Reid Frederick is in a very interesting role at WECU. As the Program Manager for Community Impact, he essentially runs a nonprofit within the walls of the credit union and is responsible for all WECU’s corporate giving, volunteering, and financial education. While to many this position would be a job, to Reid this is his life’s passion. His journey to this unique role started decades earlier in Mexico.
For most Americans, trips to Mexico consist of immaculate resorts, glistening blue water, margaritas and palm trees. However, Frederick’s childhood vacations were a little different.
“My parents didn’t want my sister and I just to see what the other tourists saw,” Frederick said.
During their annual trip to Mexico, Frederick remembers many occasions where his family ventured out from their hotel to parts of Mexico not “prettied up” for visiting Americans.
“We went from the paved roads to the dirt roads and that’s when things started to look a little different,” Frederick said. “We saw cinder block homes with corrugated metal roofs where the people lived. My parents explained that most people in those areas didn’t have indoor plumbing and had to use outhouses. I also remember seeing dirty kids walking around without shoes and packs of dogs wandering among piles of trash and shells of stripped cars.”
This environment was in stark contrast to where Frederick grew up. Reid spent his younger years in Seattle’s upper middle-class suburb of Bothell, which has an average household income significantly higher than the rest of Washington State and the country.
It was from these experiences and conversations with his socially minded parents around the dinner table that Frederick developed his heart for the needy and underserved.
Frederick graduated from Western Washington University and worked in a job selling copiers right after college. He quickly realized that it wasn’t a good fit.
“I wasn’t motivated,” Frederick said, “even though I was depending on the job to make a living, I couldn’t get excited about making a sale on a copier. I knew I needed a job that was focused on relationships.”
He soon quit the sales job and started as a teller at WECU.
And while it took some time, after taking part in some internal meetings, he knew he found a home.
“Seeing how decisions were made was eye opening for me,” Frederick said. “I saw that profit wasn’t the only driver for the Credit Union. It was obvious that helping people was the center of what WECU did.”
The vision for his career path became even more clear when a newly created position opened up.
“A board member thought WECU should have someone who was fully focused on the community service and education aspect of our mission, so the position was created,” Frederick said. “Before, WECU organized and participated in many community events, but it wasn’t being driven by a dedicated staff person.”
From that day to now, Reid’s impact has grown.
“The growth in the department has been heavily supported by the senior leadership team and the board. Many service opportunities are even handed to my team from the higher ups. It just goes to show that everyone cares about what we’re doing,” Frederick said. “They see our work as a cornerstone to who we are as an organization.”
When asked why most people don’t know about the work he and his team are doing in the community, Reid points to Bellingham’s nickname “The City of Subdued Excitement”.
“I think an organization often can take on the personality of the area they serve. Bellingham is considered the City of Subdued Excitement,” Frederick said. “We don’t often like talking about our accomplishments or making a big show out of things. It’s just not about that for us. The difference we’re making is having an impact and that is all we care about.”
Reid chuckles when asked if it feels weird to essentially be operating a nonprofit within the walls of a financial institution.
“It definitely is an odd thing, but I think it’s a beautiful thing. Credit unions are a great fit for me. I still get to be part of the business world, but the not-for-profit and cooperative structure of credit unions means the business operates in line with my personal values.” Frederick said.
Frederick says that as the credit union grows, so will his department, and so will the impact of their work on the community.
“I think you can see a lot of companies that lose their soul as they grow,” Frederick said. “but through the work we’re doing, I think you’ll find that WECU will always be about helping people and supporting the community.”