(November 1, 2007 – Ann Arbor, MI) Wendy Soria grew up in New York City and works at Bethex FCU, a well-known CDCU in the South Bronx. Wendy knew she worked at a cooperatively owned financial institution, but never knew that a similar type of ownership system could be applied to a living situation or a business. Nor do many of the members of housing cooperatives around the country know about the work being done by community development credit unions (CDCUs). And yet, exposing other cooperatives to CDCUs and CDCUs to other cooperatives can be a boon for both.
That’s why on Sunday, November 4, David Knoll, founder of Genesee Cooperative FCU (Rochester, NY) and Federation staff member and a former college housing-coop leader, Dan Apfel, will lead a workshop showcasing CDCUs at the North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO) Institute being held in Ann Arbor, MI.
CDCUs Learn About Other Coops
Engaging the broader cooperative movement is the reason the Federation brought a highly diverse group of credit union staff attending its CDCU Institute™ to site visits of the Community Pharmacy and the Madison Community Cooperatives (MCC) in Madison WI. The Federation’s CDCU Institute™, held yearly in Madison, WI, is the premier training program for credit unions serving underserved populations, and this year, organizers included a tour of local-area cooperatives.
Over 20 CDCU Institute™ students took advantage of the opportunity to see what other parts of the cooperative movement looked like – and to share with them what it means to belong to a CDCU.
Tour participants heard from a longtime worker-owner at Community Pharmacy, a cooperatively owned and operated drug store, and visited three MCC houses. According to CDCU practitioners that attended, the tour of the Madison cooperatives proved to be a very valuable experience.
Wendy Soria explained that the tour helped her grasp the full value of cooperation. She was amazed how everyone worked together to improve their quality of life. “It’s really the same thing we’re doing at the credit union—sharing resources to provide opportunities to people who otherwise wouldn’t have them.”
Another CDCU Institute™ student, Paola Diaz-Torres, who is working to organize a new credit union to serve Latino residents in Atlanta GA), saw the similarities between her proposed credit union’s mission and that of the housing cooperatives. “People are helping themselves,” she said. “Like with CDCUs, the coops we visited are all about making people’s lives better and contributing to the community at large.”
While all credit unions focus on the “people helping people” philosophy, CDCU practitioners working in low-income areas particularly appreciate the value of member ownership and the validity it gives them in their communities.
Creating Linkages Between Cooperatives
The Federation hopes attendees at the NASCO Institute will feel a similar bond with the mission of CDCUs and see the connection, like Ms. Diaz-Torres did, of the importance of engaging more young people to become supporters of credit unions around the country.
“The Federation is working to strengthen credit unions and cooperatives by bringing them together,” said Cliff Rosenthal, Federation Executive Director, “Cooperation among cooperatives is a natural progression for our movement, and this is something we truly believe will strengthen America’s communities.”
Prior to the tour, credit union manager Gloria Feliciano did not know much about housing cooperatives. Afterwards, not only did she think that similar organizations should be organized around the country, but she was willing to commit some of her credit union’s resources to do so.
“Community Trust CU [Apopka, FL] would definitely be willing to give a loan to an organization like MCC – it would really be a great opportunity to expand on our mission and serve our community.”
The coop tour and the NASCO presentation are just two ways the Federation is bringing these communities together. The Federation plans to continue its efforts to strengthen and expand the impact of all cooperatives through increased collaboration.
© 2007 National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.