DeMars Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Cliff DeMars Honored with Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award

Blue Eagle® Credit Union volunteer Cliff DeMars has been awarded the Virginia credit union system’s highest individual honor, the James P. Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award. He received the award at the Virginia Credit Union League’s 80th Annual Meeting in Williamsburg on April 4.

The James P. Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes those individuals who have unselfishly devoted their time and energy to ensuring a brighter, better future for credit unions. It is named in honor of the late James P. “Jimmy” Kirsch, a longtime credit union volunteer whose passion for the movement led him to leadership roles at the state, national and international levels.

The award is given by the Virginia Credit Union League, the state trade association that has promoted, protected and supported the commonwealth’s credit unions for 80 years. Learn more at “Virginia’s credit unions have been blessed with passionate, selfless leaders, who fiercely and fearlessly work on the behalf of the movement to ensure credit unions’ ‘People Helping People’ philosophy remains as relevant today as it was a century ago when credit unions got their start in the U.S.,” said Rick Pillow, president of the Virginia Credit Union League. “Cliff DeMars helped write the book on what it means to be a credit union leader. Volunteers are the heart and soul of the credit union movement, and his 55 years of service as a credit union volunteer speaks for itself.”

“I still remember the day I started my credit union career. A postal employee, I walked into the office one day and J.P. Wyatt, who ran the local credit union, told me to give him $5.25, so I did. ‘Congratulations,’ he said, ‘you’re now a credit union member, and by the way, you’re now the credit union’s treasurer,’” said DeMars. “That was my start, and for many years, I ran that credit union out of my back pocket.”

He didn’t stop there, however. His commitment to the movement continues to this day as a volunteer official with Blue Eagle® Credit Union, and includes service since 2002 on the board of directors of the Virginia Credit Union League, credit unions’ statewide trade association.

He served as League chairman from 2006-2008, and previously chaired his credit union’s board of directors. He has been a part of the Virginia League’s Governmental Affairs Committee, helping lobby for credit unions at the local, state and national levels and served as liaison to the League’s Community Involvement Committee, which coordinates state credit unions’ charitable fundraising projects.

DeMars is also currently a member of the board of directors for the Credit Unions Care Foundation of Virginia, a charitable organization founded by Virginia’s credit unions in 2009 to coordinate credit unions’ charitable, financial education, and community service work. Since 2009, the Foundation has disbursed more than $400,000 to various community projects, charity partners, and in support of financial literacy initiatives all across the state.

His volunteer service extends beyond the credit union system, with he and his wife, Mary Ann, volunteering with the Lions Club Free Dental Clinic, Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child, and the National Association for the Mentally Ill. He remains active at First Baptist Church in Roanoke.

“It’s especially humbling to be recognized by your peers and to be honored with an award that bears the name of Jimmy Kirsch,” said DeMars. “Jimmy set the bar high for what it means to be a credit union volunteer. Decades after his death, he is still the gold standard, and I’ve done my best to follow in his footsteps and I hope I’ve been able, like him, to ensure credit unions have a place here in Virginia for a long time to come.”