St. Louis Community and Freedom First Receive Award
CUNA’s Community Credit Union of the Year Award honors credit unions that exemplify the principles of the credit union movement and provide an array of services to meet the needs of their communities. This year’s award goes to St. Louis Community Credit Union (SLCCU) and Freedom First Federal Credit Union.
SLCCU Translates Mission Into Action
SLCCU is focused on the financial empowerment of its members and community–what it calls The Social Conscience of Banking.
The collaboration between credit union and community is a win-win; in 2012, St. Louis Community Credit Union’s assets and membership each grew by 12%. SLCCU’s growth is due to a combination of unique products, strategic locations and commitment to serving the low- and moderate-income individuals of urban St. Louis.
- SLCCU is a full-service CDFI, working with the Federation’s CU Breakthrough consulting team to become recertified in 2013. SLCCU offers credit-building products like “Second Chance” checking accounts and “Credit Matters” loans.
- Strong relationships with social service agencies led to micro-branches that bring mainstream banking services to the “financial deserts” in the greater St. Louis area. SLCCU has opened three micro-branches in the past two years.
- SLCCU’s CU Excel Center, offers free financial literacy and personalized financial coaching to the larger community. SLCCU and its Foundation have reached more than 20,000 St. Louisians through financial education outreach.
Patrick Adams, SLCCU President & CEO, sees opportunity where others may not: “”The economy is bad” is an opportunity, not a problem. While LMI populations continue to hurt as a result of a stagnant recovery to the recession, it is our credit union (and many like us) that provide cost-effective services, and credit opportunities to the historically disadvantaged that may not be available in the mainstream world of banking. What we do is a passion for serving people first and foremost. The not-for-profit credit union business model is the “best” to help people of a lesser means. We take our charge seriously.”
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Freedom First Leverages CDFI Certification
Freedom First’s mission is “Helping Our Members Prosper–Helping Our Communities Thrive. In other words, our primary mission is promoting community development.”
Freedom First has been helping families in the Roanoke area find their financial freedom since 1956. In 2008, Freedom First hired their first full-time community development coordinator. They became CDFI certified in 2010 and worked with the Federation on a Financial Assistance grant for $850,000 which they received in 2011. In 2012, assets and membership each grew by 14%. Freedom First is a leader in bringing together local non-profits, business and government to advance the goal of economic development in Virginia’s Valley Region.
- Freedom First promotes affordable housing through customized underwriting, down payment assistance and forgivable loan programs.
- Impact banking includes an array of credit-building and micro-loans, plus Borrow & Save, a partially secured loan that gives borrowers an opportunity to build good savings habits. Click here to learn more about Borrow & Save, a Federation product developed with funding from The Ford Foundation and Morgan Stanley.
- Freedom First’s financial education, community grants and academic scholarships further bind the credit union to the community and make Freedom First a great place to work; Freedom First has been name one of Virginia’s “Best Places to Work” in 2011 and 2012.
Of the Community Credit Union Award of the Year, Paul Phillips, CEO and Federation Board Member says, “The growth of community-chartered credit unions is a return to the roots of the industry, whose primary goal was serving the underserved. Freedom First’s most effective programs are those that focus on sustainable community development and leverage the complementary strengths of the Credit Union, local community action agencies, for-profit businesses, and governments. Freedom First has been called ‘a community development company that’s also in the banking business’ and it’s an apt description. Winning the national Community Credit Union of the Year award validates our efforts and strengthens our commitment to our members and the communities we share.”