Coast Hills

A trip through 60 years of history and heritage

by User Not Found
September 19, 2018
Photos from the CoastHills 60th Anniversary Member Appreciation Pop-Up events in August 2018

Since 1958, CoastHills Credit Union has been helping members reach their financial dreams.

Back then, we were known as Vandenberg Air Force Base Federal Credit Union. Clearly, that name and a lot more has changed in the past 60 years, but one thing hasn’t — the mission.

After celebrating our birthday last month with a series of pop-up member appreciation events at each of our branches, now’s the perfect time to look back and appreciate all that’s come before. Join us on our trip down memory lane, starting with the past 10 years.

2008 to Now

In the last decade alone, through the CoastHills Community Foundation, the Credit Union has donated nearly $300,000 to local charities and schools through our Community Action Sponsorships program. Through Rancho Vino, our signature annual fundraiser, we’ve raised more than $600,000 for causes like the local FoodBank, Children’s Miracle Network, Mission Hope Cancer Center, Allan Hancock College and the Marian Emergency Services Expansion Project. We’ve also awarded half a million dollars in scholarships to our future leaders.

And our employees are just as passionate about our vision as we are. They’ve built bikes for foster children, stuffed backpacks for local school children and held drives for our homeless shelters and humane societies. Our employees also fully fund I’m All In, our voluntary employee giving program that launched in 2016. Thanks to their personal donations, the program has awarded $1,000 grants to 45 local organizations, each hand selected by the employees who participate. Even better? Our employees combine to log more than 2,500 volunteer hours each year.

To celebrate the difference we’ve made together in 60 years, our members were invited to join us for a variety of special treats hosted by each branch — from a parking lot BBQ in Lompoc (featuring some ‘58 classic cars to set the mood), to custom anniversary donuts in Paso Robles and local food truck favorites everywhere in between — there was no better way to thank our members for their support over the years.

Today, CoastHills is the second largest locally owned financial institution on the Central Coast. We have 12 branches and are just months away from launching our newest one, a 90,000 square-foot corporate headquarters located in Santa Maria, the heart of our five-county field of membership that stretches from Santa Cruz to Ventura County.

1958 to 1968

When the Credit Union was born, there were only three TV channels to choose from (but at least most of the shows were broadcast in color). The Hula Hoop was the hot new craze. If you were cruising around town in your convertible, chances were Elvis was playing on the radio — on an AM station of course — and you would relax while the gas station attendant filled it up for 25 cents a gallon.

CoastHills opened its doors August 8th, 1958, founded by retired Air Force personnel at the newly renamed Vandenberg Air Force Base with the vision of building a local financial institution that would truly be by and for the people.

Originally named Vandenberg Air Force Base Federal Credit Union, and later Vandenberg Federal Credit Union, the sole location was quietly nestled into a World War II era building on Base that’s long since been demolished.

In his obituary, founder John C. Stewart reflected on the early days of the Credit Union. It was a one room operation with three full-time employees and a single beat up metal desk. Day to day tasks were very hands on, since there were no computers — just pen, paper, and a filing cabinet.

The first loan was granted to a staff sergeant to finance a vehicle, and it underscored the spirit of the Credit Union. The Credit Union wasn’t as fancy as the national banks, but members flocked to it because they wanted convenient, low-cost financial services from friendly neighborhood people that genuinely cared about them.

A lot has changed since then, except for our dedication to our members.

1968 to 1988

Thanks to the formation of National Credit Union Administration in 1970, we were empowered to do more for our members.  The NCUA insured deposits and allowed us to offer mortgage loans and deposit certificates. Vandenberg Federal Credit Union grew exponentially, and as it did, so progressed (then) cutting edge technology.

We introduced a toll-free number, bought an in-house computer, a check processing machine, and a member contest to name our first ATM ended with VandyTeller as the winning entry. Our headquarters moved off Base for the first time, and we opened branches in Lompoc and Santa Maria.

1988 to 1998

Throughout the mid 1980’s and early 1990’s, we opened branches in Vandenberg Village, Orcutt, San Luis Obispo, as well as placed a number of ATM locations in neighborhood businesses. For the convenience of members, we developed our all-local call center and adopted an early form of debit cards, ATM cards for use at gas stations and grocery stores. Not only that, we were able to focus on our passion — doing more for the community by sponsoring organizations and participating in events.

The Community Action Sponsorship program was born. The program, run by a volunteer committee of employees, began accepting sponsorship requests from local community nonprofit organizations and events, granting up to $500 per year to worthy causes. Today, the Community Action Committee donates $36,000 per year throughout our field of membership.

1998 to 2008 (and beyond)

In 2003, the Credit Union’s name was changed to CoastHills Federal Credit Union to help cement our status as a community institution. Even though the Credit Union was formed to serve active military and civilian personnel at Vandenberg Air Force Base and our identity remains strongly tied to that heritage today, the new name helped dispel the notion that folks needed to have a military tie to become a member. Anyone can join.

We also opened branches in Five Cities, Crossroads and Atascadero through a merger with Atascadero Federal Credit Union, and developed services for small business lending. In that same year, we gained our 50,000th member.

Ten years later, we launched our online banking platform, so members could manage their accounts from the comfort of their couch — sometimes halfway around the world — and started offering credit cards. In 2014, we officially dropped the Federal from our name when we switched to a state charter.

That change allowed us to expand our field of membership beyond San Luis Obispo County and Northern Santa Barbara County, opening up our membership to anyone who lives, works, studies, worships or does business in all of Santa Barbara and SLO counties as well as Santa Cruz, Monterey and Ventura counties.

Since that expansion, the Credit Union has also seen its assets grow at a dramatic pace. After reaching total assets of $780 million in early 2015, we crested $1 billion for the first time by the end of 2016. Since then, asset size has never dipped below a billion dollars and currently sits at $1.14 billion.

As we look all the way back to that first day we opened our doors in 1958, things have never been more different. But all the most important stuff remains the same. We still cherish our legacy and ties to the military. We still make a difference in our communities. Plus, our number one priority remains helping our members reach their financial dreams. And it always will.

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