As we reflect on 2020, it is evident that many of our decisions and actions this year were driven by an unexpected diversion. The coronavirus pandemic forced us all to adjust our daily routines to better protect ourselves and others during these unprecedented times. Throughout that time, VyStar Credit Union never stopped working for our members. Before we conclude this year, join me as we look back on our major milestones and achievements.
VyStar did not hesitate to help our members and the community around us. We automatically deferred payments on all eligible consumer loans and offered forbearance options on mortgages, so that our members could focus on their health and loved ones rather than their immediate financial obligations. We provided similar assistance to local small business owners by partnering with the City of Jacksonville to create a relief program in Duval County and participating in the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). We originated 4,431 PPP loans, which was more than any other credit union in Florida, and helped save more than 20,000 local jobs.
Additionally, VyStar initiatives related to coronavirus relief resulted in more than $250,000 going toward local nonprofits such as Jacksonville Arts & Music School, United Way of Northeast Florida, JASMYN, Jacksonville Humane Society, Nemours Children's Specialty Care, Feeding Northeast Florida and many others.
Improving the digital experience for members continues to be a top focus for VyStar. This year, we partnered with Payveris to create a new and improved Online Account Opening platform and collaborated with Zest AI to generate faster, more precise loan decisions for our members. We also introduced the VyStar Car Buying Service, which provides an efficient online car-buying experience, as well as a texting tool that lets members communicate directly with VyStar representatives before they enter a branch. In addition to our digital services, we made substantial improvements to our commercial services offerings and launched a new insurance agency to bring members coverage options including home, auto, life insurance and more.
Expanding into new areas allows us to bring credit union services to more people. This year, we opened our flagship branch in downtown Jacksonville and grew in cities such as Gainesville, Orlando and Sanford. We also completed remodels in Macclenny and on Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax), which feature our digital-forward design concept. Additionally, we opened our 17th high school branch at Bradford High School, which allows us to continue to invest in our future community leaders.
We are equally excited to announce that we have once again expanded our field of membership to include six additional counties in Georgia: Brooks, Clinch, Echols, Lanier, Lowndes and Thomas. We also received approval to expand our military field of membership to now include all active duty, reservist and retired/veteran/annuitant military personnel and civil service employees, regardless of where in the world they live. We are excited to serve more military members who have so bravely served our country. Lastly, due to our new partnership with Brightway Insurance, we have been granted a field of membership for all Brightway employees and clients across the country. We are excited to grow in our partnership with another great Jacksonville company.
As a credit union that started onboard NAS Jax in 1952, we remain true to our roots. We were proud to participate as supporters and sponsors in various veterans initiatives, including the Salute to Veterans Run, Veterans Day Parade and K9s For Warriors Telethon. Thanks to ongoing partnerships and sponsorships, military members currently receive concession, ticket and parking discounts during events held at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena and free or discounted admission to the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Museum of Science & History and more. We also continue to sponsor Vets4Vets quarterly gatherings, the NAS Jax Air Show and Military Appreciation Luncheons across the region.
We believe in doing good, and that philosophy is the foundation of how we think and act. Some notable awards we’ve received this year include the Credit Union National Association’s Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Community Service Award for our community engagement and relief efforts during the pandemic, as well as the Corporate Business of the Year by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville for supporting local artists. We were also recognized as the Top Credit Union and Mortgage Lender by Bankrate, Best Mortgage Company by Bold City Best and Top Mortgage Lender in Northeast Florida by Jacksonville Business Journal. Additionally, we were thrilled to be featured on esteemed lists including Best-in-State Credit Unions by Forbes, Computerworld’s Best Places to Work in IT and Training Magazine’s Training Top 125.
Although this year was challenging, we were given the opportunity to grow and discover our true capabilities. We will forge ahead in 2021 knowing we made it through this year stronger together. And no matter what obstacles may come our way, we will continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of our employees, members and the communities we serve.
Brian E. Wolfburg,
VyStar Credit Union