MADISON, Wis. (10/18/13)--At a strategic planning session a few years ago, directors and key executives at Freedom First CU, Roanoke, Va., focused on one vital question: "If we weren't here, who would care?"
From the discussion arose a new commitment. "We said, 'Let's be different,'" recalled Paul Phillips, the credit union's president/CEO.
Credit Union Magazine is celebrating the credit union movement's rock stars--those ordinary people who manage to pull off the extraordinary--in honor of International Credit Union Day, which was Thursday. Today News Now will highlight the fourth and fifth rock stars of the week.
Under Phillips' leadership, Freedom First embarked on a bold effort to serve people who lack access to traditional financial institutions.
"In doing so, we've breathed new life into the credit union and given our work purpose," Phillips said. "Our skill sets are evolving to include such things as grant writing and leading community collaborations to do things for-profits either would not or could not do. It's been a fun journey."
In 2010, Freedom First obtained designations as a community development credit union, a low-income credit union, and a community development financial institution. It also created products and programs designed specifically for low-income people, who comprise 61% of the credit union's members.
One such program is Responsible Rides, a collaboration with community nonprofits and Enterprise Car Sales. Borrowers get not only a loan, but also classes in personal finance and vehicle maintenance.