Partnership Seeks to Expand CU Service to People with Disabilities
(August 30, 2010 - Hightstown, NJ) Credit unions and the disability community are coming together in a unique way that will help members of the disability community gain valuable work experience at credit unions while helping the cooperatively-owned financial institutions learn how to better serve this underserved community.
The New Jersey Credit Union League recently hosted a luncheon for credit unions, interns and representatives from the disability community to discuss the experiences of Cycle II of the BEST internship program.
The Building Economic Strength Together (BEST) program is a collaborative project that provides internship opportunities for people with disabilities. The goal of the program is to strengthen the connection between credit unions and the disability community, a large and widely unbanked or underbanked group. BEST internships serve as a way to reach out to this large and growing population in a meaningful way, while helping credit unions develop best practices to serve people with disabilities. The program was developed in partnership between the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation), the National Disability Institute (NDI), and Allies Inc., a New Jersey based training group for people with disabilities.
|Front Row (left to Right): Daymar Rivera and Cathyann Frank from McGraw Hill FCU; Jose Del Valle, BEST Intern; Mulu Gebreyesus, New Community FCU; Megan Timbie, BEST Intern and Pamela Owens of the Federation. Back Row (Left to Right): Angel Santos, from the NJ Credit Union League; Jessica Revoir and Helga Britton from 1st Financial FCU; Regina Calamanco, Michael Holguin, Joshua Stanlaw, and Crystal Castro, BEST Interns; Stacie Fourroux and Jennifer Seder from Healthcare Employees FCU; and Paul Gentile, CEO of the NJ Credit Union League.
The New Jersey Credit Union League, through its REAL Solutions initiative, has also been a strong supporter of the program.
"One of the core missions of the credit union movement is to provide low-cost, high-quality financial services to underserved communities, and unfortunately, many among the disability community are highly underserved. This program not only helps those from the disability community gain valuable on-the-job experience by interning at credit unions, but it also helps credit unions understand how to better serve this important segment of our population," said New Jersey Credit Union League President/CEO Paul Gentile.
The BEST program is currently in Cycle II, which began in mid-July with seven interns working at five New Jersey credit unions: McGraw Hill FCU, Healthcare Employees FCU, First Financial FCU, New Community FCU and Novartis FCU. Interns have been working in human resources, marketing and accounting, and in front-line positions such as tellers and member service representatives.
Jennifer Seder, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Healthcare Employees FCU, said “Our involvement in the BEST internship program has been a truly rewarding experience. It has allowed us an opportunity to explore ways to understand the needs of the disability community, a typically underbanked market segment, while at the same time providing a hands on approach for our intern to learn about the credit union industry from the inside out”.
The BEST luncheon was facilitated Mark Lynch of REAL Solutions and Pamela Owens of the Federation. Attendees listened as the interns and credit union representatives shared their experiences over the past weeks. Cathyann Frank, Vice President of Operations, of McGraw Hill FCU explaioned that, "The opportunity to participate in the program has provided us with solid insights as to how we might better meet the needs of our members who have disabilities."
Training for the BEST interns is paid for and conducted by the partner organizations. The credit unions involved in the project have little or no cost associated with participation. Currently, only New Jersey credit unions have hosted these internships, but program partners hope these experiences will serve as the basis for a national model, with many more credit unions participating across the nation.
Credit unions interested in learning how to participate in Cycle III, beginning in mid-October, should contact Pamela Owens, Federation Director of Education and Training, at: email@example.com or (800) 437-8711 x215, or Mark Lynch from REAL Solutions at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (906) 632-3036.
About NJ Credit Unions: New Jersey Credit Unions have provided financial services to over 1.2 million New Jersey residents for the past 76 years. Credit unions are nonprofit financial institutions that provide the same services as traditional banks with lower fees and better rates. For more information on New Jersey credit unions visit: www.findacreditunion.com.
About REAL Solutions: REAL Solutions®, the signature program of the National Credit Union Foundation is designed to help credit unions best meet the needs of low-wealth households and emerging markets. The program works with credit unions to identify products and services with the right terms and conditions. Using products created and tested by credit unions, REAL Solutions disseminates these business models to credit unions through meetings, an online impact center, and state and national conferences. REAL Solutions program is currently being implemented in 37 states. REAL Solutions aims to help low-wealth consumers become loyal, long-term credit union members who will grow savings and accumulate assets that generate wealth for their families.