A sense of place

  • Contributed photo

    Timotea Munar of Kekaha, mother of Mayrose Munar, started a legacy of saving at Kekaha Federal Credit Union that carries on today with her grandchildren.

A sense of place is at the heart of every community — not just through its geography, but also through its history, its people and its values. Kekaha is a community with a rich sense of identity, of place, and of belonging. To grow up in Kekaha is to grow up in an area like no other.

As the community’s credit union, the venerable Kekaha Federal Credit Union seemed to always understand what this means to those who live here. That’s what drove the recent pairing of Kekaha Federal Credit Union with Aloha Pacific Federal Credit Union: to strengthen Kekaha as a community and to allow it to continue to pursue goals driven by its values of aloha and ohana.

Almost immediately following the merger, effective Nov. 1, 2018, more than 1,500 Kekaha members became eligible to share in a special dividend payment totaling $2 million. The payout took place on Nov. 15 — just in time for the holidays!

Yet, it was a seemingly insignificant incident earlier in the year that really convinced me the merger of the two island institutions would be a good thing. I received a call from a “Vince” from the credit union regarding an inactive account; I had been away from home for years and hadn’t accessed my savings during that time.

I was impressed someone would take the time to track me down. My parents opened that savings account for me when I was just a kid, and I was grateful for the opportunity to keep it active. So when I came home for a visit recently, I stopped by the credit union with my brother to thank that staffer — only to discover that “Vince” was actually Vince Otsuka, president and CEO of Aloha Pacific Federal Credit Union. I was touched the CEO had taken the time to call members. It demonstrated to me they cared about their members.

As longtime Kekaha residents, my mother, Timotea Munar, and late father worked on the Kekaha Sugar Company plantation. They religiously saved their earnings with Kekaha Federal Credit Union to buy their first car, purchase a house for a growing family, and send their kids to college.

Together they made sure their children understood the value of saving, by walking their kids into the credit union when it was located across from the plantation mill. They would deposit a portion of their paychecks, but also put $20 in each of the children’s accounts. It’s a practice my mother continued with all four of us children.

The counters seemed taller then, and I had trouble seeing over them. I remember looking at the deposit slips and listening to her explain the significance of this simple act. It carried over to our lives as adults.

In the years that followed, the credit union would be there for my siblings and me, as young adults, helping us manage, consolidate and pay down credit card debt and school loans. It became part of my financial life and served as a foundation to help in the transition from college to my career.

A generation later, the plantation fields are gone, but our credit union, now known as “Kekaha Credit Union, A Division of Aloha Pacific Credit Union,” is still there for our community.

My mother continues to set up savings accounts for each of her grandchildren, continuing a tradition of thoughtful saving and growth. It is no small accomplishment to reach the age of 83, having provided for four kids and having done so debt-free.

Some of us have gone off to school and started families and careers of their own. But Kekaha is still home to us — a place to return to, remaining secure in our hearts.

Speaking for my family, we’re confident this partnership will allow the newly restructured Kekaha Credit Union to continue its role in the community far into the future.

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Mayrose Munar grew up in Kekaha; has worked for the Hawaii law firm Kobayashi, Sugita and Goda, as well as Google and Uber; and is currently attending school at Stanford’s Graduate School for Business Executive LEAD program.

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