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Detroit area CU thrives in economically depressed city
HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (12/18/08)--When Communicating Arts CU (CACU) of Detroit announced plans to open a branch in economically depressed Highland Park, some weren't sure it was a good idea.
Click to view larger imageCommunicating Arts CU’s Highland Park Branch, which opened in April, recently held a session to educate local high school students about credit reports. The credit union is located in the Detroit area. (Photo provided by Communicating Arts CU)
Highland Park is a small city surrounded by Detroit. According to 2000 census bureau figures, about 38% of Highland Park’s residents live below the poverty level. “But we wanted to be there,” Henry Hubbard, CACU president/CEO told News Now. “We thought it was the right place to be.” CACU is Highland Park’s only credit union. It opened the branch in April and has attracted 800 members. “It’s exceeded all of our expectations,” Hubbard said. “We’ve totally been embraced by the community.” CACU also was recently awarded with the Highland Park Business Association’s President’s Award. “It’s a huge honor,” Hubbard said. The $25 million-asset CACU offers products for low- to moderate-income members, including a payday loan alternative. About 500 members have taken advantage of the alternative so far, Hubbard said. Because Highland Park is located in a high-crime area, CACU was concerned for the safety of its members and staff. Many local businesses have retrofitted bulletproof glass windows, Hubbard said. To keep everyone safe, CACU installed a security vestibule with a metal detector. “A door behind you closes before the next one opens,” Hubbard said. Members who trigger the system are asked to put their metal objects on a tray. “Our members are comfortable with that,” Hubbard said. “It seems totally normal to them.” While local banks have installed bulletproof glass windows--which isn’t welcoming, according to Hubbard--CACU has managed to stay safe and inviting. “We can come out and hug our members--which we do all the time,” Hubbard said. “People say that this is nice, and they feel safe.” CACU also has reached out to the Highland Park community. On Thanksgiving, it provided food to 700 families. The credit union also will distribute 65 blankets to needy families on Sunday. The initiative was trigged in response to a house fire that killed a local woman and her grandchildren. The fire was caused by a space heater, so the credit union is encouraging residents to stay warm safely with the blankets. “We’re happy to be able to help,” Hubbard said.
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