SANTE FE, N.M. (6/12/08)--Several Sante Fe, N.M., area credit unions are experiencing growth and are reaching out to serve the underserved, an article in The Sante Fe New Mexican noted Tuesday. Del Norte CU, a $302 million asset, Los Alamos, N.M-based credit union, is designed to serve the underserved and its 42,000 members know that, Guy Lisella, Del Norte vice president of marketing, told the newspaper. The credit union is not designed to collect as many fees as it can, and members can tell the difference in the experience of going to a credit union, as opposed to going to bank, he added. Guadalupe CU, a $69 million asset, Sante Fe-based credit union, recently opened two new branches--one near a supermarket and the other in the fastest growing part of the city, the newspaper said. The new branch, near the fastest growing area, “offers a fully bilingual staff, financial counseling and nontraditional products,” Guadalupe CU said in a statement. One product is a payday loan alternative with significantly lower costs than traditional payday loans, the credit union told the paper. The Guadalupe branch also offers financial counseling and check cashing for $3 per check, which it says is lower than traditional check-cashing facilities. Permaculture CU, a $3.2 million asset, Sante Fe-based credit union, makes loans to help sustainable projects that “take care of the earth,” according to its website. The credit union’s membership increased 51% in the past year, Donald Sarich, Permaculture president/CEO, told the paper. The credit union helps members with loans to make their homes and cars more energy efficient, because people are interested in sustainability, Sarich added. Permaculture’s assets also went up $625,000 last year. Northern New Mexico School Employees FCU, a $13.2 million asset, Sante Fe-based credit union, opened its 14th branch in the state, and its first in Sante Fe, during the first first quarter of 2007, the paper said. The credit union expects to start construction on another branch site in late spring 2009, it said. From the end of 2006 to the end of 2007, credit union membership went up 2.83%, according to the Credit Union Association of New Mexico. This growth is due to a new awareness of credit unions that had not been there before and the fact that increasing numbers of credit unions are more accessible to various groups, association spokeswoman Mary Beth King told the paper.