A Cooperative Community

An interview with David Libby, President & CEO, Town & Country Federal Credit Union

(Left to right: David Libby, Linda Halleran)

(Left to right: David Libby, President & CEO, Linda Halleran, PR & Communications Manager)


MCF: Hi David, thanks for talking with us today.

DAVID: Glad to be here.

MCF: Town & Country had the biggest team at the Twilight 5K this year, brought many volunteers and contributed $10,000 as the presenting sponsor. Why? What made you want to get involved?

DAVID: Town & Country has been involved in the Twilight 5K for several years now, but this year we had 49 people on the Town & Country team, the biggest ever.  They are passionate, creative and as many saw, very enthusiastic. That desire to help happens because they see members and other staff dealing with cancer, and it impacts them greatly.  We had an information night to tell the staff about the Twilight 5K, and we had a chance to ask, “Is there anybody here who has never been touched by cancer?” Nobody raised their hand. 

MCF: How did you learn about Maine Cancer Foundation?

DAVID: I think it all goes back a few years ago to when we opened our Forest Avenue branch and started the Better Neighbor Fund. We were looking to connect with local charities that we could support, and at the same time, we had an employee who was dealing with a cancer diagnosis. So through our desire to support him, we discovered the Maine Cancer Foundation and the great work that it does.

MCF: Reaching the local community was important?

DAVID: Community is part of our fabric, it’s in our DNA. We are a not-for-profit financial cooperative, a group of people living and working in the community with the common goal of providing financial freedom for others.  Every member is an equal owner of the cooperative. I think at the core, the cooperative ideal is one where people take care of each other. We have thirty-four thousand members and we see it all: their hopes and their dreams and their challenges, so when we see the impact of cancer on our members, we say “Hey! Where can we step in and help?” As equal member-owners, we are the community and the community is us.

MCF: How do you see cancer issues impacting your members?

DAVID: The number one cause of personal bankruptcy is the financial impact of illness and medical expenses on a family, and cancer plays such a huge role in that.

MCF: In Maine, we have about 8,000 new cases each year, or to put it another way, it’s like the entire town of Freeport getting a cancer diagnosis, every year.

"Look, you can't deny what's happening here,"

DAVID: I was thinking about that number, 8,000. If you add in the family members and friends of that person, it could be ten times that number. That’s an enormous impact on a state like Maine.

MCF: Is it simply the cost of medical services? Are there other factors?

DAVID: If you think about what happens when someone has a serious illness – and then think about the time they lose from work, it’s daunting how much that impacts their family and even their employer. People might have 40-50 years of working life, which sounds like a lot, but it’s not. If you have a serious illness that takes you out of work for a few years, and then add in the 10-15 more to recover financially – it gets pretty tough.

MCF: That added financial stress, on top of dealing with cancer, is incredible.

DAVID: It is, but one of the things we can do, something that people don’t immediately think of in a medical crisis, is help people restructure their debt and give folks time to help get through their challenge.  I remember two of our members, they were an older couple and the wife received a very serious cancer diagnosis. They had been married for 40 plus years, living in same home, and the wife was the only one earning a paycheck. He had terrible time with denial, he didn’t want to acknowledge that they needed a plan for the house after his wife was gone.  He did not want to face it, but she told him “Look, you can’t deny what’s happening here,” and got him to come in and talk about their financial situation.  We were able to restructure things and make sure he would be able to keep living there for the rest of his life.  There's a piece of mind in that for him and for her.  He comes in often to thank us and show us photos of his wife.

MCF: That’s pretty powerful.

DAVID: For me personally, it feels great to live in the community I'm connected to, and to understand the needs of the community.

MCF: You also joined the Maine Cancer Foundation as a board member?

DAVID: Yes, when I looked at Maine Cancer Foundation, what it does and how it’s organized, I was blown away. I love how well the fundraising events like the Twilight 5K are organized, how excited the participants and volunteers are, but even more importantly, how MCF pushes itself to keep questioning, to do something different, to keep working to integrate better.  That kind of drive makes me more fascinated and fuels my desire to be involved.

MCF: What aspect of the Foundation’s work do you enjoy the most?

DAVID: I like the local aspect, that MCF is focused on Maine people. We are focused on Maine people too. We fit for many other reasons but that one is really important. I also like the Challenge Cancer 2020 effort – that it focuses on the resources we already have in place that can really impact cancer rates. We just need to be organized. Everyone is trying hard, but as a community we need to talk through it and discover how to use what we already have most effectively.

MCF: You see a lot of possibility for improvement to Maine’s cancer rates?

DAVID: It’s all there, right in front of us – I think it only seems daunting. When you look at how cheaply we can provide early detection services that can minimize the impact emotionally and financially, there is so much we can do. Prevention around health and prevention around financial problems are pretty similar, it’s all about awareness, making changes in behavior, and having open conversations. If people are unaware or fearful they wait and wait and wait, and they only come in when it’s already at the crisis point.

MCF: Are you hopeful for the future?

DAVID: For me, it’s more than just hope. The role of a CEO is to inspire, to be visionary, but also to do things, to remove barriers, to move forward. At the credit union, when we commit to doing something – we make things happen!

Monday, June 20, 2016