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Making an Impact in Our Communities

Getting to Know U: Jennifer CastanedaLeft to right: Brandi Ward, Branch Manager, Sparks, NV and Christine Birner, Community Impact Manager, St. Joseph, MI

At its core, United Federal Credit Union is a people-focused cooperative with values that center on lifting other up by stepping up when needed. Beyond the financial aspect of the business, United strives to make a positive impact on our communities every day. In each state and region, our employees are passionate about creating strong communities and supporting programs related to making a difference in the neighborhoods we call home.

As a team, we contribute to charities and non-profit organizations in Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio with dollars and volunteer hours.

For Christine Birner and Brandi Ward, community impact shapes their every day at United. Birner is the Community Impact Manager for United. She has worked at the credit union for nearly nine years and fulfills its philosophy of people helping people. Ward has been with United since 2018 and is a Branch Manager in Sparks, Nevada. She is passionate about giving back to her community and inspiring her staff to do the same. Ward was even recently was named to the Reno Tahoe Young Professionals Network’s ‘Twenty Under 40’ list where she was recognized for her impact on her local community.

Getting to Know U

Brandi Ward, Branch Manager, Sparks, NV and
Christine Birner, Community Impact Manager, St. Joseph, MI

Why is it important for United to be involved in its communities?

CB: John Donne said, “no man is an island” and he is correct. Everyone must rely on others in order to thrive.

As a credit union, we have a fiduciary duty to our Member and must act in the best interest of the cooperative. At United, we believe this goes far beyond just being be good stewards of money. Our community impact program is our opportunity to engage the world around us in a positive way, to help our friends and neighbors and local businesses, and to make the places we live and work better. As a result, when one person wins, the whole community benefits.

Community engagement also builds brand awareness, fosters Member loyalty, and enhances recruitment efforts for the organization thus making the credit union stronger and better placed to continue the giving cycle for years to come.


BW: I think it’s important for us as individuals to be involved in the communities where we live because it’s a way for everyone to be able to help others. We all have strengths and talents and being involved in the community is a way to share those with people that can benefit and learn from them.

How many community partners does United have, and how are they selected?

CB: United has hundreds of community partners throughout our marketplaces. Although each one is unique, they all share common ground with United…a commitment to improving the quality of life of the people within their community.

What motivated you to become involved with Girls on the Run?

BW: I learned about Girls on The Run when United hosted a Shoe Drive for them when I first started at the credit union. I got to meet Joy Heuer, the Executive Director of Girls on the Run Sierras and she talked through the program with me and what it offers to our youth.

Girls on the Run’s mission is to “Inspire all girls to build self-confidence and make intentional decisions, while fostering care and compassion for self and others Trained Coaches use physical activity and dynamic discussions to build social, emotional and physical skills in every girl while encouraging healthy habits for life”. I knew I wanted to get involved with this program and help carry out this important mission to our youth. School can be hard and I wanted to help make a difference.

What makes United’s approach to community impact so special?

CB: At United, we take a holistic approach to community engagement. We build relationships. We Listen. We learn. And together with our partners, we craft solutions that serve the needs of our changing communities.

We take transactional donations or sponsorships and turn them into transformational giving that has a sustained and profound impact.

At the end of the day, United is in the people business. Finance is our medium and we use it to build stronger families, stronger partners, and stronger communities. This holistic approach allows us to marry our mission with our values.

What is the most rewarding part of being a coach with Girls on the Run?

BW: The most rewarding part of being a coach to me is to watch my team cross the finish line at the final 5K. The girls have worked so hard at making new friends, forming friendships, talking through tough topics and working together to achieve a community project at the end of the season. The 5K is their payoff for their hard work and they are so excited to cross the finish line and get their medal. I am teary eyed every season while I hand out the medals to theses incredible girls!

How do you encourage Team United at your branch in Reno to give back to the community?

BW: I am always encouraging my team and my peers to volunteer with me for my Girls on the Run events and many other events in our community. United provides us with paid volunteer time off which is amazing and we get to use it as we choose.

Some of my favorite things we have done to give back include making Valentine’s Day cards for our senior citizens in the Reno community, teaching Financial Literacy to our high school kids, and helping with mock interviews and resume building to help local youth get ready for their first interviews.

Giving back to our community is one of my Favorite parts of my job and I am so happy United supports that for all of its employees.

What is your favorite part about working at United?

BW: There are so many great things about working for United, but my favorite part is the support and encouragement around community involvement. I love working for a company that sets a great example for its employees who also want to give back to their communities.

CB: Connection. Connection with my colleagues. Connection with our Members. Connection with the communities we serve. Seeking out different perspectives and collaborating across boundaries opens up a world of opportunities.

Through connection, we can make possible what one cannot do alone. Seeing these connections build opportunities which transform the lives of people is what it’s all about for me. I say it every day, I have the best job at the credit union!

Interested in joining Team United? Check out our Careers page