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WOCCU 2 leagues to serve post-Katrina work force
NEW ORLEANS (11/5/08)--Thousands of Hispanic construction workers, many of them new immigrants, along with the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and two state credit union leagues, are helping New Orleans rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005. Meeting the financial needs of those workers, many of whom send money home to families in Latin America, has created a new challenge for some New Orleans credit unions, said WOCCU.
From left, the Iowa Credit Union League’s Patrick Jury, the Louisiana Credit Union League's Anne Cochran, and World Council of Credit Union's Brian Branch find a sunny French Quarter street corner to discuss Hispanic outreach efforts in New Orleans. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
This week, the credit unions are learning how to better reach this rapidly growing demographic through a united effort by WOCCU; the Louisiana Credit Union League (LCUL); the Iowa Credit Union League (ICUL) and its subsidiary Coopera, designed to serve immigrant and emerging populations; and Caja Morelia Valladolid, one of Mexico's largest credit unions. “Membership levels have been stagnant for Louisiana's credit unions," said Anne Cochran, a WOCCU director and president/CEO of LCUL, which is spearheading the state's Hispanic outreach efforts. “I'd like to see our credit unions take advantage of this opportunity to grow." The need for workers following Katrina's destruction raised the level of New Orleans' Hispanic population from an estimated 15,000 to more than 50,000, and perhaps to as many as 100,000, according to data collected by Coopera, whose staff works with Iowa credit unions to serve that state's growing Hispanic population. The transience and number of unregistered citizens in Hispanic communities make precise numbers difficult to measure. Nearly 50% of New Orleans’ Hispanics work in the city's construction industry. “There is some parallel to the way you reach out to underserved populations of all types," said Patrick Jury, president/CEO of ICUL. “In Iowa, we try to be part of the thought leadership when Hispanic and immigrant issues come up across the state." LCUL's efforts to reach Hispanic members preceded Hurricane Katrina's arrival, according to Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. The new initiative broadens the scope of those efforts, in terms of reaching larger numbers of Hispanics and involving more Louisiana credit unions, he added. Also, the collaborating organizations bring new insights, WOCCU said. In Iowa, Coopera and ICUL defined a business methodology to reach this market profitably and it will likely have applications in Louisiana. Caja Morelia Valladolid’s input will help Louisiana's credit unions seem approachable and user friendly to immigrants. “With the need for credit union growth becoming more crucial, especially in the face of the ongoing economic crisis, now is the time for the Louisiana league and its credit unions to step forward and reach out to this group,” Branch said. In addition to LCUL, WOCCU, and ICUL staff, leaders in this week's educational sessions for New Orleans credit unions include Coopera staff members Warren Morrow and Miriam de Dios, and Jesus Ortiz and Ismael Medina from Caja Morelia Valladolid. Initial progress could appear slow, warned Jury. “When you undertake an initiative like this, it takes some time to see the needle move on progress,” said Jury. “There have to be financial--as well as philosophical--reasons for credit unions to undertake this effort. It’s important to keep in mind what will constitute success, then strive to attain those goals.”
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