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Heart of our City - Christine Komadina

40th anniversary milestone hit for the heart of Northern Savings Credit Union
Christine Komadina, marketing and communications assistant reached the milestone of 40 years with Northern Saving Credit Union in Prince Rupert on Nov. 4. Her dog Teaka was there to congratulate her. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

This past week, on Nov. 4, Christine Komadina hit the 40th anniversary, marking a milestone of her first day at Northern Savings Credit Union in 1980. Born and bred in Prince Rupert, Christine’s role as marketing and communications assistant, mother, and wife has made her a familiar face to those community and staff members who have revolved in and out of the credit union doors over the past four decades.

Having started at the credit union almost straight from high school, Christine said she couldn’t imagine having worked her career anywhere else because the staff and place became family and home to her.

“I saw an ad in the paper for tellers at Kaien Consumers Credit union. I was encouraged to apply. I started there and never looked back,” she said explaining that there were actually two credit unions working out of the same building. The second one was Fishermans Credit Union which eventually amalgamated with Kaien Consumers which later on had a name change to Northern Savings Credit Union.

Starting as a frontline, customer-facing teller she has worked her way through different areas and setting up a couple of departments, assisting with centralization as well as dabbling in policy and procedures writing, and IT. She said for the past ten years marketing and communications have been her passion and setting up the internal communication ‘intranet’ system for the four different branches has been her tour du force.

“I’ve taken it on as my baby because it really is an important communication piece to keep staff connected and involved and engaged in what’s happening around the credit union. Not just staff wise but policy and procedure wise.

Christine laughed when she said way back in the day when she first joined the bank there were no computers and definitely no internet. All additions and subtractions were done manually she said, with mortgage and loan payments being recorded on customer cards and transactions at the end of the day being calculated on adding machine tape.

She has seen a multitude of changes over the past four decades however one thing she said hasn’t changed is the values that working in a cooperative-based workplace has taught her. Christine said it’s all about neighbours helping neighbours and keeping the cooperative values in view.

“It’s the whole cooperative philosophy of people helping people. Our mission statement is neighbours helping neighbours to build sustainable communities … But neighbours helping neighbours, well that’s just what we do … Me, personally I have always helped.”

According to the B.C. Cooperative website, members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others. Those values are clearly evident in Christine’s life.

“I feel that I was given a gift when I was hired at Northern Savings. I was taught so much. I’ve worked with so many great people that I just like to share what I’ve been given. It just makes for a better community,” she said.

Being part of the community is just second nature to Christine. As a mom of two kids raised in Rupert and now grown adults in their 20s, not only did she work full-time, but she was on the local swim club board of directors sitting as president for a time during the eight years her family was involved.

“My philosophy goes back to giving back,” she said. “You have to support what you are doing. So if my kids were in swim club, then I was there too. The best way to do that is to step up and be a committee member or a board member. Roll up your sleeves and just get the job done.”

Getting the job done is what Christine is still doing once a month by assisting to prepare meals on a Sunday for the Annunciation Church soup kitchen. During the first few months of the pandemic, she missed helping out and was excited when she received the call a couple of weeks ago that she could once again put her soup pot on the stove to boil. She made beef and vegetable soup. A group of four or five volunteers rotate on teams to make six or seven pots of soup and sandwiches. Meals are served every Sunday at 1 p.m. in the social area of the church.

“I feel in order to make something work you need to become involved and participate,” she said.

Christine loves to get involved with helping and was on the Annunciation school council when her children were at school. When the time came for her teenage children to leave school she especially enjoyed the preparation she was able to contribute to both graduations. As co-chair of her son’s graduation a few years ago she said that she believed that graduation was for the kids. She wanted a fun, safe environment for each student.

“For me, right away I thought for a lot of the students graduating that this may be the only formal event in their life where they may shine … it was important to me that they shine that night.”

Now as an empty nester, it’s just Christine, her husband Nick, and their dog Teaka in the house. With her son recently moving into a place of his own she has been able to convert one of the bedrooms in her home into a craft room where she makes cards and items. Christine talks of travel and her love of driving. In September she drove by herself to Victoria to see her daughter. She kept herself occupied by listening to true crime podcasts and breathing in the pallets of autumn colour as she drove, she said.

“It was a little different because of the pandemic. I was amazed by all of the motorhomes and travel trailers on the road with it being mid-September … It was just interesting to see. I love driving. I’m sure there is driving in my future,” she said.

But for now, she is content at the credit union she said and is happy to be there.

“We had a lady when I started at that had worked (at the credit union) for 38 years. I said to her I’m gonna work here longer than you. Now I have that. So it was kind of funny that was reached my goal and have reached 40 years.”

Christine said it hasn’t always been sunshine and roses and there have been difficult times.

“Not to say that there weren’t bad times because there were, there were some very dark days,” Christine said of the days after the pulp mill closed and when the sinking fishing industry affected so many people in the city. She said it broke her heart to see such struggles.

She said it was a time when people became lost. Their security of a job was ripped out from under them and the natural flow in the Rupert community of stepping into a job your father did and your grandfather did was no longer an opportunity.

“Those were the days when we all sort of banded together and pulled each other out of it. We made it work and made it better,” she said.

Working as part of the credit union team she said the staff worked their hardest to help the community members and could find solutions with them working face to face. Christine said people were not treated as numbers they were members of a community.

“Some people hung on. Some were able to recreate themselves. My contribution might not necessarily be a front line contribution. My contribution is behind the scenes.

Even today, Christine is proud of the place she works with the amount of community involvement it encourages from within like the annual Terry Fox Run, Seafest, and Winterfest when the staff works together on parade floats. While the past year has been different with COVID-19 she loves the comradery of the staff and how they come together for special occasions and events. When someone has a baby she said the hat is passed around and the new life is celebrated. She especially enjoys seeing the children of staff have children and some staff has great-grandchildren. She has seen the community grow up and loves participating in its accomplishments.

On Nov. 4, having been working from home due to pandemic restrictions, she felt firsthand the love and community spirit of her co-workers when they did a drive-by parade in front of her house to congratulate her on he own accomplishment of 40 years worth of contributions.

When asked about how she felt reaching the milestone of 40 years at the credit union, she said she phoned her mom.

“I said, ‘Mom — 40 years today, she says I can’t believe it. I said I don’t either.’ Like I say, the first 20 years, yeah, it was a little harder. But after that, it’s like, meh another day, another dollar. I have two more years and then I turned 60. I hope to go and enjoy travel a little bit and make some more cards.”

“The better our community is together, the better we are as individuals,” Christine said.

Working from home during COVID-19 friends and coworkers at Northern Savings Credit Union in Prince Rupert completed a drive-by parade on Nov. 4 to mark the 40th anniversary of Christine Komadina’s start date. (Photo: K-J Millar)