VyStar Credit Union started at Florida’s Naval Air Station Jacksonville in 1952. In March 2023, it launched its philanthropic arm, VyStar Foundation. It’s committed to doing good — which is the entire purpose of the credit union — through partnerships that uphold youth, military members and veterans, and the community served by the financial institution. CEO Brian Wolfburg is positive that the foundation will take the philanthropic efforts of the credit union, headquartered in Jacksonville, to new heights.
“As VyStar continues to grow across Florida and Georgia, the foundation will serve our new and existing communities, help us build important relationships with community leaders, and support organizations that make a difference each and every day,” stated Brian Wolfburg.
In June 2023, the foundation held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate donating a 2,556-square-foot building to the Three Grains of Rice Missions. The nonprofit provides local and international support to people and organizations that need wellness supplies.
“This is a unique opportunity for VyStar Foundation to support the meaningful work being done by Three Grains of Rice Missions,” stated Patricia McElroy, president of VyStar Foundation.
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As CEO, Brian Wolfburg oversaw the credit union’s merger with First Coast Federal Credit Union in early 2023. A former First Coast branch, located at 3040 Edison Avenue, in Jacksonville, will serve as the new headquarters for Three Grains of Rice Missions. The space serves as a space for the operations and programs of the nonprofit.
“The selection committee recognized the need in the community for these services in addition to the effectiveness of the organization’s leadership and their alignment with the foundation’s areas of focus,” said McElroy.
Ed Perez founded the Jacksonville-based Three Grains of Rice Missions in 2016. It helps offer resources for housing, food, clothing, educational programming, and medical care for those struggling with accommodations and food instability. The nonprofit also provides international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
“We are grateful to VyStar Foundation for this generous donation,” stated Perez. The charitable organization plans to officially open its doors in August 2023 so it can start offering a full range of services to the public.
Perez stated, “This new building will be a game changer for our organization, allowing us to better serve the needs of our community. We believe this partnership will be a powerful force for positive change, and we are excited to see the impact that Three Grains of Rice Missions will have in this new space.”
The mission is near and dear to Perez’s heart. He was motivated to establish the nonprofit after fleeing Cuba at age 12. “The U.S. government granted my family asylum, and on February 19, 1963, we arrived in Miami with nothing but the clothes on our backs,” stated Perez. “Fortunately, our church gave my family hope and assisted us in relocating to Baltimore, Maryland. While a blessing, life turned out to be a struggle for me, who neither spoke nor understood English. Fighting for survival and losing hope, I endured a life of poverty in the slums of Baltimore.”
Perez continued, “Over the years, the hope to harvest love continued to grow within me, and in 2016 I founded Three Grains of Rice Missions. The parable of the sower whose seeds fall on good soil to reap a bountiful harvest epitomizes my work. I tell my own parable about three grains of rice: There are 21,000 grains in a sack of rice. Giving up three grains of rice throughout your life will sow hope to harvest love within us just as the grains of rice increase exponentially over a lifetime.
“I hope that others will sow their three grains of rice and join me in my mission to end homelessness, poverty, and the impact while empowering women and assisting children in distress. I survived a life filled with these same hardships and desire to assist others just like I was assisted years before.”
The credit union’s foundation offers grants to 501(c)(3) companies that share the same purpose and mission of supporting veterans and active military members, youth, and the overall community. The next round of the foundation’s grant cycle will focus on nonprofits that benefit underserved youth. The grant cycle will run from Aug. 21 to Sept. 30.
The foundation is operated by a volunteer board of directors. In addition to McElroy, Brian Wolfburg serves as chairman, while Chad Meadows, executive vice president and chief operations officer, is the foundation’s treasurer. Dana Karzan, the credit union’s chief marketing officer, is the secretary of the foundation. The board will also include community members located in the areas VyStar operates.
Brian Wolfburg Cares About Community
Brian Wolfburg, a Buffalo, New York, native, was an excellent choice to succeed the credit union’s former CEO Terry West following his retirement. He has years of experience working at some of the biggest international banks and has worked all around the world, including in London, Hong Kong, and South Korea.
“I’ve always been business-minded,” Wolfburg said. “My predecessor and his leadership team [did] an amazing job with the organization, built the connection with the community, and left it in great shape in regard to the products and services and infrastructure and financial safety and soundness.”
After becoming CEO, Wolfburg oversaw the elimination of more than half of the service fees to members. He also played a part in expanding the financial institution’s call center operations.
However, he’s especially proud of everything the foundation is doing to help the community, which is his personal passion. Brian Wolfburg is always looking for new ways to make a difference where credit union members call home. He said his goal is to “make sure that VyStar and my family and I get involved in the community and play a part in helping to make it a better place to live.”
Under his leadership, the financial institution continues its commitment to helping its members achieve their financial goals. Becoming a member of the credit union gives you a connection to early direct deposit, rewards on credit cards, member-centric service, great rates, and low to no fees.