Travis Credit Union Recognized for Hispanic Outreach
Travis Credit Union celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month Friday with art, music, dance and by receiving the “Juntos Avanzamos” designation for its efforts toward financial literacy.
Performing at this event were Daniel Fríes, a Bay Area flamenco guitarist, and Bay Area-based Grupo Teokalli, who performed traditional Aztec dances. The group’s name translates to “la casa de la oración,” or “the house of prayer,” in the native Aztec language of Nahuatl.
Pieces by artist Hector Villegas, whose creations include acrylic pieces and high quality giclee prints on watercolor papers, were on display.
Juntos Avanzamos, translating to “Together We Advance,” is a designation for credit unions that demonstrate a vision and commitment to serving the Hispanic community in providing financial services and asset-building opportunities.
For providing financial education, literary and advocacy to all its members, as well as a bilingual advisory group that provides feedback, Travis Credit Union is the first credit union in Northern California to receive this designation.
Travis Credit Union representatives were joined by local officials, including Assemblyman Jim Frazier as well as Pedro Jimenez, a representative from the Mexican Consulate, Alba Perez, client relations director for Coopera Consulting, and Pablo DeFilippi, vice president of membership and business development for the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.
The Federation is an association of credit unions that provide responsible financial services to underserved communities, while Coopera, an Iowa-based Hispanic credit union consulting company, works with credit unions on outreach to Latino communities.
In 2005, Travis Credit Union recognized that many Hispanic people in the community were underserved, Nav Khanna, executive vice president, said.
While financial institutions may look to prey upon them, he said, they wanted to help.
Travis began partnering with Coopera, and started working with family resource centers, churches, Head Start programs and Hispanic chambers of commerce. They started financial education programs and introduced its bilingual advisory group.
They want to meet the challenges of this community, and add more bilingual staff, Khanna said.
“We truly believe a financially educated society is best,” he said.
The Juntos Avanzamos program started 10 years ago in Texas, DeFilippi said, and the network now includes 50 credit unions in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
“The idea here is to bring affordable financial services to the Hispanic community,” he said.
Some 40 percent of new home purchases in the last year were by Hispanic people.
DeFilippi cited a study done in North Carolina that indicated this demographic was being victimized because they would carry cash.
Once they were able to join a financial institution, those thefts went down.
“This is something that is really touching people’s lives,” DeFilippi said.
It’s important for the entire financial system to make sure credit unions are welcoming, he added, so they can help make the American dream, really a universal dream, a reality.
“We can do well and we can do good at the same time,” DeFilippi said.
It’s the “tenacity of the leadership of Travis Credit Union” that has led to this program’s success in Vacaville, Perez said.
“All the work has been paying off not only for the credit union, but also for the Hispanic community,” she said.
Ana Dineen, a retired school nurse who now works with Voces Unidas, a group that aids Spanish speakers, said many immigrant families weren’t linked to financial institutions. They had no credit and could not become homeowners. Travis Credit Union built trust within this community and respected their culture, she said.
Bilingual staff are important, Melida Carrillo, a Travis Credit Union member, explained in Spanish, but being treated with respect when they come in is even more so.
Frazier praised “Team Travis” for embracing the Hispanic community. “If they find an unmet need in the community, they step up,” he said. They have a different way of approaching this work. “It’s not predatory, it’s embracing,” Frazier said.