Andrew Gouff was born in La Crosse, but he explained that he moved around a lot as a child. “Eight times and three high schools,” he said. “I was a moving nomad until I turned 30.” Andrew also shared that he had experienced homelessness three times in his life and those experiences now give him a passion to help others who might be struggling.
Andrew graduated from high school in Reedsburg, Wisconsin and soon after found himself living in the mountain areas of Georgia and North Carolina. “In Murphy, North Carolina,” he shared, “is where they found the Olympic shooter hiding behind the Food Lion grocery store. There is also a historical marker in the middle of town for Major Chicken who served in the Revolutionary or 1812 War,” Andrew shared with a laugh.
Andrew’s first wife was from Murphy and after their divorce Andrew made his way back to Wisconsin with his two-month-old daughter. Shortly after was the third time in his life that Andrew found himself homeless. Because of this, his daughter stayed with her grandmother.
The second time Andrew was homeless was after being told there was a home for him and his wife in Murphy, but after arriving and not having found a job yet, Andrew found himself living between a homeless shelter and what he called a “hobo camp.”
“Everyone there had been homeless for years,” he explained of the people he met at the camp. “I stayed with them. They taught me a lot about how people who have nothing to spare would help you every time. No question. They always helped. Even the people at the shelter, they were always willing to help each other. It showed me a great contrast between the two ends of society.”
From there Andrew started working at an appliance company and after that ran an office as an assistant in an accounting firm. “They (accountants) were way more fun that I though they were going to be,” he shared with another laugh. “They were really funny.”
After leaving North Carolina, Andrew found himself in the Dubuque, Iowa area and started his own business in home-improvement. “This was before Angie’s List,” he said and smiled. “They would put in an order, and I would shop for bids,” he explained. Real-estate though proved to be not very productive due to the economy at the time. And, in August of 2022, Andrew was hired at Marine Credit Union (MCU) as a Mortgage Loan Representative.
And how is it going at MCU? “Pretty well,” he said. “MCU is an unbelievably awesome employer. They helped me out right away,” Andrew added. “I thought there has got to be a catch. There is no way they are this good to their employees.”
Andrew explained he had a camping trip planned prior to accepting an offer at MCU. “It fell on the third or fourth week of training. They made sure I got my days off,” he explained. “And, after realizing I didn’t have any PTO yet, they added onto my PTO bank so I didn’t go broke while camping. That was incredible.”
Andrew shared his past experiences were nothing like what he experienced at MCU in the short time that he had been working there. At times he said that he even thought he “would always be miserable” unless he worked for himself. But Andrew said that his experience so far at MCU has been “amazing.”
“Everyone talks to everybody,” he continued. “Not like (in my past employments) when the vice-presidents worked in a mysterious office someplace. It’s a very positive change for me. They really do want you to grow with the company. They ask, ‘What do you need from me? What can I do for you? How can I help you?’ It’s so different when the leadership are here to help.”
Andrew also shared that enjoys building relationships with members as well. “This is meaningful relationship building that we do here,” he added with a smile. He said his past experiences with homelessness and financial hardships help him to understand those he now serves at MCU when they have financial problems.
“There is a lot of shame and blame,” he said that comes with financial issues. “You feel like a failure.” But having experienced it himself, Andrew said that he doesn’t look at it that way. “All it takes is one or two dominoes falling when working paycheck to paycheck. I don’t judge anyone. I know how that paycheck-to-paycheck life works.”
Andrew lives in the La Crosse area again with his girlfriend Lyndsey. Outside of work, Andrew has found a passion for helping organizations who help others as they helped him in the past. He enjoys his volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army. “I lived there for three months,” he shared of the later. “I would have given anything to have one person who cared. I want to do that for people because I was on my own trying to work my way back up. I understand,” he added, “because I used to be there. I get it.”
Amazing story, I’m sure those hardships gave you more empathy for your fellow human than most people will have in a lifetime. Happy for you man, I’m glad you found MCU!