ST. LOUIS (3/13/09)--The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is giving Missouri credit unions kudos for their efforts to help consumers buy vehicles at a time when other financial institutions are making it harder to access credit. The newspaper published an article Sunday that touted credit unions as a solution to the credit crunch (The Missouri difference March 11). “Not everyone tightened lending,” the article said. “Credit unions suddenly saw competition contract after some big banks and automakers’ finance companies cut back.” “The other sources of lending aren't there,” Amy McLard, vice president of public/legislative affairs for the Missouri Credit Union Association, told the paper. “People are turning to credit unions, and we have money to lend.” First Community CU, Chesterfield, issued 25% more auto loans in the second half of 2008 compared with the first half, Laura Alfeldt, the credit union’s vice president of marketing, told the paper. January--generally a slow time--was the top month for First Community’s auto loans in the past five years, she added. Credit Union Lending Systems, a St. Louis County-based intermediary between 31 credit unions statewide and 270 new- and used-auto dealerships, told the paper that January was its best month since the company’s inception in May 2000. Credit unions have significantly helped Jim Butler Auto Plaza get through the credit crunch, which began in August, Kyle Kaverman, general manager for the St. Louis-based used-vehicle dealership, told the paper.