Jerry Spindler remembers when 3Rivers Federal Credit Union was International Harvester Employees Federal Credit Union; when loan interest rates were one percent a month and buying something with a plastic card was unheard of.
“I became a member of the credit union 59 years ago, when I was 20 years old,” Spindler says. “I had recently married and I needed a car loan. I didn’t want to ask my dad to sign for a loan for me, so I joined the credit union because they were the only ones who would give me that loan without my dad having to sign.”
Spindler worked for International Harvester at the time and the credit union, called International Harvester Employees Federal Credit Union,
was located inside the company’s plant on Fort Wayne’s south side.
“It was the credit union’s only location and you had to be a Harvester employee to belong,” Spindler says. “We used to use our lunch hour to go down to the credit union and take care of our banking. Everything had to be done face-to-face with a teller. There was no such thing as online or mobile banking like we have today.”
Eventually, the credit union allowed family members of Harvester employees to join. The facility moved out of the Harvester plant and opened a branch on nearby New Haven Avenue on land that had previously housed a Hall’s Restaurant that moved.
“In 1967, when I was just 26 years old, I became a board member for the credit union,” says Spindler. “It was kind of unheard of for someone that young to be on the board, but the man I worked for at Harvester recommended me and I wanted to do it. Things were going well and after moving to New Haven Avenue, we opened a second location at Maplewood.”
Then the economy took a downward turn.
“In the 1980s, Harvester closed,” says Spindler. “We’d had thousands of people working at the plant and everyone lost their jobs. We thought the credit union would go under.”
“As all of those former Harvester employees got new jobs at other small companies and plants, they encouraged people at their other companies to bank with us. By that time, we had changed the name to 3Rivers Federal Credit Union. We had 800 to 900 sponsor companies with us and we just kept growing.”
Today, 3Rivers Federal Credit Union boasts nearly 70,000 members and 17 branches and is considered to be a staple on the financial scene in northeast Indiana.
“Eighty years is a long time,” says Don Cates, CEO and president of 3Rivers Federal Credit Union. “In terms of our locations, and with shared branching, we are the most convenient financial institution in northeast Indiana. Because we are a credit union and not a bank, we are a cooperative, meaning we are owned by our members. We’re also not-for-profit, so the funds we make stay within the cooperative, locally, for the future benefit of the membership.”
Cates says he and his colleagues pride themselves on their reputation for honest and personalized service for every member, no matter the size of their accounts.
“We want to be very open and nonjudgmental of the member’s financial situation,” he says. “We work with our members and help them make the right choices for today, next year and well into their futures. We recognize and respect that your finances are a personal and private issue and that it can be difficult to talk about. Personal finance management is not hard, but it can be intimidating. We are a full-service provider of financial services, which allows us to be the single point solution for all their needs and help them build comprehensive financial plans.”
The credit union has held numerous events over the past year to commemorate its 80th anniversary.
“We’ve had member appreciation days at all of the branches,” says Melissa Shaw, marketing communication manager at 3Rivers. “We’ve also had two blood drives and offered three community-wide shred days, where you can have your private documents shredded for free. We also started a new tradition enabling our employees to volunteer at various nonprofits on President’s Day. We encourage and foster volunteerism year-round, but we have taken that to a new level this year. And the biggest event of this milestone was the launch of the 3Rivers Credit Union Foundation.”
The foundation is set up to provide grants to nonprofits that fall into one or more of three categories: financial literacy, health and wellness, and education.
“We’ve received so many applications and all for very worthy causes,” says Shaw. “We’ve always had a strong presence in the community for philanthropic work, but having the foundation formalizes that work and helps us to have a greater impact with our giving. This has been in the works for three years and it’s so rewarding to see it come to fruition.”
Both Cates and Shaw point out that 3Rivers is constantly working to provide community-based and broad-based services to each and every member, even those who knew 3Rivers before it was 3Rivers.
“Our long-time members still use their Harvester clock-in number as their member number here at the credit union,” says Cates. “They’re very proud of their credit union legacy, and we’re proud to say we have maintained our community’s faith and trust for 80 years. We’re also proud of our responsiveness to the needs of new members and Millennials by offering current digital technology channels. We look forward to many more decades of community support, member service and credit union growth.”
Address: 1605 Northland Blvd. Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825
Phone: (260) 490-8328
Years in Business: 80
Number of Employees: 260
Products & Services: Checking accounts, savings accounts, mobile banking, consumer lending, mortgages, business services, investment and trust services, college funding and insurance