As senior vice president of corporate affairs at Bethpage Federal Credit Union, Linda Armyn has played a key role not only in spearheading efforts to make it the largest credit union in New York State, but also in developing some of the organization’s most popular community outreach initiatives and branding campaigns. Among the most visible of those branding initiatives is the annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, held each Memorial Day weekend. We recently caught up with Armyn to discuss her philanthropic and community outreach initiatives.
Can you explain why philanthropy is important to you? I believe when one person needs help, those who can help should, and it all comes around in the span of our lifetimes. As a cooperative credit union, Bethpage has always operated under the promise of people helping people. Our vision is to enrich the lives of our members, employees and communities we serve. If we are doing business in a community, giving back is an important piece of our business model.
Can you tell us about the Heart of Bethpage philanthropic effort? Heart of Bethpage started in 2003 as a community-wide program. This program has grown significantly over the years. Under it, we provide financial grants for programs, volunteer hours, community-based sponsorships, and we also host various collections throughout the years for food, clothes, toys and pet food. The impact has been great. We have donated millions of dollars and volunteered thousands of hours. It serves as a source of pride for our team. We recently renamed the program Bethpage Cares.
What made you start the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program? We have been participating in the IRS VITA program for more than 15 years. [Bethpage volunteers have prepared] close to $20 million in returns [to date for low income Long Islanders]. It is the largest program of its kind on Long Island and we partner with community organizations, libraries, labor unions and colleges to make it happen. This is a tremendous volunteer effort, with 150 volunteers preparing taxes for low-income families for free each year. In the last five years, we have processed more than $2 million in tax returns, helping approximately 2,400 families. This puts more money back into the people’s hands to save or spend locally rather than in fees to tax preparers.
What philanthropic effort are you most proud of and why? One of the efforts I love is our Turkey Drive with Island Harvest that has benefited thousands of families for what will be 10 years on Nov. 16. The whole credit union participates, either by bringing food or volunteering. We have many companies who participate by bringing food and donating money each year. We also have Girl Scouts all over the Island collecting, as well as local middle school, high school and college students who come to lend a hand. It’s a true community effort.
Do you have any sayings? “Keep it simple” and “Cool beans.” Everything today moves pretty fast and it’s really easy to overcomplicate things we do. So, lately, my mantra has been “Keep it simple.” I’ve been saying “cool beans” since I was a kid whenever something makes me smile. It has stuck with me and it seems to make others smile too. Probably because it’s a bit hokey.
Is there anything I should have asked but didn’t? I am enthusiastic about our community programs because I hope to also serve as a role model for others, especially kids. My kids have participated in many of our efforts and they bring their friends along too. They now are involved in their own projects and that makes me happy and proud.