This post was written by the former Estonian Credit Union, now Northern Birch Credit Union.
On Monday, February 11th 2019, the Estonian Credit Union celebrated an important milestone; on that day 65 years ago, the branch doors opened for the first time, welcoming Estonians who had fled their home country and built homes in a new and strange city.
Arriving in Canada and having given up everything, immigrants were often unable to secure financial services from the mainstream banks. Like others before them, Estonians who brought their own financial expertise from Estonia, banded together to found a credit union which provided mutual support and financial services to members of their community. Some already had Canadian professional designations, such as the founder Artur Ekbaum, accountant. Others, regardless of their previous professions signed the incorporation documents as labourers, cleaners, and foresters.
On February 11th, 1954, the credit union opened its doors for the first time. Branch operations took place in St. Andrew’s church, spilling over into the kitchen on busy evenings. As the credit union could not afford a safe, money was stored in a leather briefcase, carried home by the treasurer Johannes Künnapuu. By the end of the first month of operations, the credit union had $5,329.30 in deposits and had given out $1,000 in loans.
Over the next few years, the immigrant community prospered and grew. In July of 1960 the Estonian Credit Union held its ribbon cutting ceremony in its new, modern location in the newly expanded Estonian House. The same place where years later we celebrate our 65th anniversary.
To kick-off our 65th celebrations, we invited members to join us on Monday, February 11th 2019 to browse through historical photos, magazines, advertisements, documents and more. Cake made by Tõnis Veltmann and kringel by Ülle Veltmann was served in the boardroom. Our guests enjoyed the sweet treats over a cup of coffee and good conversation with their friends and ECU staff. ECU also gave out 4 prizes of $65 to celebrate the event. The winners were Elizabeth Donaghey, Peter Loorits, Genevieve Perron and Ilme Lillevars.
To honour and celebrate our long-time members, those who helped build ECU and continue to support it, another beautiful cake was brought and served at Ehatare Retirement & Nursing Home. Einar Medri introduced the ECU team, Liisi Lainelo, Leiki Kopvillem and Hille Järve. Leiki spoke to the residents on behalf of ECU, and they proceeded to share their memories of the credit unions in the old days and of their first experiences in Canada.
We would like to thank everyone who celebrated this occasion with us. We have more planned for you to continue the celebrations throughout the year, so stay tuned!
Continue below to see more pictures from the event.
The Estonian Credit Union continues to support and serve it’s community. We offer full-service banking, and at no to low fees. We have a team of experts to help with anything you may need. Plus, when we make money, so do our members through patronage dividends and loan rebates. ECU contributes to the community through donations, sponsorship, scholarships and more. Being a member at ECU, means you are an owner of the credit union. Your money works in a virtuous circle and helps to support and sustain the community. Thank you to all of our loyal members.