Navigator Credit Union in Mississippi, an associate affiliate of the LSCU, held its 12th annual Christmas Coffee Break recently for Ingalls Shipbuilding, the credit union’s corporate sponsor. It’s a community project that not only shares the holiday spirit with others but promotes the credit union in a positive way. The scope of the project is impressive and can inspire other credit unions to take on similar projects to generate community goodwill and name recognition.

Held each year since 2005, the break requires employees to begin set up at 2 a.m. to be prepared to share hot coffee, bottled water, candy canes, and warm Christmas greetings to 8,000 shipyard workers in the early hours between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. The event began with only one gate and is now hosted at three shipyard gates, plus follow-up deliveries to 1,000 additional employees in support roles.

The idea for the event emerged following the 2005 devastation on the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina. After months of putting the pieces back together, life was still difficult for many.  It was at this low point that Navigator Credit Union decided to do something that would lift the spirits of the community and, in particular, the men and women of Ingalls Shipbuilding.

“Our first Christmas break was small and only included one gate,” said Navigator’s Chief Communications Officer, Kathy Scarbrough. “The event was received with such enthusiasm that we did it another year, then another.  It’s been more than a decade now and everyone looks forward to it.”

Each year, Navigator employees handing out the latest mug will spot mugs from previous years carried in by shipyard employees. “It’s so rewarding to see a gift that is enjoyed so much that it is used by the recipient every day,” said Scarbrough.

The temperature for this year’s event was 67 degrees, but that’s not typical. It’s usually in the 40s, and sometimes raining. According to Scarbrough, “Our record low is 19 degrees, and yet, we never have a shortage of volunteers! Being out in the elements reminds us of what our members do each and every day and creates a unique bond between us.”

In addition to the smiles and shared Christmas greetings, members thank Navigator employees for being there.

Scarbrough says, “You can’t imagine what it feels like to have someone say, ‘This is my favorite day of the whole year!’  Knowing that what we do — both in and away from the credit union — has the power to change someone’s day is enough to put anyone in the Christmas spirit.”