Greylock Federal Credit Union celebrates 100,000 members with Member Appreciation Week
By Kimberly Kirchner Sponsored Content Editor
After 88 years serving the Berkshires, you’d think Greylock Federal Credit Union would have run out of milestones to hit. But the county’s favorite credit union just keeps growing, and this summer they’re adding a new number to their long list of accomplishments:100,000 members.
In true Greylock fashion, the organization is marking the occasion by celebrating its members with a Member Appreciation Week from August 14-18, full of free goodies, a donation drive to benefit local food pantries, and a grand prize drawing for a $10,000 CD.
“This week is just simply to celebrate and say thank you,” said Greylock President and CEO John Bissell. “We wouldn’t be here without the loyalty of those members. We wouldn’t be here without the excellence of our employees serving those members.”
The Greylock difference
As a not-for-profit financial cooperative, Greylock doesn’t just serve its members – it belongs to them. “The members are really everything for the Credit Union,” Bissell explained. “Literally, Greylock is owned by these 100,000-plus members.”
Unlike a conventional bank, Greylock is governed by a volunteer board of directors that is elected by the members. Greylock Members are invited to attend the credit union’s annual meeting.
As Greylock continues to grow, they are able to deepen their outreach through expanded community giving and support. Beyond these impactful donations, Greylock puts a premium on cultivating meaningful, long-lasting relationships with community partners.
“Our board serves for the sole reason that they believe in what we're doing for the community, and so they really hold us accountable to our mission of financial inclusion,” Bissell said.
Without the pressure to turn out profits, Greylock is able to focus on the people, instead. “Our employees are not pressured to move from one transaction to the other, because we're not for profit,” Bissell said. “They can take however much time is needed to make sure that the needs of each and every member are satisfied.”
Bissell stressed the importance of thinking beyond one-time services and establishing lasting, sometimes life-long connections with members. “We complete millions of transactions a year, but that's not why we're here. We're really here to build long-term relationships,” he said.
Greylock’s team of about 350 local employees is vital to forming and maintaining those relationships. “The No. 1 way that we stay focused on the needs of our individual members, is by hiring and training great people,” Bissell said. “So, if you come into one of our branches, or you call our contact center, or you're applying for a loan, you are interacting with someone who knows the region, who can understand you and can really relate to your financial needs. Someone who wants to be there to develop a relationship with you that will last.”
Pittsfield resident Melissa Van Bramer Sears is the quintessential long-time Greylock member, first joining the credit union in the late 80s when she purchased her first car. She and her husband initially went through a different lender when they bought their home, but quickly tired of the inconsistency and impersonal treatment they received from out-of-town financial institutions.
“People kept selling our mortgage and whatnot,” she said. “We went to Greylock and asked them, ‘Can you refinance the mortgage?’ and they did it in a heartbeat.”
Sears now uses Greylock for a range of financial services, both personal and for her husband’s landscaping and construction business.
“Since they’re local, everybody’s here in Berkshire County. I walk into Greylock and get in the teller line, and I can say hi to everyone, because they all know me,” Sears said
Accessibility for all
Part of Greylock’s success in expanding its membership comes from its efforts to welcome those who have historically been kept at arm’s length by the financial industry.
“We're deeply invested in reaching out and being accessible for people in the community who feel overlooked or undervalued by traditional banks,” Bissell said. “That includes people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, veterans. We know from our own personal anecdotes that a lot of folks feel overlooked and undervalued by banks, but also national surveys will tell you that’s the case. So, in our community, that’s actually a lot people who are being ignored.”
Greylock works alongside existing groups and organizations to connect with these underserved communities and address their unique financial needs. “We have a lot of community partners to help us bridge those divides,” Bissell said. With West Side Legends, for example, Greylock is helping to boost Black homeownership in Pittsfield, particularly the West Side neighborhood. They also work closely with the Berkshire Immigrant Center to aid new Americans in accessing financial services, and with the Berkshire Community Action Council to connect with under-resourced or low-income residents who may need financial assistance.
The goal is to create opportunity across the socioeconomic spectrum. “Just by way of demonstrating how we're widening the pathway to homeownership for all, In 2022, we worked with more homebuyers than any other bank or credit union in Western Mass.,” Bissell said. “About a third of all the mortgages in this region were provided by Greylock in 2022. And many of those were first-time homebuyers. So, I really feel we're working long term on helping people build up their household credit and their household wealth.”
Charliston Dos Santos, owner of C&A Cleaning, credits Greylock with making his business’ success possible. A native of Brazil, Dos Santos came to the Berkshires 24 years ago, but struggled for years to obtain the necessary funding to build up his company. Time and again, larger banks turned him away.
“For 12 years, they were never able to give me a credit card,” Dos Santos recalled. “In my first month, I walked into Greylock and opened a business account, and they gave me a credit card with a $5,000 line of credit.”
That credit card allowed him to purchase new equipment and eventually expand the business itself, going from two employees to 20 (all immigrants), and from $50,000 yearly to $1.7 million. Now, he encourages other members of the immigrant community who may have been unsuccessful getting support from other banks to go to Greylock.
“We moved our business to Greylock and all the doors open,” Dos Santos said. “They changed my life. They changed the way I do business. They gave me the opportunity to grow.”
Here for the moments that matter
Ultimately, Bissell believes that the 100,000th member mark would have been impossible without a mutual sense of trust and loyalty between Greylock and its members. Founded during the Great Depression, the credit union has offered consistent reliability and transparency during turbulent times from its very inception.
In current times, as consumers watch banks fall and inflation rise, Greylock’s unwavering local focus is a welcome comfort. “I believe we are growing because people really understand this is a place they can trust,” Bissell said. “This is a place that's going to have their backs. And people really want that stability in uncertain times.”
People have so much faith in Greylock, they happily recommend the credit union to others. The No. 1 reason new members come to Greylock is word of mouth, something Bissell says he is both grateful for and humbled by.
“It’s really important for us that our members know they can always count on Greylock to be here for the moments that matter,” he said. “That was true in 1935, and it’s still true today.”