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Credit Unions Contribute to Their Communities

Ascend Federal Credit Union, the largest credit union in Middle Tennessee, has donated $66,217 to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, which includes $16,217 in contributions from its members. The donation will provide 264,868 meals to Middle Tennesseans in need.

Ascend donates to second harvest
Left: David Feldhaus – Vice President of Internal Audit
Right: Tracy Moore – Vice President of Retail Delivery

To maximize its contribution this year, Ascend encouraged members to donate to Second Harvest via an online portal provided by the credit union with the incentive that Ascend would match member donations dollar-for-dollar. The credit union not only matched members’ contributions but doubled its annual offering this year to $50,000.

Also, throughout the month of November, Ascend employees collected 7,271 food items to help individuals and families have access to food during this holiday season.

“While so many are struggling to put food on the table, Ascend’s members and employees went above and beyond to offer a helping hand to their Middle Tennessee neighbors,” said Caren Gabriel, Ascend president and CEO. “It’s a blessing to be able to substantially increase our December charitable donation and provide meals for those in need.”

Left to right: Erin Spence, Matt Jernigan, Caren Gabriel, Courtney Blaise, Leslie Copeland, Leah Bowen.
Left to right: Erin Spence, Matt Jernigan, Caren Gabriel, Courtney Blaise, Leslie Copeland, Leah Bowen.

In its December Household Pulse Survey update, the U.S. Census Bureau found that Tennessee’s food scarcity is at 14.1%, which means that more than 970,000 Tennessee adults reported either sometimes or frequently not having enough to eat within the last week. Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee’s mission is to feed hungry people and work to solve hunger issues in 46 Middle Tennessee counties.

“Dealing with the pandemic during the holidays has put an additional strain on many families during what is already a difficult time of year,” said Nancy Keil, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. “The demand for our services has increased by 50% and partners like Ascend Federal Credit Union have stepped up in a big way by raising much-needed funds through their own creative ways. This donation will provide hope to so many families this holiday season.”

In December Ascend announced a donation of $50,000 to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. The donation continues Ascend’s longstanding support for the hospital and its mission of improving the healthcare of children and communities regionally, nationally, and internationally.

“On behalf of the patients and staff at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, we are so thankful to our longtime friends, Ascend Federal Credit Union, for their continued support of our hospital and its programs,” said Meg Rush, MD, MMHC, president of Children’s Hospital. “During this time of unknowns, it is so gratifying to know that the commitment from our community partners like Ascend remains steadfast. This ongoing support will continue to make a difference for patients and teams for years to come.”
“Ascend is committed to supporting organizations that are making a difference in the lives of people in our community and the state of Tennessee,” said Caren Gabriel, Ascend president and CEO. “Because of the work being done by the hospital, children receive the care they need regardless of their families’ ability to pay. We are honored to help fund their team’s pioneering research into finding innovative ways to cure and prevent disease.”

Ascend’s donation is part of a longstanding relationship the credit union has had with Children’s Hospital. Over several years, Ascend donated $100,000 toward the construction of the Pediatric Heart Institute, a 38-bed, 40,000-square-foot space on the 10th floor of the hospital. A room on the 10th floor was named for Ascend in honor of its commitment to the health of children in Middle Tennessee and beyond.
Ascend employees have raised funds for the hospital by participating in the credit union’s annual Miracle Jeans Day and Miracle Treat Day. Ascend also has been a presenting sponsor of 107.5 FM The River’s “ River of Hope Radiothon” for 10 years, and Gabriel has served on the Children’s Hospital Advisory Board since 2018. Ascend has donated more than $258,000 to the children’s hospital since 1998.


Leaders Education Foundation, a non-profit 501C-3 formed by Leaders Credit Union, is pleased to award ten West Tennessee educators with the L.E.A.D.S. Educator Grant. This program awards ten $1,000 grants to area educators whose initiatives empower students to Learn, Experience, Advocate, Dream, and Serve.

“The L.E.A.D.S. Educator Grant embodies who we are as an organization because we are here to serve, advocate and educate our members and allow them to dream of a new future,” said Leigh Anne Bentley, President of Leaders Education Foundation. “Especially in 2020, we are proud to support educators as they navigate through an uncertain school year.”

Leaders Education Foundation awarded $10,000 to area educators with the L.E.A.D.S. Educator Grant program. Ten $1,000 grants were awarded to support initiatives that help students learn, experience, advocate, dream, and serve.

Grant proposals range from funds for agriculture livestock pasture, a virtual field trip, band program equipment, to funding for a school broadcasting drone. Grant submissions included a short video explaining the need and use of the grant money. Twelve proposals were submitted, and the top ten winners were chosen by the community via social media voting. Winners include:

  • Kyle Gehring, Bradford High SchoolGrant Project: Bradford Agriculture Livestock Pasture
  • David Sinclair, South Side High School
    • Grant Project: Band iPad
  • Sarah Hubbard, Elmore Park Middle School
    • Grant Project: Podcast Recording Equipment
  • Callie Dollar, Community Montessori School
    • Grant Project: Virtual Field Trip to Jamestown, Virginia
  • Angela Searcy, Jackson Madison County Schools
    • Grant Project: Student Study Spots
  • Matthew Barker, Freed Hardeman University
    • Grant Project: Class Fundraiser Campaign
  • Todd Lewis, Chester County Schools
    • Grant Project: Eagle Vision Network Drone Project
  • Linda Lane, Madison Academic High School
    • Grant Project: Madison’s Academic Decathlon
  • Brittany Fowler, West Carroll Elementary School
    • Grant Project: Robots in the Classroom
  • Nathan Lewis, JCM Early College High School
    • Grant Project: Books for Scholars

“We’ve been amazed by each grant submission we received,” Bentley said. “Success is in the power of people helping people, and we plan to continue to lead the way.”

The staff of Leaders Credit Union and with bags of cans from the food drive.

Leaders Credit Union, a member-owned financial cooperative based in Jackson, Tenn., donated over 1,500 pounds of canned food from a member-wide “From Leaders with Love” canned food drive Thursday, Nov. 17. The food drive launched mid-November in every Leaders branch with a Thanksgiving video of employees showcasing what they are thankful for this season.

The canned food drive donations were delivered to food pantries in each of Leaders respective locations: RIFA in Jackson, Milan Mustard Seed in Milan, Chimes for Charity in Union City, and Mid-South Food Bank in Bartlett.

“How proud and grateful I am of our staff and members, especially in this unprecedented season,” President and CEO Todd Swims said. “Their generosity and giving spirit allows us to bless our communities with food during a very trying and difficult year for many.”

Each holiday season for the past four years, Leaders has carried out multiple community projects in every market as part of their “From Leaders with Love” campaign. This year, Leaders chose to stock food banks as their organization-wide initiative. “At the close of a tough year, we felt compelled to give to organizations who are providing a basic need for families.”

View the Thanksgiving video at To donate to your local food bank, visit the websites for RIFA, Milan Mustard Seed, Chimes for Charity or Mid-South Food Bank.

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