Susan Ewanick, First West Credit Union

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Think Big, Act Local

It’s the early 80s.  A high school athlete packs groceries at the local Vandherhoof Co-op before accompanying members out to the parking lot with their bags. They’re her family, friends, and neighbours in the small town of about 2,000 people.  In addition to her part-time job, she is already an active volunteer, trading her hours of service for the privilege of playing on the high school basketball team.  

Susan Ewanick is being instilled with the value of serving her community, little knowing how instrumental that will be years later when she assumes the role of President of Valley First and Enderby & District Financial.  Both are divisions of First West Credit Union - a financial cooperative based in the Okanagan.  

Not surprisingly, Susan feels a strong alignment with its member-owned cooperative approach where financial decisions are made with local market knowledge, and there is an emphasis on investing in the community. “We live here with our families, we work here, we want to be part of the community, so I see it as a responsibility to represent our members with our community giving,” says Susan. 

BrainTrust Canada is pleased to be a local organization in which First West chose to invest. The funds received have supported the development of an array of educational materials on brain injury, helping to bring greater awareness and funding to an often overlooked cause.

Susan is personally acquainted with the issue of brain injury through family friends whose eldest son survived an avalanche, but was left with a brain injury and the challenges that it brings.  She also describes the experience of an employee who fell off his bike while cycling, and even though he was wearing a helmet, still suffered a concussion. “There’s a lot of people that it touches,” she comments quietly. 

Still an athlete, Susan is the proud owner of at least four helmets - one each for cycling, hockey, skiing, and skateboarding.  She admits that she didn’t always ski with a helmet, but says that now it’s “just part of the education, and knowing that it only takes one bad fall or one accident.” 

Susan and the team at Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union, have a mission to help members and communities thrive; BrainTrust’s mission is also about providing local support and helping our community thrive by reducing preventable brain injury.  Sounds like a perfect match.