Although they offer many of the same services, credit unions operate in a fundamentally different way than banks, one based on the philosophy of “people helping people”. Credit unions were typically founded by friends, like neighbors, workers and people who worship together. Today we’re featuring a credit union founded by eight toolmakers who worked in America’s first Defense Airport.
The South Jersey town of Millville is rich in history, most famously known as the home of the Millville Municipal Airport, the first training ground in the country for pilots during World War II. Thunderbolt Area Federal Credit Union, located at the airport entrance, is a part of that history and holds quite a story of its own.
Its president, Bob Millard, is the son of the credit union’s founder, Asher K. Millard. Asher worked for Airwork Corporation, the engine overhaul shop located in Millville, as a toolmaker. He and seven other Airwork employees began Airwork Employees Federal Credit Union – later to become Thunderbolt Area Federal Credit Union – by pooling together their money, $5 each at the time. Until then, Asher had kept his money in a safe at home, lending to friends in need when he could. Laying the foundation for the credit union came as a natural next step for him.
The credit union gained its federal charter on May 1, 1951 and was located on the premises of its original sponsor company, Airwork Corp. Asher, however, couldn’t take off work from his position as a toolmaker to operate the credit union. So, his wife, Helen K. Millard, worked there part-time, for no pay, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Their son, current Thunderbolt Area Federal Credit Union president Bob Millard, at the ripe age of 8, began helping his parents with calculations. “Effectively I have been involved in some way for nearly 65 years,” says Millard. He was then elected to the board of directors in 1968 and eventually took over as president when his father retired in 1985.
When asked why he began working at the credit union, and continued for as long as he has, Millard says it’s the philosophy of “people helping people” that brought him there and kept him there. “I liked the concept,” he explains, “To help an individual, someone who just walks in, needs help, that’s where it counts.”
Where does the name Thunderbolt Area come from? It was also taken from the pages of the history of Millville. The Thunderbolt P-47 was a plane flown in World War II, and pilots of these planes were trained at the nation’s first Army airfield: Millville Municipal Airport. “Area” comes from the credit union’s change in charter to serve the surrounding area.
Through the years, Thunderbolt Area FCU has stayed true to its roots—its community and its humble beginnings—due to its founding family.
At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on Thunderbolt Area FCU, including how to join, visit www.tbafcu.com or find a credit union near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com.