one day see the beautiful freedom that a few trees and a little space can give you.  That loving your “neighbor” means loving them no matter what they gift you with.  Fish are not always caught with a pole.  Creativity is a talent and should be untethered. Who knows, maybe one day they’ll think Smurf Spaghetti is cool.