Great Lakes Credit Union CEO, staff spent holiday reading books to grade-school children

Having a dream and working together to achieve those dreams was the key take-away for Great Lakes Credit Union president and CEO Steve Bugg in a special virtual book-reading event focusing on Martin Luther King Jr.

Sixteen volunteers from Great Lakes Credit Union, including Bugg, read virtually via Zoom Jan. 18 to about 350 third- through fifth-graders from West Elementary School in Zion.

The event was part of the credit union's diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, and it was done in partnership with United Way of Lake County. Additionally, the credit union donated nearly 400 books about Dr. King to the school.

Bugg said the books he read to third-graders in his half-hour morning and afternoon increments focused on Dr. King's famed 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C.

"It featured background on the development of the speech and the value of people working together,"" Bugg said. "I think the children I read to understand the importance of Martin Luther King and working together. The third-graders focused on the dream wording and what it meant to them."

Jasmine Taylor-Newton, assistant manager for the credit union's Gurnee branch, said she participated in the event due to pure inspiration.

"I was inspired to be a reader for MLK Day because I believe in King's dream, and as an African-American woman, participating in an event like this acts as a reminder of how far we have all come as a people," she said. "I saw it as very important to share King's dream and legacy with the children of our future."

The challenge, of course, was the logistics and technology that facilitated the event. It would have been better to have hosted the event in person, Bugg said, as the credit union has done in the past at other schools in Lake County, but COVID-19 precluded that.

He said the reading was a little harder to do because the students were muted and could only respond with their questions via Zoom's Chat function. As a reader, Bugg had to be mindful of the book itself while also watching the children and making sure they are paying attention. If their eyes wandered, then it was time to ask a question about what they had learned thus far.

"I would read back those comments and discuss what those students said," Bugg said. "The questions were really engaging, and depending on the age of the student, the more in depth the questions were."

United Way of Lake County manager of community engagement Bobbi Selvik said the event was an unqualified success.

"United Way of Lake County's focus on providing early education programs and building literacy skills helps ensure that all children in Lake County have an equal opportunity to thrive," Selvik said. "We are thankful for GLCU's partnership as we continue to make an impact on the lives of so many children in our community."

Beatriz Hernandez, a GLCU branch manager, said that the children inspired her, but so did her employer.

"GLCU is always volunteering for all different types of events," she said. "Whether it is collecting Toys for Tots, food banks, school supplies donations and volunteering to read to kids for MLK Day, it's always genuine," she said. "I have worked for different financial institutions and I never witnessed any involvement with the community. The employees at GLCU are always happy and willing volunteer."

Great Lakes Credit Union president and CEO Steve Bugg reads to schoolchildren via Zoom on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Credit Union
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