Our History

In 1956, a small group of employees at the Deaconess Hospital had an idea. In order to convert their idea to reality, they met together to create a financial institution that would be owned and controlled by themselves and their coworkers. This institution would allow them to charge fair and reasonable interest rates for loans, pay higher dividends on their savings deposits, and allow them to help improve the financial future for their co-workers and themselves.

Their dream became the Deaconess Federal Credit Union which was chartered and began operations in November of 1956. For many years, volunteer treasurers conducted business from a desk at the hospital with limited lending ability and only basic savings account.  Records were kept on ledger cards and quarterly dividends were calculated and posted by hand.  Yvonne Baucom was the manager from 1978 to 1986.  It wasn’t until 1980 that the assets on deposit brought the credit union up to $1 million in assets.  Around that time, Deaconess Hospital provided an office in the space that had previously been the apartment of a nun that supervised the nursing students living on the 2nd floor and we were actually using computer terminals connected to a service bureau in Salt Lake City.

The next few years saw the introduction of checking accounts, IRAs and paying dividends on a monthly basis instead of quarterly.  By 1983 we were open from 8 am to 4:30 pm and passed $2 million in assets.

In 1985 the credit union determined that a name change to Health Federal Credit Union would help the community understand that our allowed Field of Membership had been expanded to allow other medical employers in Cascade County including organizations like the American Red Cross.  Shortly after that, Kathy Briggs became the new Manager in March 1986.  With staffing of 2 full-time employees and 1 part-time, the credit union began added additional new services including 2nd lien mortgages and Home Equity lines of credit and a VISA Credit Card program.

By 1988, we were bursting at the seams in our office and Deaconess permitted us to construct a leased addition to the building.  This allowed us to add an exciting new program.  ATM cards and an ATM machine provided our members with 24/7/365 access to their savings and checking accounts. With assets now at slightly under $5 million, our staffing increased to 4 full-time employees and 1 part-time employee to manage the expanded services and programs.  In 1989 we converted to a new data processing service located in Great Falls and designed to serve credit union.  CUSource was owned by some of the larger Great Falls credit unions and allowed us to continue expanding our services over the coming years.

In 1991, the hospital notified us that our leasehold would be terminated as soon as the credit union decided on a new location.  After considering many options, the credit union chose to purchase land at the corner of 29th Street and 11th Avenue. The new building allowed the credit union to provide drive-up lanes and provide better service to the many members working at other sites.  We also extended our hours by having the drive-through lanes open from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm.

In October 1992, a merger with the Great Falls Clinic Federal Credit Union occurred, adding their 330 members to our own.  This also increased our total assets from less than $5 million to $6.8 million after the merger.  We continued to develop new products and services and refine or change existing services to meet our member’s needs.

Time marched on and 1996 saw our 40th Annual Membership Meeting and entered preparations for the upcoming merger of Deaconess and Columbus to form Benefis Health Care.  As early as 1997, we were preparing for the infamous Y2K.  No surprise that after countless hours of preparation, the year 2000 dawned with absolutely no effect other than lost sleep.  The new century also added Debit cards and a web site to our product offerings.  Email service and PC/Home Banking quickly followed.

The new century offered the opportunity to reexamine what we wanted to be for our members.  After intensive consideration, in March 2002 we requested and received permission from our federal regulator to serve all the residents of the 5-county region including Cascade, Chouteau, Judith Basin, Pondera and Teton counties.  2003 saw our assets increase to $10 million while our increased use of technology allowed us to continue operating with the same staff size.  As a result of our new, expanded area of membership, on December 1, 2004, the credit union changed its name to The Family First Federal Credit Union to reflect our wider membership eligibility and our new role in Great Falls area communities.

The credit union added an ATM into their parking lot and both ATMs are now part of the CO-OP ATM Network.  Since 2012, all credit union owned ATMS in Great Falls have been part of the CO-OP network and our members can use any of those ATM plus many thousands across the country for surcharge-free ATM withdrawals.

In 2020, Family First FCU weathered the COVID lobby closures by finding ways to provide all our services in ways that were safe for both our staff and our members.  With our free phone banking, online banking and ATM services, members have many ways to access our services and information about their accounts.

In March of 2024, the credit union enters a new era with the retirement of Kathy Briggs after 38 years service.  Family First FCU will be lead into the future by our new President/CEO Kyeanna Scharberg.