DALLAS (10/27/10)--When Fort Worth, Texas, resident Hermes Escobar’s mother-in-law had a heart attack, his family struggled with how they would come up with the money to fly to Nicaragua to be with her. He had been a member at Fort Worth-based EECU for a short time and had only just begun to establish a credit history. With no other options, he visited his credit union’s branch, and within minutes, EECU gave Escobar the loan his family needed to travel to his native Nicaragua. For the efforts the $1.13 billion-asset EECU makes to meet the financial services needs of members like Escobar, the Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) awarded EECU with its Juntos Avanzamos designation (LoneStar Leaguer Oct. 27). “This designation is not one that is simply given away,” said Dick Ensweiler, TCUL president/ CEO. “Credit unions must earn it by demonstrating their undying commitment and heartfelt passion to the economic empowerment of Hispanic families. An unfortunate reality is that a significant gap continues to exist between our underserved communities and financial mainstream.” “Access to affordable financial services is critical to building wealth, and EECU is to be commended for their efforts to narrow this gap,” Ensweiler added. Juntos Avanzamos is an outreach initiative TCUL created to empower Texas credit unions to more effectively meet the needs of their Hispanic community. Earlier this year, TCUL partnered with Iowa-based Coopera Consulting to strengthen and expand the Juntos program. The top priority was to evaluate and improve the application process. Coopera had already developed the Hispanic Opportunity Navigator (HON), a comprehensive assessment tool that provides credit unions significantly greater insight into serving the Hispanic population. After completing this assessment, a credit union will have the prioritized steps necessary to become the financial institution of choice serving Hispanics within its field of membership. TCUL has now made it mandatory that any Texas credit union interested in earning the Juntos Avanzamos designation must first go through the HON. EECU was one of the early embracers of the HON. A press conference to celebrate EECU’s “induction” into the Juntos Avanzamos initiative was held at its northside branch Oct. 21, which is International Credit Union Day--a day in which credit unions and their members celebrate the history of the credit union movement. Escobar not only attended the Oct. 21 celebration, he also helped raise the “Juntos Avanzamos” flag--signaling to the Hispanic community that they can receive dignified services at this credit union.