Panhandle Educators FCU helps families, invests in the future

Erica Howard

Panhandle Educators Federal Credit Union operates with one main philosophy: “people helping people.”

The credit union has supported to Florida State University Panama City for the past 15 years through the annual dinner, golf tournament sponsorships, Notable ’Noles receptions and an endowed scholarship. A donation in February 2015 moved the credit union into FSU Panama City’s Loyalty Circle, which recognizes donors with a giving history of $50,000 to $99,999. The credit union previously was in the Cornerstone Circle for donors in the $25,000 to $49,999 range.

“As we have grown, we have been able to increase our contributions to our community, which goes back to the roots of the credit union and its philosophy of ‘people helping people’,” said Greg Frith, Panhandle Educators FCU President/CEO. “We are pleased to strengthen our commitment to FSU Panama City and become part of the Loyalty Circle.”

The recent $7,500 donation added funds to the Panhandle Educators Federal Credit Union Endowed Scholarship, established in 2006. The scholarship, which supports undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in any academic degree program at FSU Panama City, is awarded each fall for both fall and spring semesters. Applicants must be members or dependents of a member of Panhandle Educators Federal Credit Union and must possess and maintain a 3.0 GPA to receive the award.

Current scholarship recipient Jonathan Andrews, a civil engineering major, said he will graduate debt-free in May because of the credit union’s generosity. Coming from a working family, he depended on Bright Futures and other financial aid in order to afford a higher education.

“Without this, my dreams wouldn’t be possible,” he said.

Since the scholarship was established, it has been awarded to nine students, which equates to nine families affected, FSU Panama City Associate Dean Gary Bliss noted.

“Nine families have benefited from a scholarship so someone can go to school and better themselves to be a more productive citizen in the community,” he said. “The whole community benefits.”

Scholarships help students and their families avoid student loan debt, which is a shackle on the U.S. economy, Bliss said. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, student loan debt tops $1 trillion in America, with an average balance of $24,301.

“FSU Panama City prepares students for a better life, and a big part of that is having a better financial life,” Frith said. “We strive to help our members in having a better financial life by assisting them with their financial goals throughout all the milestones of their lives.”

“Panhandle Educators Federal Credit Union for years has known the importance of supporting our educational institutions, and this is our way of giving back,” said Herman Daniels, the credit union’s chairman of the board. “We realize what an important part of our community Florida State University Panama City is, and we’re glad to be a part of this.”

Andrews encourages more student scholarships, noting the number of people who do not have the financial means to achieve their dream of attending college.

“Education is one of the most important things you can invest in,” he said. “It’s the future.”