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Overcoming Obstacles and Building a Happy Life: Gregg’s Story

Connections Q1-2018 Gregg and Connie

Ask Gregg how much money he had to his name and he won’t blink an eye: “Zero.”

For even the most ambitious of us, this would have been a difficult situation.

Now consider being a recently returned war veteran integrating back into a society that keeps changing. Then imagine doing this while facing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from your service in Vietnam.

Gregg Started His Financial Journey with Us 30 Years Ago

That’s where Gregg started his financial journey with us. Thirty years later, he’s all smiles.

After returning from Vietnam, Gregg found himself taking one step forward and two steps back. He was a hard worker, but his options were limited.

The $41 monthly disability checks from VA helped, but even in today’s dollars that’s like getting a monthly check worth only $100.

He filed claims to increase his monthly disability checks but he could never get traction. He used food stamps to keep from going hungry, but was only scraping by.

He Needed Things He Wasn’t Getting

He needed help getting back on track. He needed money. He needed someone to talk to.

Thankfully, on an otherwise unremarkable day decades ago, he walked into the Unitus building downtown (then the Oregon Telco building) and shared his story. As it turned out, it was there he’d find the things he needed.

The Kind of Person You Can Tell Is Smiling Just By Hearing His Voice

Before sharing Gregg’s words below, it’s worth pointing out a distinct characteristic of his you’ll only get in speaking with him: he’s the kind of person you can tell is smiling just by hearing his voice.

On top of that, he was happy to share his story with our membership. For that we are grateful. Without further ado, here is Gregg’s story as he told it to me (edited and condensed for readability).


Gregg’s Story – In His Own Words

I was poor, getting $41 a month from VA for disability, living on food stamps and all that jazz.

I couldn’t make my credit card payment. I was trying to do my monthly bills and finances, and I just felt bad because I came up short and couldn’t put anything on the old credit card.

I just wanted to tell someone. I went downtown by the University – the old Oregon Telco Credit Union.

I walked up to the teller and told her about my issues, how I couldn’t pay my credit cards, how bad I felt. So she told me to sit on the couch and she sent a nice lady down from upstairs.

The Unitus employee realized I had a Veterans’ Check, and wanted to know what I did, where I served, and all the rest. She asked about my history.

I had claims in with the VA to up my percentage from 10 percent to more, to help with my PTSD treatment.

She had lost someone in Vietnam, and we were just about sitting there in tears, ready to grab the Kleenex and what not. And she said “look, it’s OK and we’re really happy that you told us” – because a lot of people don’t reach out, they just throw up their hands and suffer.

But she let me know about credit ratings and I didn’t know a darn thing about that until she talked me through it!

She took a look at my accounts, and she found this one little part of savings I didn’t know I had – 48 dollars. There was no internet back then and I couldn’t look into these little things, and I was quite frankly afraid to go to the credit union because, you know, finances were bad all the way around.

She asked me to come to the teller and show her my little Oregon Telco Credit Union card. She told me I had $48 available – more than enough to get by the rest of the month!

I was able to actually get on the bus and get back home to my little apartment in Beaverton! And stop on the way at a place called Bales Thriftway, and get food for my cat and myself.

Kitty was on a special diet. She had an obstructed bowel, and could only eat wet food. I was astounded! It almost brings me to tears thinking about it.

Because of Unitus I bought my first car – a 1993 Ford Escort. I couldn’t believe it! I ran my credit, I qualified, I made the payments. I needed the car for work.

And I found this wonderful thing called credit, which is actually better than money! (My wife) Connie really helped me get my credit rating up, up, up as high as I possibly could. That was one of my greatest goals in life!

Lord knows that Unitus has done so much for us personally, my wife and myself. If it wasn’t for Unitus, I would have been in major, major trouble long ago, and myself and my kitty cat would have probably wound up under the Burnside Bridge!

But this one lady came downstairs just to talk to me that one rainy afternoon and I was in such despair about — I, I can’t pay anything this month. She said that’s okay, and sent me out the door with $48 and a smile on my face.

And now my wife and I have just about everything except this house paid off and we’re looking forward to a life of few bills. Thank God I married the greatest gal in the world five years ago.

We’ve got a beach house in Brookings and we shred more credit card offers than we can believe!

The greatest feeling in the world right now is to be at this financial place thanks to the partnership with my beautiful wife. Without her, this wouldn’t have happened!


Enjoying The Quiet Life

Thirty years later, you won’t catch Gregg, “an old-school Portlander,” bustling through downtown PDX the way he used to. Today he enjoys a quiet, peaceful life with his wife Connie and their two cats overlooking the Pacific Ocean at their home in Brookings.

Sometimes, he thinks, it would be nice to come back downtown, eat at a few nice restaurants, even see a concert or two. But on second thought: no need. He couldn’t be happier with life just as it is right now.


Unitus members: if Gregg’s story resonated with you as it did with us, please email me (jschnee@unitusccu.com) and let me know. If you need financial help, call us (503-423-8468) and share what you’re going through. You are not alone and we are here to help.

If you have a story of your own like Gregg’s where you defeated the odds, or you found success by carefully tending to your financial health, please email me and let me know! It is stories like these that inspire us to serve such a remarkable community.


Posted By: Jacob Schnee

About the Author: Jacob joined Unitus as Marketing Specialist in March 2015 and transitioned to Marketing Communications Specialist in March 2017. 

His experience has spanned hospitality, business development, consulting, and marketing in various industries along the east coast, west coast and in between. 

When he is not developing internal and external communications for Unitus, he is engaging in recreational fitness, studying personality types and exploring the outdoors with his wife and dog.

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