Redwood CU Celebrates 70 Years of Service

Redwood CU staff
Redwood CU began 70 years ago and now employs 700 people across eight counties.

On Jan. 19, 1950, Sonoma County Employees CU was born—thanks to the work of seven county employees who wanted to provide an affordable means to make bridge loans to fellow employees between paychecks. It operated from the Sonoma County Auditor’s Office in Court House Square in Santa Rosa.

Today, that credit union—which in 1982 merged with Santa Rosa Public Employees Credit Union and was renamed as Redwood CU—is celebrating its 70th anniversary. It has grown to offer full service personal and business banking, as well as financial services beyond banking such as financial planning, insurance, and even an auto sales center. In addition, it provides a multitude of financial education programs for both youth and adults in the communities it serves. And, when tragic and devastating fires have hit the region, it has demonstrated the “People Helping People” philosophy and aided those affected.

Throughout its 70-year history, Redwood CU has experienced several milestones. In 1997, it expanded its field of membership to serve anyone living or working in the five North Bay counties of Sonoma, Marin, Mendocino, Lake, and Napa. In 2000, the credit union not only celebrated its 50th anniversary, but also received approval to serve residents and businesses in the three additional counties of San Francisco, Solano, and Contra Costa. In 2004, it reached $1 billion in assets.

Redwood CU's first branch on Administration Drive opened in 1967.

By 2001, membership had reached 100,000. It would hit the 185,000 membership mark by 2010—when Redwood CU celebrated its 60th anniversary.  Just 10 years later, the 200,000th member joined and a year after that (2012), Redwood reached $2 billion in assets.

The credit union now has 19 locations throughout the North Bay and San Francisco, is the 43rd largest credit union in the U.S., and the 8th largest in California. It has been named one of the top five healthiest credit unions in the nation for six consecutive years by Glatt Consulting, an independent firm that measures credit union health against 17 metrics of strength and growth.

A billboard near the credit union commemorates its 70th anniversary.

“Though we’ve grown and added many services and locations over the past 70 years, helping people has always been at the heart of what we do,” said Brett Martinez, RCU President & CEO. “We’re thankful for our 353,000 members, and through their loyalty and participation—as well as the dedication of our 700 employees—we have a solid foundation to continue providing affordable financial services and support to our communities for many more decades to come.”

When wildfires hit the area in 2017, Redwood CU’s Community Fund created the North Bay Fire Relief Fund—in partnership with Sen. Mike McGuire and The Press Democrat. The Fund collected and distributed more than $32 million to support immediate needs of fire survivors. Redwood paid all the administrative costs so that 100 percent of donations could go to those in need. CEO Brett Martinez received the Anchor Award in 2018 from the National Credit Union Foundation for his exemplary leadership during the 2017 wildfires relief efforts.

When power outages as well as the Kincade Fire hit in October 2019, Redwood once again jumped in to help. Among other things, it opened its main offices as an evacuation shelter for employees, their families and pets, by providing them with showers, toiletries, sleeping bags, pillows, sleeping mats, and meals (prepared by the CEO and executive team). The credit union maintained services at all ATMs and all branches except two (which were in mandatory evacuation zones). It provided financial assistance programs to support members impacted by the fire and evacuations. And it provided support to the community, including providing a free barbeque for local fire and police departments and volunteering at the local assistance center.

The credit union is celebrating its anniversary by providing fun commemorate cookies in the branches. It also put up a billboard and is running social media posts with fun facts about Redwood CU as well as holding a contest, giving $70 away to seven people.

For more on Redwood CU’s history, watch this video.

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