Local Hosts Join Sister Corinne Florek for “Inspiring” Opening Ceremonies
(June 17, 2011 – Hollywood, CA) That unmistakable spirit of cooperation was alive and well on June 16 at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and Spa as community development credit union leaders in California joined fellow members of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation) to celebrate their common bond and ignite an even stronger passion.
As the 37th Annual Conference on Serving the Underserved kicked off in California’s motion-picture entertainment birthplace, credit union professionals from all corners of the nation networked and shared their challenges, opportunities, and success in serving low-income communities. Pre-conference workshops buzzed with participation as attendees engaged experts on regulatory, certification, and operating policy topics related to interfacing with minority and low-income credit union members.
|Federation President/CEO, Cliff Rosenthal and California & Nevada CU League CEO Diana Dykstra.
The opening general session proved an emotional scene as speakers poured out their hearts and talked about the positive role community development credit unions play in their members’ lives every day.
California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues President and CEO Diana Dykstra described the large group of represented credit unions as a “magical” bunch, commending them for serving low-income regions that are oftentimes overlooked in the financial services world.
“While lots of credit unions were licking their wounds and scaling back during the recession, you continued serving your communities the best you could,” Dykstra said. “You do remarkable work, you change lives, and most of all, you embody what credit unions are all about.”
Terry Agius—vice president of advocacy for SchoolsFirst FCU and CEO of Comunidad Latina FCU—shared the story behind Comunidad Latina’s humble beginnings. With the federation’s help, the small credit union now sports a “tremendous” capital base, growing loan portfolio, and steadily increasing membership base.
“The Federation has been there to support us every step of the way,” Agius said. “It’s great to see so many people who are so passionate about their work. For all of us here, we are colleagues—and the fact that we can come together to help each other serve our members is amazing.”
Perhaps the most touching moment was when a tear-filled Federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal presented a recognition plaque to Sister Corinne Florek, director of the Mercy Partnership Fund and Mercy Investment Services, and a pioneer in community investing. Almost 30 nuns belonging to the international congregation of Adrian Dominican Sisters joined Florek on stage for a few minutes as the audience gave a rousing standing ovation for their collective investment of time, energy, and money into community development credit unions. The group was the first investor in the Federation almost 30 years ago, while also fostering other nonprofit organizations through its Religious Communities Investment Fund.
“We were an organization that was flat busted,” Rosenthal said about a low point in the Federation’s history during the late 1970s. “We had an idea to start a loan fund, but we had no track record and no net worth. We were just a concept, and the Adrian Dominican Sisters came to our aid.” With an initial $30,000 investment from the sisters, the Federation’s Community Development Investment Program was born.
Thanks to contributions by the sisterhood, religious investors, foundations, banks, the federal government and others, community development credit unions across the nation have reaped $200 million from the Federation’s Community Development Investment Program to make positive changes in their communities over the last three decades. With two other major community development credit union investment announcements at the conference—$10 million from Bank of America for deposits, and $2 million from the Ford Foundation for secondary capital—the federation’s investment portfolio will surpass $60 million in assets under management.
Florek applauded the credit union movement’s powerful moves to help members better themselves. She said the industry mirrors the sisterhood’s mission in several ways: it creates financial democracy, spurs collaboration, and promotes justice.
“Your stories and ours have become interwoven,” she said. “Because us sisters hold things in common, we have money to do things. We are one big cooperative—one that’s so countercultural, yet so powerful. We are in this for the long haul. You could almost say we’re like one big credit union.”
She said credit unions are the sisterhood’s boots on the ground. “You credit unions are present where we can’t see,” Florek said. “You are our eyes, our hearts, and our ears. Without you, we could not carry out our mission.”
The sisters and the Federation’s credit unions hold another bond as well, as several in the industry are facing the most challenging regulatory and economic period they’ve ever faced. When it comes to the sisters’ ministry goals, they aren’t immune from tight budgets and a growing lack of participation by young adults.
Even with these obstacles, Florek said she’s remained steadfast with the group because it gives her meaning and purpose, and asked whether her loyalty resonates with professionals in the crowd. Several gave a firm “yes” or nodded their heads.
“Just like you, when times get tough, I still know that what I’m doing is right,” she added. “You’re all about people, value, and mission just like we sisters are. We’re both motivated by service, we’re both democratic, and we both pull our resources for the common good. We’re in this together.”
Reprinted with permission from the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues