Carrie VanOrman grew up near the small town of Eureka, located in the north central part of South Dakota. She was the youngest child in a family of seven children, with three older sisters and three older brothers. The family lived on a farm where they raised cattle, chickens, and small grains, and where there was always plenty of work to be done. Once her older brothers left the farm, the three youngest girls bore much of the burden of chores. That left little free time to participate in extracurricular activities, but it developed a very strong work ethic for Carrie.
“My parents always instilled in us not only a strong work ethic, but the values of honesty, compassion, accountability, and helpfulness. I keep those at the forefront of what I see as important qualities,” she stated.
As a senior in high school, Carrie entered a contest for the South Dakota Snow Queen Festival. Much to her surprise, she won and collected some very nice prizes, including a scholarship to Northern State University (NSU), the use of a brand new Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra for a full year, as well as a very pretty tiara. The judges select the winners based primarily on an interview process that determines “exemplary character” and once chosen, they are invited to make appearances at other festivals in South Dakota and Minnesota.
After graduating from high school, Carrie enrolled at NSU in Aberdeen with her scholarship in hand, and earned a teaching agree with a double major: English and Special Education. It was ironic that she trained for a career with special needs children, because less than a year before she earned her diploma, she gave birth to a special little boy who happened to have Down syndrome. Once she graduated from college, she taught for a short time, but found the demanding hours plus the work she was taking home after school did not allow her the time she needed to care for her son.
She began looking for a part time position, and came across a job for Lil Luke’s Federal Credit Union (now Healthcare Plus FCU). It was 1992, and Guy Trenhaile had been the CEO for just one year. He hired Carrie and she began working as a part-time member service representative in a two-person office.
Healthcare Plus FCU was originally founded in 1979 by employees of what is now Avera St. Luke’s Hospital. In terms of longevity, it’s definitely one of the newer credit unions in the Dakotas. Back when Guy and Carrie first started working together, their assets were just over $1 million with about 1,100 members. But then, the credit union started to grow.
By the year 2000, Carrie moved into the role of VP of Operations. Now, her career has spanned more than 25 years, and she has seen the credit union go through a name change along with tremendous growth. Today, Healthcare Plus FCU exceeds $47 million in assets, has 16 employees, and membership has grown to about 5,000.
As VP of Operations, Carrie is responsible for all back-office operations, plus she does account reconciling, human resources functions, and oversees the ATM and ACH services. “Whenever I’m asked what my role is here, I like to say I just do whatever needs to be done,” she says modestly. One of the greatest challenges she faces now is a common complaint from credit union staff: the ever-changing compliance scene!
In the credit union industry, Carrie has found a balance that supported both her personal and her professional aspirations. “The thing I enjoy the most about the industry is the relationships we have built with our members in the community. It’s a close network of people, and credit unions are known for going that extra step to help and maintain those relationships. I have been able to know so many of our members on a personal level, and hearing our members’ gratefulness and satisfaction when we are able to help them with their financial needs is very gratifying.”
Perhaps she is being too modest. Some months ago, when Guy Trenhaile was interviewed, he shared the story of how his VP of Operations, Carrie, was at a local grocery store. In line ahead of her was a credit union member whose debit card was not working, so she just told the cashier to go ahead and put it on her card. “That’s People Helping People at its finest,” Guy reflected as he relayed the story.
Today, Carrie has a blended family with her husband, Tom, whom she has been married to for 23 years. They each brought one son into the relationship; Carrie’s son Thomas, and Tom’s son Chaz. The couple had two more sons together: Sam, who is a junior at SDSU and Isaac, a senior at Roncalli High School.
As she was raising her family, Carrie also volunteered to help with various activities at Roncalli Catholic Church and School. She currently serves on the church foundation’s board, previously served on the investment council, and has volunteered at numerous carnivals and fundraisers. Presently, she is also the treasurer for the Golden Pheasant Chapter and previously served as secretary.
“Most of the committees and boards I have served on have dealt with my kids’ school and church activities,” she explained. “As they grow and become more independent, I imagine that will change to include more community service,” she concluded.
In her free time, she enjoys walking, reading, bike riding, and attending sporting events and concerts. Finally, even though everyone knows her as Carrie, that’s not her actual name. Her full name is Caroline – as in “Sweet Caroline” – but she has been “just Carrie” ever since she was a little girl.