WASHINGTON (7/25/11)--Hawaii First FCU in Kamuela, Hawaii, will use a government grant to help establish a second location for its award-winning Community Resource Center (CRC), expanding service to underserved residents of Hilo, who are separated from the current CRC by distance and an active volcano. Hawaii First FCU was awarded $1,242,690 on July 18 through the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund as part of the $23 million awarded to 25 credit unions. The $40.4 million asset credit union is a pioneer of community development banking in Hawaii, launching development services even before the Treasury Department founded the CDFI Fund, Hawaii First FCU said. Today, its CRC in Kamuela, is a best practice revered by credit union industry experts, the credit union said. That’s why Hawaii First sought to duplicate the CRC in Hilo and extend services to a low--and very low--income target population (LITP) on the other side of the island. Those in LITP in Hilo are isolated from much needed financial services by travel time of three hours to the Kamuela CRC. “Credit unions in struggling communities, like the Big Island of Hawaii in particular, can leverage CDFI awards to have a significant impact on improving individual lives, our communities and helping with economic recovery,” said Laura Aguirre, spokeswoman for Hawaii First FCU. “Our programs align with the vision of CDFI Fund, which is the creation of an America in which all people have access to affordable credit, capital and financial services.” This CDIF grant will help Hawaii First FCU provide financial education, credit counseling and affordable loans for its members. The funding is a part of a nationwide round of awards totaling $142.3 million for 155 CDFIs serving struggling communities in states nationwide.