Credit Union adoption loan adds two blessings to Annandale family
Friday, August 5, 2016
Catholic United Financial (This article was first published in the January-February 2016 edition of Our Catholic Journey magazine) - After their big Catholic wedding 16 years ago, Bernie and Shawna Williamson quickly set about raising the big Catholic family they had always wanted. And they got off to a great start. Just a year after their nuptials, they were blessed with Jack. Then two years later, Lily. Then three years after that came Emma.
Between deployments to Iraq with the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, Bernie runs his own asphalt refinishing company in the summer to supplement his job as a deputy sheriff in Wright County. Shawna does the heavy lifting of running the household.
After Emma was born, Bernie was deployed.
He was gone about 18 months and when he got back we tried to pursue having more kids, we eventually had to seek help from a doctor,” Shawna says. “Eventually the heartbreak and stress took its toll...We decided adoption was a great route to go.”
It wasn’t as if they’d never thought about it before. Because of their deep Catholic faith, Bernie says they’d always considered adopting when the time came.
“There’s a big need for it,” he says. “We always wanted to be sure we were part of the solution to give babies homes and moms those options.”
They began the process in 2011. Working with an agency, they began the months and years of paperwork and expenses.
While the waiting time can be as little as a few months for an adoption, one can reasonably expect to pay thousands of dollars. In the Williamsons’ case, it took four years and cost roughly $30,000.
“I wish it was more affordable,” Bernie says. “I have lots of friends who have all said they’d like to [adopt] too, but can’t because of the money. If it wasn’t for Catholic United Financial Credit Union, we might have been one of them.”
It was December 2011 when Bernie called into the Credit Union to skip a payment on their car loan (a once-a-year feature). He was chatting with Brenda Schuhwerck in the Credit Union about Christmas expenses when Bernie mentioned they had another major expense to deal with – figuring out how to pay for an adoption.
“And Brenda just sort of interrupts me and says, ‘Wait, we have an adoption loan,” he says. “It was life changing...The bill at the end [of the adoption] is for eight to ten thousand dollars, no one I know has that kind of cash lying around. The initial peace of mind it provided for us, knowing that we wouldn’t miss out on an opportunity just because we didn’t have the money was amazing.”
Catholic United Financial Credit Union President Terri Maloney says she wishes more people would take advantage of the loan program.
“Since I’ve been here we’ve done two or three, and it’s just such a great feeling. You know you’re helping people with this,” Maloney says. “It’s doing a great thing for a member, and wonderful to know there’s one more little Catholic baby out there.”
Once the Williamsons knew they would have the money, the waiting just got longer. “I describe it as though you’re so excited like when you have a child, but imagine your wife being pregnant for four years,” Bernie says.
The children even began to wonder if it would happen at all.
“They got very excited right away, thinking we were going to have this new brother or sister,” Shawna says. “But soon they felt like it was never going to happen because it took so long.”
They kept waiting and Bernie got deployed again.
On January 9, 2015, with Bernie in Kuwait, Shawna got the phone call they’d been waiting four years for.
“I was standing in my closet at the time and I was stunned. I was so excited! I immediately called my husband hoping to reach him. He was deployed overseas and I thought I was going to have to do this on my own.”
“Being that it took so long, basically everyone was involved. So it was a pretty big moment for my military family over there and my law enforcement family over here,” Bernie says. “Definitely a lot of happiness.”
“All the hard work and emotions that led up to this moment were well worth it,” Shawna says.
Much of the adoption work was still left to be done, and Bernie had to attend court in Wright County via Skype from overseas. But once they were chosen and their finances secure, Bernie could look forward to meeting their new son, Elijah, for the first time when he came home.
Bernie returned from deployment in April of 2015. He and Shawna and their family set about the business of loving and living with their new addition. Obviously everyone’s rhythm was a bit off suddenly having a newborn in the house. By January 2016, after several months finally together, maybe they’d almost found “normal.”
Then the phone rang again.
Elijah now had a biological baby sister. Would the Williamsons be interested in adopting her?
“There wasn’t any thought at all,” Bernie says. “They called Shawna, she called me and said ‘What do you think?’ I said ‘I think we should go pick her up.’”
The next day, they picked her up. Hazel Williamson, age 2 days.
The Williamsons called all their friends and family, and they also called the Credit Union, too. Bernie knew they’d paid off a lot of their loan, and wondered if they had any wiggle room to help with their new baby girl.
“That was really neat,” Maloney says, “knowing that they were going to get to adopt the sibling of the child they already had. That’s just a wonderful thing. You could see they were just bringing together a whole family and we helped make that miracle happen.”
In fact, Terri immediately called the Board of Directors to approve a second adoption loan for the Williamsons. It had never been done before, but that’s the benefit of a small credit union with the backing of Catholic values.
Now, the Williamsons are once again sharing the nights with a newborn while wrangling a toddling one-year old and juggling the schedules of three tween children.
It’s a mad house. Bernie says there have been plenty of growing pains, but they’re all pitching in as a family.