Our history of faith, finances and serving others
How the past has shaped what we do and where we will go
This year, 2020, marks 75 years since Everence® started as Mennonite Mutual Aid. A lot can happen – and has happened – in 75 years of combining faith and finances; each change has broadened what Everence can do and who we can help.
Everence is guided by the stewardship principle that all we are and all we have are from God (Psalm 24) – a historic biblical belief of Mennonites and Anabaptist Christians.
The Everence story began in 1945, as communities and the entire country were coming out of the economic hard times of the Great Depression and the upheaval of World War II. Wanting to support Anabaptist conscientious objectors returning from Civilian Public Service assignments, Mennonite Church leaders envisioned a new way of extending mutual aid to church members. That’s when Mennonite Mutual Aid was formed, to carry out the historic Anabaptist practice of sharing financial burdens with one another.
“Our founders believed strongly in caring for one another,” said Rhoda Blough, Everence Stewardship Consultant. “And we still care for one another, 75 years later. It’s obvious in how we share the gift of money with others.”
Jim Smith, Everence Financial Representative, agrees. “Mennonite Mutual Aid began to meet the stewardship needs in the context of the church,” he said. “Over the years, that role of meeting stewardship needs began to grow in a variety of ways and more services and opportunities came into that stewardship realm.”
Changing with our members
Indeed, Everence has transformed over the years to meet the needs of clients, helping them make financial decisions that reflect their faith and values. Over the years, new distinctions, entities and lines of business have broadened the organization’s capabilities.
In 1952, Mennonite Foundation (now Everence Foundation) was formed to provide a charitable giving resource to members, increasing relationships with nonprofits. In 1966, Mennonite Mutual Aid become organized as a nonprofit fraternal benefits society to provide mutual aid and insurance support. Praxis Mutual Funds®, one of the first fund families to help shareholders make a positive impact on people and the planet, was introduced in 1994.
In 2010, over 50 years after MMA’s creation, the organization affiliated with Mennonite Financial Federal Credit Union and both took the name Everence. At this point, the organization became fully equipped to offer banking, insurance, investments, asset management, financial planning and other financial services with community benefits and stewardship education.
“The whole purpose of the partnership was to reach out to members,” said Smith, “to blend stewardship resources by helping people combine faith and finances on a pretty broad scale.”
Today, Everence serves more than 78,000 members and over 35 denominations and church networks through our comprehensive financial and insurance services.
“We dedicate much of our effort around extending generosity to others,” said Ken Hochstetler, Everence President and Chief Executive Officer. “In fact, we’ve built our business model around the idea that when we earn, we build organizational capacity to share and grow, and our sharing models generosity for others.”
For example, in 2019 alone, the Everence Sharing Fund distributed more than $853,000 in grants (matched by another $1.2 million from churches) to help members and families address financial difficulties.
Everence Foundation disbursed $49 million to more than 3,000 congregations and nonprofit organizations on behalf of Everence members.
Everence Federal Credit Union’s MyNeighbor credit card program donated over $386,000 to 497 charities and congregations.
And Everence channeled $14.5 million in investment dollars as loans to underserved communities through community development investing options integrated into our investment portfolios and funds.
The Everence story isn’t about the numbers, though. It’s about the people and the lives impacted over the years.
A community story
Blough’s experience with Everence started out very personal. When her husband, Ron, passed away unexpectedly in 2007, Rhoda found herself navigating both her personal and financial world without him by her side. Working with her Everence financial representative “offered me much needed moral support during a time of shock and loss,” she said.
The connection to – and experience with – Everence helped her get a job she loves in April 2009. As a stewardship consultant, Blough considers herself the first touchpoint many people have with Everence. For many people, integrating their faith and values with their finances is new territory, and she enjoys sharing her expertise and story with them.
“Ministry and church and stewardship and generosity – all of those things are such a part of who I am, and I feel like I can give a lot of myself to this position,” said Blough. And she knows she’s far from the only person who has received help from Everence through the years. Likewise, she’s not the first person to bring a passion for helping others to the organization. This is what we’ve been doing from the beginning.
Faith and purpose. Community and trust. Love and sharing. For 75 years, these are some of the values that have guided our commitment to cultivating and growing the resources that enrich our communities and the lives we share.
Smith began working at Everence in 2000 as a fraternal advisor, what we now know as a stewardship consultant. These days, he can be found making calls in the Customer Engagement Center, talking to current and potential clients about Everence. He thinks the organization’s story is worth telling.
“What Everence is about, why working with us makes a difference, and how we can help people do that… this is our unique story,” Smith said. “I hope we keep telling our story for the next 75 years to come.”
“Each of our members and clients is part of the Everence story,” added Hochstetler, “and we are grateful to walk with each of them as we, together, invest in what lasts.”
Looking to the future
Our past proves to be an important influence on our future.
Similar to our beginning, we now find ourselves living in changing times. And just like in 1945, our vision calls us to find new ways to serve and support each other. Although no one is certain what 2020 and beyond will look like, Everence is already pursuing new opportunities.
A new Everence team in Philadelphia is offering financial wellness education, credit union and other financial services. Support for Praxis Mutual Funds continues to grow among shareholders who want their investments to make a positive impact. Our Customer Engagement Center is reaching out to members and clients who don’t live near an Everence office or prefer working with us by phone or online. And we continue to expand our digital capabilities to serve members when, where and how they want to be served.
“It’s important to acknowledge where we come from – and use that knowledge to inform where we need to go in the future,” said Hochstetler. “We can honor the foundation we were built on and adapt to the future that the organization and members will face. We’ll adapt to what the people we serve will need.”
Notable elements of the 75th anniversary include a book about the history of Everence, Where the people go: community, generosity and the story of Everence, written by John D. Roth, and an observation of 75 years of stewardship. Watch for more information as summer progresses.