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CU System briefs (01/27/2009)

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* (1/28/09)--Two Pennsylvania credit union CEOs--Carrie Wood of Timberland FCU, Du Bois, and Diane Kendrick of Priority First CU, Brookville--outlined the credit union difference as guest speakers on WCED Radio's "Community News with Gary Stormer." The program is sponsored byLt. Gov. Joe Scarnati, a former state senator. They discussed the origination of credit unions, membership eligibility at both credit unions, and advantages of credit union membership versus going to other financial institutions. they also dispelled myths about credit union membership and share insurance (Life is a Highway Jan. 27) … * CINCINNATI, PIKETON and BROOK PARK, Ohio (1/28/09)--Three Ohio credit unions have changed their names. Atomic Employees CU, Piketon, simplified its name to Atomic CU. Cincinnati Postal Employees CU changed its name to Postal Family CU, effective Dec. 31. Reward One CU, Brook Park, changed its name to Best Reward CU, effective Dec. 31 (eLumination Newsletter Jan. 21) … * CHARLOTTE. N.C. (1/28/09)--A woman who was out on bond related to charges of eight armed robberies at motels and convenience stores in Asheville, N.C., was arrested, along with her brother, shortly after a failed robbery attempt Jan. 20 at Charlotte (N.C.) Metro CU. Crystal Chevon Logan, 25, and her brother, Alfred Logan Jr., 29, were each charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. Local media reported Crystal Logan allegedly walked into the credit union, told the teller she had a bomb, and tried to rob the credit union. She left empty-handed and fled to a car allegedly driven by her brother. She had posted $50,000 bond in Asheville on Jan. 8 after being charged in the other robberies, which occurred last fall. Bond was set for Crystal Logan at $350,000 and for Alfred Logan at $300,000 in the latest incident (Citizen-Times.com Jan. 22) …

CDCU coalition offers free tax prep to low-incomers

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NEW YORK (1/28/09)--A coalition of community development credit unions (CDCUs) will offer Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites funded by a grant from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to help low-income consumers file their tax returns. The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions VITA Coalition was the only credit union-exclusive group to receive funds from the IRS. The coalition plans to file 5,000 returns this year. Nine credit unions--including Ka’u FCU, Na’alehu, Hawaii--are hosting VITA sites for the first time. Ka’u FCU is launching mobile VITA sites to help senior citizens and others with limited mobility receive their tax rebates. “Many people don’t realize the extent of poverty that exists in Hawaii. We have many people in our area who don’t know that they can file taxes and receive tax credits, particularly those in senior homes,” said Ka’u manager Bernard Balsis. NRS Community Development CU, Birmingham, Ala., also is hosting a site. “It’s important for low-income earners not to use predatory tax preparers,” said Eunice Rogers, NRS Community CEO. “We want them to take home every penny they have worked so hard for throughout the year.” Other credit unions participating in the coalition are:
* Alternatives FCU, Ithaca, N.Y.; * ASI FCU, Harahan, La.; * Border FCU, Del Rio, Texas; * Communicating Arts CU, Detroit; * District Government Employees FCU, Washington, D.C.; * El Futuro CU, Porterville, Calif.; * Family FCU, Wilmington, Calif; * Halifax County Community FCU, South Boston, Va.; * OUR FCU, Eugene, Ore.; * Santa Cruz (Calif.) Community CU; * Tongass FCU, Ketchikan, Alaska; * Triumph Baptist FCU, Philadelphia; * Winthrop (Mass.) CU; and * Women’s Southwest FCU, Dallas.
“Credit unions have a special advantage as VITA sites,” said Cliff Rosenthal, federation president/CEO. “A community member looking for free tax preparation may find that the credit union also can serve many of their financial needs, with checking and savings accounts, low-cost refund anticipation loans and financial literacy education.” The federation provides financial services to low-income urban and rural communities and represents more than 230 CDCUs nationwide.

WOCCU-supported CU law passes in Kenya

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NAIROBI, Kenya (1/28/09)--Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has signed into law legislation to regulate and support the country’s credit unions, known as savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs). The bill, passed by the Kenyan Parliament Nov. 14, is the result of several years of efforts by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), the Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Co-operatives Ltd. (KUSCCO), WOCCU’s member organization, the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) and several of its member credit unions. “This is a significant step for Africa’s SACCO movement,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, who helped spearhead the initiative six years ago. “SACCOs have grown quickly and are major providers in Kenya’s financial market. As such, they have come under increased popular pressure for greater levels of prudential supervision designed to protect SACCO members.” The new legislation updates frameworks for SACCO safety and soundness, and for the services they offer, enabling them to compete on more even footing with the country’s banks. The law, which stalled in the parliament for the past three years, establishes a regulatory authority for SACCOs. Kenya’s financial services industry regulations were previously lax. New provisions will establish a deposit guarantee fund, require SACCOs to meet certain liquidity requirements to remain competitive, and allow SACCOs to offer money transfers and diversify revenue sources. WOCCU continues to work to strengthen SACCO operations and create a healthier regulatory environment in Kenya, Branch said. Rising food prices and civil unrest make access to financial services for the poor even more critical. WOCCU served as an information and advocacy resource to those writing the bill. As part of those efforts, it also brought Kenyan government officials to the U.S. to meet with representatives from the National Credit Union Administration, the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors and PCUA. Representatives from PCUA and American Heritage FCU, Philadelphia, and Service 1st FCU, Danvilla, Pa., traveled to Kenya to advocate on behalf of stronger, more credit union-appropriate legislation with Kenya’s Parliament.

Wisconsin league testifies at safe-soundness hearing

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (1/28/09)--Representatives from the Wisconsin Credit Union League and a credit union testified Wednesday about the safety and soundness of credit unions at a state legislative committee hearing. They also distributed a new annual report on Wisconsin credit unions. The Senate Committee on Financial Institutions is gathering information to gain a Wisconsin perspective on the condition of the banking and real estate sectors of the economy. Presenting testimony were Joanne Whiting, chief advocacy officer for the league, and Jim Schrimpf, president of Brewery CU, Milwaukee. Whiting's testimony noted that credit unions' first major membership expansion occurred during the Great Depression, "when unemployment stood at 22% and people flocked to credit unions as a source of mutual support. "Today we're seeing renewed interest in credit unions for much the same reason--many financial firms have failed or just disappeared and people facing a tough economy are pulling back, wondering who they can trust. That's where credit unions come in," said Whiting. She noted that credit unions didn't get involved in subprime lending and remain strong, well capitalized and a continued source of affordable loans. In the auto loan arena, premier automakers General Motors and Chrysler Corp. "recognized credit unions recently as our nation's premier auto lenders," Whiting said, referring to credit unions' new "Invest in America" auto loan program. Credit unions have been part of the solution to the ailing housing market, with 62% of credit unions saying they have refinanced other lenders' mortgages to prevent foreclosures and bought the members some time, Whiting said, noting that member deposits are insured by the National Credit Union Administration. Wisconsin credit unions were the first in the country, she said, to spearhead the REAL Solutions program to encourage saving and building wealth, increase financial literacy, build creditworthiness and improve the lives of families and their communities. She outlined a number of REAL Solutions initiatives in the state. The annual report distributed at the hearing is a new report that provides a snapshot of how the state's credit unions delivered value to communities and 2.2 million members in 2008. The report says Wisconsin credit unions saved members $188 million during the 12 months ending in September, largely due to more competitive rates on savings and loans, and lower and fewer fees. To view the testimony or the annual report, use the resource links.

TCUL corporate address economy on Blog Radio

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (1/28/09)--Texas Credit Union League CEO Dick Ensweiler will be in the studio with Brian Turner, director of advisory services for Southwest Corporate Investment Services, Feb. 19 on Blog Talk Radio--a social radio network specializing in enabling users to connect quickly and directly with their audience. The second installment of Ensweiler’s “Your Money, Your Matters” program will address the current economic conditions and their impact (LoneStar Leaguer Jan. 27). Ensweiler and Turner will discuss the declining stock market, the rising unemployment rate, the subprime-mortgage meltdown and other issues during “The Economy: What’s on the Horizon for American Families?” Speaking on a variety of credit union issues, Ensweiler and Turner will address consumer concerns, while also commenting on the recent inauguration of President Barack Obama and how the change of power may affect consumers’ perceptions of their future financial circumstances. The live program begins at 4 p.m. (CST) Feb. 19. Once the program begins, listeners may “chat” with one another, and pose questions for the speakers online or via call-in.

Pacific Service CU philanthropy aided 60000 in 08

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WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (1/28/09)--In 2008, Pacific Service CU donated more than $130,000 to non-profit organizations throughout Northern California. The funds affected the lives of nearly 60,000 people, according to the credit union.
Click to view larger image During 2008, Pacific Service CU, Walnut Creek, Calif., donated more than $130,000 to non-profit organizations throughout Northern California. Funds donated impacted the lives of nearly 60,000 people, according to the credit union. (Photo provided by Pacific Service CU)
"It is important to our organization to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals needing assistance in the communities where we do business," said Steve Punch, president of the more than $1 billion asset credit union. "People Helping People has long been the cornerstone of our industry, " he said. "We put that sentiment to work at an actionable level in supporting our local communities.” Through its Community Involvement Program, which it launched in 2001, the credit union has given more than $1 million to area charities and estimates it has touched the lives of 386,000 people. As an ongoing program funded annually by the credit union’s board, the program focuses its efforts primarily on organizations that assist low-income and at-risk individuals, especially children. “In 2008 the need at our local levels is higher than we have seen in prior years,” Punch said. “And during these tough economic times, our employees also wanted to help, so they contributed their own time and money.” Pacific Service CU employees made individual contributions to The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano County’s Buy-A-Bag program, The Salvation Army’s Toy Drive, and The Bay Area Crisis Nursery’s Decorate a Tree program. During 2008, the credit union made contributions to 28 non-profit organizations. In addition to monetary contributions, the credit union also donates equipment it is retiring from service, such as PCs and furniture to non-profit organizations for use in after-school or training programs.

Maine first lady lauds CUs effort against hunger

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WESTBROOK, Maine (1/28/09)--At a time when food pantries are seeing a hike in requests for food, Maine’s credit unions celebrated “thawing” out hunger in the state at the January Thaw to End Hunger Celebration Event Monday at the Maine Credit Union League.
Click to view larger image From left, Maine’s first lady, Karen Baldacci; John Murphy, president of the Maine Credit Union League; and Luke Labbe, president/CEO of PeoplesChoice CU, Biddeford, and chair of the league’s Social Responsibility Committee, announce the record-setting total raised by the 2008 Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger. (Photo provided by the Maine Credit Union League)
Credit unions were recognized at the annual event for raising a record total for the Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger. Credit unions raised $375,296.59, an increase of nearly $10,000 over last year’s record. All funds raised stay in Maine, and go directly to the cause of ending hunger. Maine’s first lady, Karen Baldacci acknowledged the accomplishment. She applauded credit unions for their efforts, calling credit unions “locally-focused and committed to Maine people.” The first lady also read a letter from Gov. John Baldacci that said, “At a time when many Maine families are struggling, it is heartening to see our credit unions answering the call in so many ways.” Baldacci also helped distribute checks to credit union representatives who will then give the money to their local food pantries and hunger organizations. “The 2008 Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger not only had a record- setting year but it formed new relationships with food pantries across the state. These enhanced efforts are extremely important, as food pantries are seeing a significant increase in requests during these difficult times,” said Jon Paradise, league governmental and public affairs manager. Since 1990, the Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger has raised more than $3.1 million.

CU showcases inner city services for NCUA chairman

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (1/28/09)--National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Chairman Michael Fryzel visited CommunityWide FCU, reinforcing and praising the South Bend, Ind.-based credit union’s efforts to provide financial services, counsel and education to its inner-city members.
Click to view larger image From left, Indiana Credit Union League President John McKenzie; CommunityWide FCU Chief Operating Officer Andrew Burggraf; Head Teller Jen Robinson; National Credit Union Administration Chairman Michael Fryzel; CommunityWide FCU Regional Manager Shannon Anders; Loan Operations Manager Melissa Luchowski; Member Services Manager Judy Murphy; Regional Manager Cindy Burggraf; Administrative Assistant Deb Krempec; and Accounting Manager Paula Rajski gather during Fryzel’s recent visit to the credit union. (Photo provided by the Indiana Credit Union League)
Fryzel visited the credit union earlier this month. CommunityWide Chief Operating Officer Andrew Burggraf, and Indiana Credit Union League President John McKenzie hosted the meeting. “I am extremely impressed with CommunityWide FCU’s innovative and energetic approaches to member service,” Fryzel said. “This credit union is clearly having a positive impact in its community by providing fairly priced financial services and financial education to low- and moderate-income consumers.” Fryzel met with credit union staff who oversee lending. Discussion covered the credit union’s lending philosophy of taking extra time to look at the big picture--even if the borrower’s credit score is lower than preferred--to explore if there is still a basis for approving a loan. Burggraf said that Fryzel’s “Interest and input regarding our business model and effectiveness in serving all sectors of the community was very timely as we implement our pro-growth strategy by opening other full-service offices in other communities outside the South Bend area. “While other industries are struggling with economic downturn, CommunityWide is forging ahead with its mission of serving our members’ interests with quality financial products, convenient full-service locations, and the pursuit of fine member service,” he added. Fryzels’ conversation with CommunityWide FCU staff covered the credit union’s history, its approach to serving its members and its operating strategies. CommunityWide FCU was created in 1967 to serve inner city residents of South Bend. Seed money was provided by the Catholic Church. A significant portion of the credit union’s membership comprises minorities. It has been successful in serving the Hispanic community in South Bend since the 1980s, said the league. CommunityWide FCU offers payroll loans and other small loans that help members avoid the high costs of traditional payday loans. Fryzel’s visit also focused on how the credit union grew from $1.7 million in assets in the early 1980s to $181 million today. CommunityWide accomplished this by emphasizing its mission of offering financial services at a minimum expense, along with financial counseling and education, while marketing primarily through word of mouth and the visibility of new branches placed in areas close to neighborhoods. CommuntyWide’s growth included mergers with seven small credit unions as those employee groups were impacted by economic downturns and plant closings.