What started out as a grassroots effort by a handful of Trinity employees 50 years ago has grown into an influential cooperative financial institution that operates in five counties and is owned by more than 2,500 members.
"Celebrating the 50-year milestone, you have an 'awe' moment," said Janice Katin, president of Affinity First Federal Credit Union. "This business was started with just a small idea but it has grown into an important part of the lives of the people that came after those first seven people."
Affinity First Federal Credit Union, then known as Triniservice Federal Credit Union, was organized and chartered by seven Trinity Hospital employees in April 1959 with the purpose of promoting thrift among its members. Sponsored by Trinity Health, membership is reserved for employees past and present, trustees, and individuals of related businesses.
For several years Triniservice was run by volunteers out of a small office on the fifth floor of the hospital and offered services such as savings, life insurance and low-cost loans. By the 1970s, the credit union had a full-time staff, a credit committee and board of directors, which enabled them to expand services to include travelers checks and several business-related upgrades. By 1979, Affinity reached $1 million in assets.
In the 1990s, Triniservice relocated to a now non-existent building on the corner of Burdick Expressway and Broadway that was once a filling station. As the credit union continued to grow in both membership and services, it relocated again in 2003 to their present location at 811 S. Broadway, which was formerly Harry's Tire Center. Along with the move, the union also changed its name from Triniservice to Affinity First, in an effort to freshen its image and incorporate its message of service, Katin said.
Although the company has seen steady growth since its inception, the last two decades have seen an explosion of activity.
"It's been remarkable. When I started here 16 years ago we had $3 million in assets," Katin said. "I think it's the combination and type of services that we provide to members that make them feel welcome and make them feel that we care about them as people, not just about their business."
Today, Affinity has 12 employees and is a full-service financial institution that offers savings bonds, IRAs, life and disability insurance, mortgage, construction and auto loans to its 2,500 members with its $30 million in assets. Other services include a notary public, safe deposit boxes, wire transfers, travel and gift cards, intercontinental warranties and several electronic services.
While they have seen expansive growth in both membership and services in recent years, Affinity is still considered a small credit union a fact they like.
"Being small you are more able to keep those connections, and having captured and captivated that has made us different and unique," Katin said. "We can't be everything to everyone and we do have limitations, but it's because of our size, not our services."
Affinity celebrated that community connection on April 23 the exact day the credit union was created with an open house and lunch for employees and members, but will celebrate the 50th anniversary again on June 26 at its annual meeting, which will feature a golf tournament at Wildwood Golf Course.
Even in the current economy, the credit union continues to thrive.
"North Dakotans have also been (financially) conservative but it seems like people are being more cautious and are putting more thought into life purchases," said Katin. "People aren't counting on their outside 401(k)s as much so we've seen a big increase in IRAs recently. In today's economy, it's nice to know that credit unions are around as an alternative" to traditional banks.