AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– There’s just no way to sum up working fifty years in the financial industry! But if you’re Yvonne Meeks, you can bet it’s filled with stories of helping people. A lot of laughs, too. Like back in the day when banks had their tellers dress alike, and pants weren’t so common for women.

“We had uniforms supplemented by the bank- unless you wanted the slacks that were part of the uniform. Then you paid a whopping $5 for the slacks!”

Maternity leave has changed a lot, too.

“I accrued the maximum sick leave, but I didn’t get a penny when I was out having my baby. It wasn’t considered a real illness!! Then the laws changed and I was paid when I had baby number two! Of course, pregnant me was the one at the officers meeting who had to tell them about it!!”

Yvonne Meeks had open heart surgery at age six, and she says the United Way helped with all the medical bills. Her family lived in the Atlanta area at the time. She remembers her father telling her she would always need to give back and do for others to repay that kindness.

WJBF’s Jennie Montgomery and Yvonne Meeks became friends in 1999, when they were members of Leadership Augusta‘s Class of ’00.

Yvonne is a dear friend of mine, and to this day, she’s very involved with the United Way. She’s a very visible person of the CSRA as the Community Development Representative for SRP Federal Credit Union.

And if you’re looking at that picture and wondering, “How do I know that lady?” … well, you may have seen her in the choir at Abilene Baptist Church, or in their annual singing Christmas tree performances, or at United Way events, or Leadership Augusta events, Augusta Chamber, Columbia County Chamber. The list goes on and on and on.

Meeks moved to Augusta with her first husband, who was a medical student. They had three children, but the marriage didn’t last.

“I was a single mom for five years. And they called it the girls’ dorm. They look at it as one of their happiest times. And I was just really thankful that I was an officer of a bank and had a good job and I could provide for my girls.”

She’s always been involved in her church. She sings in the choir and has played the organ since she was 12! In fact, she says she played the organ at Abilene until they took it out of the church!

“And along the way, I was in some association such as Credit Women, National Association of Bank Women. And I got awards all along the way.”

Her community involvement is huge, and her impact on area school children. She has taught lots of children the importance of money management and financial responsibility.

“Yes, we go everywhere, but I have taught daycare up through senior citizens. We just go- there are two of us – and we go out and it’s fun. It really is. And if we can help, then one person is gonna be more financially aware, then it’s worth it.”

She’s seen a lot of changes over the years, especially when it comes to technology.

“When I first went to the bank, if I wanted to see what someone had with us, I had to go down to the basement. And if you can imagine these gigantic rotor refiles, they were motorized and they went around and around, and you had to go and find the person, there were about eight of those and they had everybody’s file. So if you had an account by yourself, you had a card, but if you had one with your husband, that was a different card. So you had to go through there and look for all of that just to find out what they had. Then you went to a printout to see, are they on time with their loans? What monies do they have? It was all… I mean, we lived by printouts!”

She also remembers a co-worker telling her paper messages would become obsolete one day. He was describing what we now know as email!

Meeks has many wonderful memories of assisting people over the years, but one that particularly stands out happened well before computer records.

A client had left a large sum of money to a former employee, but that person had fled an abusive relationship and there were no records of a current address or phone number. Meeks figured out a way to reach out to a relative, who could then decide how to contact the person receiving the financial gift, protecting their whereabouts.

She says being able to have an impact like that, to really make a tangible difference in someone’s financial situation, was one of those “feel good” moments in her career.

“I’m a people person and I love helping people. I can’t solve everyone’s problem, but I will get them in touch with somebody who is going to handle it. I’m not just going to pawn them off. I want yo make sure that person can help them.”

Meeks says so much of her life has been about helping people, and she feels it’s that way with credit unions, especially.

“Now, banking was that way when I first went. We were like an institution, like the library. We really were. I can remember the first time in an officer’s meeting where they showed us our break-even and where we started making money on checking accounts. They instituted the minimum balance, because anything below that didn’t make any money on it. That was the start of it and it started gaining momentum, especially after we were purchased.

“But when I got to the (SRP) credit union I was like, ‘Oh, they still care about people’ … and that’s important- that’s been the big difference.”