Carmelinda “Melin” Menas believes so strongly in the credit union mission of service, that after moving to Western Massachusetts from Maine, she took a job at a bank and only lasted a couple of weeks before returning to the credit union fold.

She was a teller when she started at Freedom Credit Union in Springfield in 2004. Today she manages the main branch and volunteers in local schools teaching students about financial literacy.

“In my humble opinion, Melin exemplifies the true meaning of the credit union philosophy of ‘people helping people.’ Melin has been an employee of the credit union for 14 years,” Ed Nuñez, assistant vice president of commercial lending at Freedom, wrote in his nomination of Menas for a Credit Union Hero Award. “Melin also works closely with students, serving as a mentor as well as teaching them the skills that are necessary to succeed in the workforce.”

After mentoring students for several years, Menas and Freedom Credit Union opened a branch inside the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Academy. She teaches the students how to operate the bank and how to budget and manage their money.

“We’ll come in and if they only have a quarter to deposit, we’ll take it,” Menas said. “They get excited when they see that their money is growing. I’m a firm believer that the younger they learn financial literacy, the better off they’ll be when they get older.”

In addition to her work with the students at the academy, she also serves on the PTO for Warner Elementary School, has worked with the Springfield Public Schools’ mentoring program for the last eight years, has been a volunteer for the last six years with Junior Achievement, was chosen by the Springfield superintendent’s office to serve on an advisory board for Springfield Public Schools, and previously served on the Boys Ink board of directors, providing services to at-risk boys in the Greater Springfield area.

Menas said she loves mentoring students and offering career advice, but she doesn’t try to steer them in any particular direction. Instead, she tells them what she knows and points them toward resources that will help them reach the goals they set out for themselves. Still, she admits that when a student tells her they are thinking about entering the banking field, she recommends they consider working at a credit union.

“Absolutely,” Menas said. “That’s my passion.”

Carmelinda Menas

by Jim Morrison time to read: 2 min