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. 

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.