Celebrating 85 Years of Service

by Thayne Shaffer, President & CEO, America First Credit Union

On March 16, 1939, 59 people met without fanfare at the Hotel Newhouse in Salt Lake City to form a small financial cooperative. The members of that group believed they would be stronger together, and that by pooling their resources they could create opportunities that would be unavailable to them individually. More than that, they believed in the worth of their dreams, and in each other.

That unassuming gathering was the charter meeting of the Fort Douglas Civilian Employees Credit Union—or, as it has been knowns since 1984, America First Credit Union—and those 59 dreamers were our founding members.

Their new organization couldn’t have begun much more humbly—$788 in shared assets that were overseen by a volunteer treasurer who was only available on Friday afternoons from 3:30 to 4:00. I sometimes wonder what they would say if they could see what their simple act of shared belief has become.

As of this writing, we are now 1,363,881 members and growing. We serve communities in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah—with robust digital services that give our members 24/7 access from virtually anywhere in the world—and our assets total $19.26 billion.

Those numbers are almost incredible by comparison, and I’m sure our founding members would be beyond shocked by the how many and how much of the credit union they created. But I’m also sure they’d instantly recognize our why—because that has never changed.

On March 16, 2024, we celebrate our 85th anniversary, and throughout those eight and a half decades, our why has always been our members. We exist solely to benefit their financial well-being and to help them have access to the products and services they need to manage and utilize their money, support their families, and grow their businesses. For 85 years, we have been people helping people. That’s the principle upon which we were built, it’s the principle that in turn has helped us to strengthen and support communities, and it’s the legacy we proudly carry forward.

Building on such a strong foundation and heritage has allowed us to vastly expand our offerings, and to establish ourselves as a valuable community partner, leader, and resource, and one of the largest and most successful credit unions in the country. Still, as proud as we are of how far we’ve come and how much we’ve accomplished, we know that people and businesses have increasingly varied options for financial services, which is why we will never stop striving to improve and never stop seeking the best ways to serve each of our members and help meet their unique needs. We are profoundly grateful for the trust our members place in us, and honored that they choose us to help them pursue their goals.

85 years ago, a small group of coworkers, friends, and neighbors placed that same trust in each other as they envisioned what they could accomplish together—for themselves and for anyone else who dreamed of greater financial opportunities and freedom. Today, we are committed to not only continuing to realize that vision, but to building and expanding upon it in ways our founders never could have imagined. We owe them, and every member who has and will come after them, nothing less.