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CU System briefs (12/07/2007)

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* CLATSKANIE, Ore. (12/10/07)--Wauna FCU in Clatskanie is working with county emergency service officials to distribute donations to those affected by recent flooding in the Pacific Northwest. The credit union has opened donation accounts for both Clatsop and Columbia counties. The public can make monetary donations and can wire funds from any credit union or other financial institution. Wauna has branches in Astoria, Clatskanie, St. Helens, Vernonia and Warrenton ... * FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (12/10/07)--A recent survey of financial institutions by Consumers’ Checkbook, a non-profit consumer magazine, indicated that Puget Sound, Wash., credit unions beat banks in overall service. Eighty percent of credit union members surveyed gave their financial institution a superior rating, compared to 77% of bank customers. And 77% of credit union members gave their financial institution a superior rating in the reasonableness of fee policies, compared to 62% of bank customers. What’s interesting about the survey, according to Washington Credit Union League President/CEO John Annaloro, is that bank branches outnumber credit union branches 6-to-1, yet one-third of the people surveyed were credit union members … * CHICAGO (12/10/07)--William F. Schraft, 93, former board chairman at Bensenville Community CU in Bensenville, and a previous Illinois Credit Union League director, has passed away (Chicago Tribune Dec. 6). Schraft was a credit union volunteer and held positions in a number of credit union offices. He was also a tool maker … * SPARTANBURG, S.C. (12/10/07) Sharonview FCU in Fort Mill, S.C., recently assisted one of its members who experienced an $8,000 billing mistake. The credit union had contacted the member, Kitty Forry, about an $8,105 overdraft on her account (WSPA.com Dec. 5). When Forry saw the charge, she realized that she’d left out a decimal point when paying her cell phone bill online. Sharonview provided proof of the error to Forry’s cell phone company, and along with the help of a local television station’s “7 On Your Side” consumer problem-solver, Forry was able to get her money back. Sharonview employee Amanda Butler, who helped Forry, advised members to check their transactions when paying bills online to avoid mistakes …

CU welcomes Irish guest in twin city exchange

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. (12/10/07)--The Berkshire County Chapter of the Massachusetts Credit Union League recently welcomed an Irish guest to its credit union as a part of a sister city exchange program.
Joe Donlon (left), Lanesboro Balleyleague CU chairman, Ireland, gives a handmade sculpture called the “Salmon of Knowledge” to John Bissell, Greylock FCU, Pittsfield, Mass., during Donlon’s visit to Greylock FCU. The Salmon of Knowledge is an ancient Irish story that has been shared through generations. (Photo provided by Berkshire CU)
The guest, Joe Donlon, Lanesboro Balleyleague CU Chairman, felt that he was “amongst me own” during his visit. “We all serve the same purpose--we are for the people,” he said. Lanesboro Balleyleague CU is based in Ireland and serves 3,000 members. Donlon served as an honorary guest speaker at the chapter’s dinner, where he provided background on his own credit union and the credit union movement in Ireland. Credit and debit cards are a “thing of the future,” at his credit union, and his greatest challenge is marketing the credit union philosophy to people, Donlon said. “We are working toward the concept of sharing marketing resources with three other credit unions to get our word out there,” he added. Donlon also toured Mycom CU, Pittsfield; Berkshire FCU, Berkshire; and Greylock FCU, Pittsfield. “It’s fascinating to hear about our similarities with a credit union separated from us by the Atlantic Ocean,” said Berkshire Chapter President Clare Klose. “Regardless of size, or latitude, all credit unions share the same mission. “I was most interested in Ireland’s decision to begin banding together with 17 other chapter credit unions, in developing the concept of shared branches, which is something that provides a model for all of us,” she added.

Alabama league hosts 2007 development conference

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (12/10/07)--More than 230 credit union professionals gathered at the Alabama Credit Union League’s 2007 Development Conference, making it one of the best-attended development conferences in league history. The conference was held Nov. 28-30 in Savannah, Ga. Professionals and volunteers representing 44 credit unions, 123 guests and 23 vendor organizations were in attendance. “It’s more important than ever that credit unions take advantage of league offerings as well as use peer discussions, to further the future of their individual credit unions, as well as the future of the credit union movement,” said Gary Wolter, president/CEO of the league. The conference opened and closed with three featured speakers, including former NBA star Walter Bond, who talked about personal determination. The conference featured sessions including:
* Maverick Marketing: Create Award-winning Marketing on a Shoestring Budget; * Discovering and Evaluating Untapped Markets; * Motivating Directors: Dos and Don’ts from a Burned-Out CEO; * Innovative Operational Models to Help Your Credit Union Thrive and Survive; * The Board-CEO Relationship Dynamic: Making it a True Partnership; * Mobile Banking--Making it Work for You; * Product Pricing: Everything Can’t Be a Loss Leader; and * The Intrigue of Delivering Business Services Lending.

Iowa CUs participate in state investment program

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DES MOINES, Iowa (12/10/07)--Iowa credit unions are getting involved with the State Treasurer’s Small Business Linked Investments for Tomorrow (LIFT) program. The program facilitates the growth of Iowa small businesses by providing low interest loans. Iowa credit unions have partnered with Community Business Lenders, a credit union service organization specializing in member business loans, to offer business loans to Iowans. Through this partnership, credit unions are able to offer business loans to their members, and are working to sign agreements with the state treasurer’s office to take part in the LIFT program. Affinity CU, a $52.1 million asset, Des Moines-based institution, recently funded a LIFT loan for Carole Eckles-Harding to purchase a permanent lighting franchise, ChannelBrite in Polk County. “Using the LIFT program was shockingly easy,” said Eckles-Harding. “They had the whole thing taken care of in just about two hours.” ChannelBrite is unique in that it uses LED lights rather than incandescent lighting. This lighting consumes considerably less energy than incandescent lights and lasts for up to 100,000 hours, or 10 years. “The LIFT program helps Iowa’s small businesses flourish,” said Michael Fitzgerald, state of Iowa treasurer. “We are so happy that Iowa credit unions are participating in the program that will help hundreds of Iowans fulfill their dreams.”

PCUA vice president interviewed for card refund story

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (12/10/07)--Corinne Sherman, Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) vice president, was interviewed Thursday by a local television consumer news reporter, regarding a recent class action lawsuit settlement involving Diner’s Club, Visa and MasterCard. The lawsuit was filed to try and recover a non-disclosed 3% currency conversion fee charged to cardholders who purchased items outside of the U.S. between 1996 and 2006. The court ruled in favor of the cardholders. The U.S. District Court of Philadelphia recently sent letters to cardholders eligible for at least $25 in refunds (Life is a Highway Dec. 7) The card companies “add a fee automatically for the currency conversion. What happened was they had this fee in place and it wasn’t disclosed anywhere…they have to reimburse everybody who had an international transaction through a ten-year period,” Sherman told WHTM (Dec. 6). Cardholders can request refunds by providing proof of purchases and their credit card account numbers to the companies.

SECU Foundation to provide affordable housing for teachers

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RALEIGH, N.C. (12/10/07)--Teachers in Dare County, N.C., may have more affordable housing options due to help provided by the State Employees CU Foundation. The foundation board recently approved a plan to provide affordable housing for teachers in Dare County, according to G. Mark Twisdale, foundation executive director (Virginian-Pilot Dec. 7). Details have yet to be finalized. The foundation met with Dare County educators Friday about the project, with more details expected this week. In August, the foundation provided a $2.2 million interest-free loan for a 24-unit apartment complex in Hertford County to help teachers. All of the units have been rented. The school district struggles to find quality teachers because area living expenses are so high. A Dare County Schools report indicated that at least 30% of teachers employed in 11 of the district’s schools work second jobs during the academic year to make ends meet. In three of the schools, 40% of teachers reported having outside jobs, and at Cape Hatteras Elementary, 58% of teachers reported working second jobs, the newspaper said. State Employees CU, based in Raleigh, has $14 billion in assets.

Florida AG CU target of brazen e-mail scam

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (12/10/07)--Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum recently informed the public that many Florida consumers, including state employees, have received fake e-mails from scammers who are fraudulently posing as representatives of First Florida CU. The scam is especially brazen because it appears to be an authentic warning about identity theft and phishing attempts, often including a signature from a credit union security manager (US Fed News Dec. 6). The messages claim members of First Florida CU--a $310 million asset, Jacksonville-based credit union--have been the targets of phishing attempts, and to protect their financial information, members need to log into the website--provided through a link in the e-mail--and list their account numbers and personal identification numbers. First Florida has confirmed that the e-mails are fake. McCollum stated that recipients of these types of e-mails should immediately contact their credit union or financial institution, as well as the attorney general’s office.

Michigan league addresses foreclosure issue

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LANSING, Mich. (12/10/07)--The rapidly rising mortgage foreclosure rate nationwide has significantly impacted Michigan residents, and the Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) is ready to help state residents overcome the situation. MCUL President/CEO David Adams addressed members of the Michigan House Banking and Financial Services Committee Dec. 4 on how credit unions have avoided contributing to the problem and how they’ve worked to educate consumers. “The committee has heard testimony from a variety of sources on the subject of Michigan’s high foreclosure rate, and we wished to provide input on where credit unions fit into the picture,” Adams said. “Thanks to the strong relationship the MCUL and our members have with these lawmakers, they were very accommodating and were more than willing to hear where we stood in terms of the legislation we would support and what we have done to battle the foreclosure problem as an industry,” he added. During his testimony, Adams summarized the nature of credit unions as not-for-profit financial cooperatives. He then pointed out credit unions’ low delinquency rates compared to financial institutions offering subprime loans, and the programs implemented by many Michigan credit unions to help educate consumers about the dangers of exotic mortgages. Adams concluded by discussing credit unions’ willingness to support legislation that would deter predatory lending while avoiding over-regulation of the marketplace. To view a video clip of Adams’ testimony, use the link.

CDCUs in New York City join to fight poverty homelessness

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NEW YORK (12/10/07)--The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation) hosted a gathering earlier this month to expand CDCU participation in New York City’s antipoverty initiatives and to help the Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) gather input about their new programs.
Cathie Mahon (right), executive director of New York City’s Office of Financial Empowerment, talks about various asset-building initiatives being implemented by her office, during a recent gathering held by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions at its New York City offices. (Photo provided by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions)
The gathering at its offices brought together community development credit union (CDCU) leaders from New York City for a meeting with representatives of New York City’s OFE and Department of Homeless Services (DHS). During the meeting, OFE representatives spoke about the various programs and studies underway at the agency and requested feedback to increase CDCU involvement in the various initiatives. Some of the new initiatives include:
* Expansion of CDCU participation in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which has helped New York City’s low-income families claim millions of dollars in tax credits from the federal government; * Development of a financial literacy database, both online and through the City’s 311 telephone information clearinghouse program, which would link individuals with local organizations that conduct trainings; and * Extension of credit union service to participants in the city’s Work Rewards Program.
One of the first agencies of its kind in the nation, OFE was created nearly one year ago as part of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative. Housed under the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs, OFE is charged with the coordination and development of citywide efforts to alleviate poverty. OFE was represented by its executive director, and former Federation Senior Consultant, Cathleen Mahon; Senior Deputy Director Millard Owens; OFE Deputy Director Donna Lennon; and Director for Evaluation and Analysis Caitlyn Brazill. “All of us at OFE understand the vital role community development credit unions play in supporting some of the most impoverished communities in New York City. For us it is important that in addition to banks, other community controlled financial institutions be a part of the solution,” Mahon explained. “DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz understands this, as does Mayor Bloomberg. That is why he announced this creation of our office last year at the city’s largest CDCU, the Lower East Side People’s FCU,” she continued. Ellen Howard-Cooper, deputy commissioner of DHS, who also presented at the session, hopes to link more credit unions with homeless families moving into transitional housing through the City’s Work Advantage program. The program, which subsidizes one year of rent for homeless families and individuals who work full or part-time, also promotes savings by matching participants’ savings up to 20% of the total monthly rental amount. “CDCUs already provide much of the essential wealth-building services and financial education that are so badly needed by these transitional populations,” Howard-Cooper explained. “Their involvement would support this program by providing participants with the tools they need to become productive and self-sufficient residents.” “It is extremely rewarding to see New York City finally utilize the knowledge and experience of CDCUs in development of its antipoverty efforts,” said Federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal. “For far too long, the work of CDCUs has gone on largely below the radar, but this has begun to change, and it is truly gratifying to see their innovative efforts highlighted so prominently in the city’s agenda.”