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Oregon Assoc. honors efforts in governmental affairs

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BEAVERTON, Ore. (10/20/08)--The Credit Union Association of Oregon (CUAO) announced the 2008 Credit Union Advocate of the Year, Professional and Volunteer, during the Awards Banquet at CUAO’s 72nd Annual Meeting and Convention on Oct. 8. The individuals and credit unions were honored for their dedication to the credit union movement in the legislative and political arena. The 2008 CU Advocate of the Year, Volunteer was presented to Gene Hatfield, OSU FCU, Corvallis. Hatfield is an advocate for credit unions and has served in many capacities including secretary/treasurer of the board of directors, chair of the supervisory committee, and on executive, financial services, and nominating committees for the credit union since becoming a volunteer in 2000. This year’s Credit Union Advocate of the Year in the Professional category is Dan Penn, CEO, MaPS CU, Salem. Penn has worked in the credit union movement for more than 38 years, and has been CEO of his credit union since 1980. He has contributed to the movement with his service on the Northwest Corporate board of directors, the CUES board, the CUAO board of directors, and the board of the Capitol Chapter. He has also served as chair of the Grassroots and CU Advocacy Committee and currently serves as chair of the PAC Trustees Board. Penn has been the recipient of the OCUL “Medal of Honor” for his leadership on the Operations Grassroots Campaign, the Heidemann Scholar Award for outstanding service to the Credit Union Movement, and the 1993 recipient of CUAO’s Distinguished Service Award. Besides credit unions, he is a leader in his community by serving on the Executive Leadership Council of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce. “Our CU Advocates of the Year lead by example. They are out leading the way on advocacy programs and getting the word out about credit unions to their communities and their elected officials. We are proud of all they do for Oregon’s credit unions,” said Pamela Leavitt, CUAO senior vice president of governmental affairs/communications. CUAO also honored credit unions for being at the “Osborne Top of the Hill” in the area of legislative and political advocacy. This special recognition is for credit unions that have excelled and increased their participation in Oregon’s major advocacy programs, including Project Differentiation, Project Zip Code, Credit Union Legislative Action Committee (CULAC) Month, and the CU Advocate Program. The recipients for 2008 were: Blue Cross Blue Shield FCU, Portland; Cascade Central CU, Hood River; Cascade Community FCU, Roseburg; Castparts Employees FCU, Portland; Central Willamette Community CU, Albany; Forest Park FCU, Portland; KaiPerm Northwest FCU, Portland; Legacy FCU, Portland; Oregon First Community CU, Coquille; Oregon Pioneer FCU, Portland; St. Helens Community FCU, Saint Helens; and Wauna FCU, Clatskanie. Contributors to Oregon’s state political action committee, CULAF, and the federal PAC, CULAC were applauded during the ceremony for meeting and exceeding their respective fundraising goals. CULAC fundraising reached 91% of the 2008 goal with 2,151 credit union supporters contributing over $55,000.

Financial challenge helps member pays out prizes

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MADISON, Wis. (10/20/08)--Credit union subscribers to CUNA's Home & Family Finance Resource Center are offering members two special resources to help them meet their rising financial challenges. Since January, each month the Financial Fitness Challenge has featured one reader submission in a column describing a way to manage or save money. “From the beginning, we saw that members were concerned about food and fuel expenses--whether to run the car, the furnace, or the refrigerator,” said Susan Tiffany, director of personal finance information for adults in CUNA’s Center for Personal Finance. Each month one winning idea also is highlighted on Home & Family Finance Radio, with host Paul Berry. Up to five members each month are awarded $50 for submitting useful ideas. “Through September, we have 45 winners from 31 credit unions,” Tiffany added. There have been multiple winners from several credit unions:
* Six winners from American Airlines FCU, Dallas; * Five from Oklahoma Employees CU, Oklahoma City, Okla.; * Four from NASA FCU, Upper Marlboro, Md.; and * Two from Keesler FCU, Biloxi, Miss.
The remaining 28 winners each come from a single credit union. A list of all winners, their credit unions, and their winning ideas at are availableHome & Family Finance Resource Center. “We are making up to five monthly awards of $50 through the end of 2008, so keep those submissions coming,” said Jim Hanson, vice president of CUNA’s Center for Personal Finance. Members and credit union staff alike are eligible to win the awards. The jackpot comes in early 2009, when readers will choose the winner of a $1,000 gift. “We’ll send that prize money to the winner’s credit union so the credit union can make the presentation,” Hanson added. In addition, the resource center is featuring several articles and tools addressing the economy in its ongoing Tough Times series. “We have been ahead of the curve on topics such as avoiding foreclosure, anticipating and preparing for a layoff, steering clear of abusive lenders and bogus credit counselors--these and other issues that consumers are grappling with in the current economy,” Hanson said.

Community Development CU opens new retail location

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SAN FRANCISCO (10/20/08)--Mission SF FCU and its nonprofit affiliate, Mission SF Community Financial Center, held a grand opening celebration Oct. 10 of their new retail location in San Francisco. More than 100 people attended the event, which featured presentations by supporters and partners, including Mission SF members who shared stories of how their lives were transformed through their credit union membership. The grand opening was co-sponsored by the Bank on San Francisco program and the Office of San Francisco City Treasurer José Cisneros. Along with Cisneros, local officials spoke at the event, including State Rep. Mark Leno, City and County Supervisor Tom Ammiano, and representatives from the mayor’s office and the Department of Children, Youth and their Families. Part of the grand opening celebration included Mission SF FCU’s public recognition of Patelco CU, and its Senior Vice President, Anita Macias, whose support made the new office opening possible. In honor of their support of the community development credit union (CDCU), and the new retail location in particular, Mission SF announced that it would be naming their conference room the Anita Macias, Patelco CU conference room. Cliff Rosenthal, President/CEO of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation), and Federation Board Chairman Eunice J. Rogers, CEO of NRS Community Development FCU (Birmingham, Ala.) also presented Macias with a crystal award for her long-time support of CDCUs. “In addition to her local work, Anita has been a valuable volunteer for the Federation, advising our Community Development Investment Program, which has placed millions of dollars in CDCUs across the country. She is one of the true champions of the cooperative movement, and we’re fortunate to have worked so closely with her over the years,” he added. With more than half of Mission residents being unbanked (without a formal relationship with a mainstream financial institution) and nearly half of its residents having no credit histories, there is a critical and urgent need for financial education, credit building and repair programs, and small short term affordable loans, particularly in these turbulent economic times, said Mission SF. “Never before has it been more critical to ensure that people have opportunities to learn how to manage and save their money and get a shot at the American Dream,” said San Francisco Treasurer José Cisneros. “Mission SF offers a set of financial products and services for low-income and immigrant San Franciscans that create real pathways to financial security and economic self-sufficiency.” The increased visibility and outreach capacity has produced dramatic results in a very short time, Mission SF said. Since the doors opened in February 2008, Mission SF tripled the number of loans it makes each month, with loans starting as low as $300. They doubled the number of new members joining monthly, with 30% of those new members opening their first account ever; dramatically expanded a financial education program that has engaged over 14 community-based organizations, 200 adults and more than 125 youth; and most recently, launched a new microlending program for immigrant entrepreneurs with support from the Mayor’s Office of Community Investment. Mission SF FCU’s and Mission SF Community Financial Center’s activities also are largely supported from Patelco funds, and through the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and their Families, the Levi Strauss Foundation, Ruddie Memorial Youth Foundation, the National Credit Union Foundation, Walter S. Johnson Foundation, the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation, the Mayor’s Office of Community Investment and Youth Funding Youth Ideas. Mission SF FCU is an $8 million-in-assets community development credit union serving more than 2,000 members.

NCUF grant will help union workers avoid job losses

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SPOKANE, Wash.(10/20/08)--To help union workers learn new skills and avoid job losses, the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) has approved an Innovation Grant of $20,000 to The Union CU. This grant aims to expand The Union CU’s “Step-Up Program” to more than 500 local labor unions representing 549,000 workers. “To our knowledge, this innovative program is the first to address workforce development before early intervention,” said The Union CU CEO Demaris Krummel. “The Step-Up Program helps workers access higher education, develop new skills, and take the next step in life: transitioning their education and skills with the changing economy to proactively avoid job displacement and find new career opportunities.” Krummel revealed that “the staff and board of The Union Credit Union are inspired by NCUF’s REAL Solutions program. The concept of our program stems from best practices established by REAL Solutions and Ed Filene’s revolutionary idea to bring the first financial cooperative to the U.S. to serve his employees.” The Step-Up Program employs two strategies consistent with the deployment of REAL Solutions:
* Delivering high-quality financial education to people of modest means. Krummel explained how by leveraging The Union CU’s partnerships with unions, the Step-Up Program reaches “working people at their place of employment to help union members achieve financial independence. Union members learn about budgeting and saving, how to increase credit scores, retirement planning, the truth about payday lenders and credit card debt…and much more. Financial education at the workplace can influence behavior over a lifetime of spending and saving.” * Delivering innovative financial products and services to people of modest means. The Union CU provides unique “Step-Up Loans” at members’ workplaces and in union halls. These loans help potentially displaced workers finance continuing education and skills transition without using costly credit cards. “This innovative product deployment and affordable service approach attracts new credit union members,” Krummel observed, “while addressing the real needs of working people, the union community, and the American economy.”
America’s 15.3 million unionized workers account for 12% of the total U.S. workforce. Washington is the only state where union membership has grown throughout this century, where 2.7 million unionized workers account for 20% of Washington’s workforce. “Trade union members specifically have difficulty obtaining loans,” Krummel related. “They typically have multiple employers in a short period of time, which labels them as ‘high-risk’ borrowers and makes completing loan applications difficult. “The trend of merging credit unions with union select employee groups (SEGs) into community chartered credit unions unintentionally leaves union workers underserved. Union leaders and The Union Credit Union understand this and can fulfill this need by taking education and affordable loans to the workplace.” Krummel suggested that the Step-Up Program “can be replicated by any credit union serving union members or workplace SEGs. It’s an innovative solution to the needs of working Americans in the rapidly changing economy.” This is the third of 14 Innovation Grants to be approved by NCUF in 2008 (News Now Oct. 16).

WOCCU ICU Day events touch global audience

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WASHINGTON, D.C. and SAN DIMAS, Calif. (10/20/08)--World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) celebrated International Credit Union Day (ICU Day) Thursday by co-sponsoring a worldwide webinar to talk about WOCCU's service to its members and through its programs in developing countries worldwide. The event introduced to new audiences credit unions' attempt to fight world poverty. The effort dovetailed today's International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, which is an annual day of recognition supported by the United Nations to spread awareness about poverty and its violation of human rights. On Thursday, credit union executives and volunteers met with legislative staffers during a late-afternoon reception at the Cannon House Office Building to share news of the credit unions' international accomplishments and the benefits they bring their members. The reception was co-hosted by WOCCU and Credit Union National Association (CUNA).
World Council of Credit Unions board member Catherine Roberts displays a headline touting credit unions services in Michigan during a presentation in Washington on International Credit Union Day.
Moderator Paul Berry (left) listens as World Council of Credit Unions President / CEO Pete Crear explains global credit union challenges to a studio audience during a first-ever ICU Day webinar from WesCorp in San Dimas, Calif. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
“Since 1948, credit unions have celebrated the services they provide members worldwide on the third Thursday of October each year,” said Catherine Roberts, WOCCU board secretary and former CEO of Community Choice CU, Livonia, Mich. “The date is arbitrary because, no matter what the day of the week or hour of the day, a credit union somewhere in the world is helping its members build better lives for themselves and their families.” Roberts also displayed a copy of Crain’s Detroit Business with a lead story on the ways credit unions benefit Michigan, one of the states hardest hit by the housing crisis. During the toughest times, credit unions need to be there for members, Roberts added. National Credit Union Administration board member Gigi Hyland and Ryan Donovan, vice president of legislative affairs for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), also spoke to reception attendees about the important role credit unions have in the lives of their members. At the same time in San Dimas, Calif., Pete Crear, WOCCU’s president/CEO, was the subject of an in-depth interview during a global webinar broadcast live from WesCorp, California’s corporate credit union. In his interview with Paul Berry, host of CUNA’s Home & Family Finance Radio, Crear described the opportunities and challenges the global credit union movement faces, explaining the credit union difference when it comes to microfinance. “Credit unions are owned by the people in the countries in which they are established and have a sustainability other microlenders don’t have,” Crear told the international audience. “Eventually, microloan funds may dry up, but the credit unions will be there, and their savings component will offer an extra advantage for members.” An estimated 450 listeners tuned into the hour-long broadcast from 14 countries, including Brazil, Fiji, Ireland, Kenya and Russia. Studio audience members and online participants submitted questions during the formal interview. Rick Grady from the Texas Credit Union League asked via the Internet how credit unions worldwide should position themselves in light of the current financial crisis. Crear stressed the need to inform members how strong credit union capitalization and member ownership played into the credit unions’ success. “Credit unions worldwide have a great story to tell, and you’re in good position to make things happen for your members,” he added. WOCCU hosted a workshop in Washington Friday for participants of its International Partnerships program, an effort that matches U.S. state leagues, U.S. corporate credit unions and Canadian central credit unions with credit union organizations in developing countries. Participants shared experiences about the challenges they face in supporting credit unions in developing countries. WOCCU supports 26 international partnerships. “The International Partnerships are helping WOCCU strengthen credit unions around the world,” said Victor Miguel Corro, manager of the International Partnerships program. “We encourage everyone who wants to do good to get involved in international credit union development.” WOCCU’s global efforts to establish credit union systems in developing countries falls in line with the goals of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. First observed in Paris in 1948 with the signing of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. General Assembly sanctioned the event in December 1992. It is celebrated each year on Oct. 17. The United Nations resolution invites all countries to devote the day to presenting and promoting, as appropriate within their national contexts, concrete activities with regard to the eradication of poverty and destitution. “In a world where nearly half the population lives on less than $2 a day, there is a dire need for credit unions to provide global development support,” Crear said. “Our goal is to raise the standard of living through credit union development, which enables members worldwide to have a hand in developing their own financial future.”

Two CU officials write letters to editors extolling CUs

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ARNOLD, Mo. and SYRACUSE, N.Y. (10/20/08)--Two credit union officials at two separate credit unions have written letters to the editor at two newspapers, reaffirming credit union safety and soundness in unsettled economic times. Ken Moser, vice president, Arsenal CU, Arnold, Mo., sent an Oct. 16 letter to the editor of the Arnold-Imperial Leader for overlooking credit unions in an Oct. 9 article in the newspaper titled, “Bankers say branches are safe, secure.” Moser told News Now that he was especially irked by the omission since the credit union purchased an ad that ran in the paper’s same issue. The ad was an open letter from Arsenal President/CEO Linda Allen that assured people in the community that their money was safe with the credit union. “It appears the reporters didn’t intentionally leave us out of the conversation when they put the article together; the paper made amends by publishing my letter and giving credit unions in the area some much-needed recognition,” Moser said. “The paper ran my letter in its entirety; the only thing I noticed that the paper changed was changing ‘members’ to ‘customers.’” In the letter to the editor, Moser said in part: “You overlooked mentioning that credit unions are also not part of the financial mess and are safe and sound … The credit union system is healthy, with credit unions having strong balance sheets and higher capital than banks--11.1% vs. 10%, respectively. “At a time when many lenders have stopped making loans, credit unions are continuing to extend credit to qualified borrowers,” Moser continued. “Year-to-date, credit unions have made over $180 billion in new loans, including nearly $31 million at Arsenal. “People who do business with credit unions can sleep well at night, knowing their money is safe, and that their credit union is always looking out for their best interests,” Moser’s letter concluded. Bill Ryan, CEO, Syracuse (N.Y.) Fire Department Employees FCU, wrote an Oct. 16 letter to the editor of The Post Standard/Herald-Journal, pointing out the safety and soundness benefits of credit unions. “With all the attention focused on the current financial crisis, the media have been quick to report that savings in bank accounts are safe, insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp,” Ryan said. “It's important to assure consumers that credit union accounts are federally guaranteed as well. The National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund insures members' savings up to at least $100,000, with higher total coverage if the member has a combination of accounts. There is separate insurance coverage of up to $250,000 for IRA accounts,” he added. “Credit unions have been able to steer clear of sub-prime problems because they do not engage in risky lending practices, holding about 70% of their mortgage loans. As not-for-profit, non-market-based financial institutions, credit unions are, for the most part, shielded from the severe ups and downs of the stock market,” Ryan said. “Consumers seeking a safe harbor during today's financial turmoil need look no further than their local credit union,” he concluded.

Ill. treasurer commits 1 billion for credit crunch

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CHICAGO (10/20/08)--Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias announced that he will make up to $1 billion in interest-earning deposits available to Illinois credit unions and banks to thaw the credit freeze and improve the state’s investment portfolio. “We applaud the treasurer’s on-going efforts to work with Illinois financial institutions, including credit unions,” said Dan Plauda, Illinios Credit Union League president/CEO. “Many credit unions already hold state deposits.” Giannoulias will implement the plan by expanding the existing Access to Capital program, which allows approved credit unions and banks to request state deposits at market rates. The money to fund the program will come from a reallocation of the state’s diversified investment portfolio. The expansion will be implemented incrementally with $500 million immediately available, and the additional $500 million gradually becoming available at the start of each month between December 2008 and March 2009. “By investing in healthy Illinois credit unions and banks, Giannoulias is helping to untangle the credit mess and ensure the state’s commitment to Illinois families and businesses,” said John Pawlowski, vice president of finance and investments at Consumers CU in Round Lake Beach, Ill. “Illinois credit unions did not create the current financial crisis, but they will be part of the solution. They will continue to be strong and healthy and will assist the treasurer in any feasible way to help the Illinois economy rebound,” Plauda added.

IExaminerI CUs roll out red carpet

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SILICON VALLEY, Calif. (10/20/08)--The Silicon Valley Real Estate Examiner prominently mentioned the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the advantages of joining a credit union in a Thursday article. “Been to your friendly neighborhood credit union lately?” asked Broderick Perkins, in his article, “Credit Unions Roll Out the Red Carpet.” “What are you waiting for?” he continued. “You could find that elusive home loan you have been unable to get anywhere else.” Credit unions avoided the subprime mortgage mess by lending conservatively, and credit unions are “relatively untainted by the credit squeeze,” he added. Mortgage originations at credit unions rose 10.1% during the first half of 2008, according to CUNA research Perkins cited. He also noted Mortgage Bankers Association statistics, which indicated that bank and mortgage lender loan originations fell 17% during the first half of 2008. “Because credit unions didn’t hop a drunken ride onboard the get-rich-quick home loan assembly line, their members aren’t suffering the kind of housing hangover many homeowners face today,” he said. “Credit unions are solvent, thriving, and rolling out the red carpet, but if you go shopping for a credit union mortgage, leave your subprime attitude at the door,” he added. For the full article, use the link.

33 CUs sue over unpaid Centrix claims

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NEW YORK (10/20/08)--According to media reports, 33 credit unions have sued Lyndon Property Insurance regarding claims that were not paid on defaulted subprime auto loans. Lyndon Property is a unit of Protective Life Corp. (Bloomberg News Oct. 16). It also is the insurer for Centrix Financial, a subprime auto lending service that serviced credit unions (News Now Feb. 13). Credit unions suing Lyndon are from Texas, California and Illinois, and seek to recover losses covered under default protection policies Lyndon refused to pay. The suit was filed Oct. 10 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Bloomberg said. Centennial, Colo.-based Centrix was placed under involuntary Chapter 11 protection on Sept. 15, 2006, by creditors IFC Credit Corp., Suntrust Leasing and Wells Fargo Equipment Finance Inc. They said Centrix owed them a combined $4.6 million in lease payments. Several days later Centrix and its affiliates filed voluntary petitions for Chapter 11 protection (News Now April 25). Credit unions and other entities have claimed millions against the company's assets. More than two-thirds of Centrix's portfolio is owned by roughly 230 credit unions nationwide. It underwrote more than 250,000 loans totaling $4 billion (News Now Sept. 6, 2002).

CUs share ICU Day celebrations

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MADISON, Wis. (10/20/08)--Credit unions nationwide reported their ICU Day celebrations--ranging from prize giveaways to safety and soundness promotions. Several state governors also proclaimed ICU Day. Activities included:
* Bay Area CU, Oregon, Ohio, gave members a “Go Green Eco-Friendly” shopping bag; * Augusta (Ga.) Metro CU offered members the chance to win prizes with a “Wheel of Fortune” game; * MidWest America FCU, Fort Wayne, Ind., is concerned that members do not realize their deposits are federally insured, so the credit union made up shirts to increase the awareness about insured deposits. All staff members wore the shirts, press releases were sent out, and a local radio station and TV station interviewed Mike Woehnker, vice president of marketing; * Olean (N.Y.) Area FCU celebrated all week with prizes, treats, and a member appreciation day on Thursday; * Horizon FCU, Williamsport, Pa., served refreshments and offered shredding services. The credit union also handed out calendars with identity theft information; * Metrum Community CU, Centennial, Colo., hosted a Guitar Hero contest. Any member that played was entered in a drawing to win $240--the same amount that the average household saves by being a credit union member; * First Community FCU (FCFCU), Parchment, Mich., hung ICU Day posters in all 10 of its branches and featured new services, such as the FCFCU Member Advantage Program; * Western Corporate FCU, San Dimas, Calif., served a cake with the imprint “It Belongs to Me” and gave away ICU Day six-pack coolers with the “It Belongs to Me” logo; and * Belco Community CU, Harrisburg, Pa., celebrated with a $200 Visa card giveaway and free hot dog lunch.
Alameda County in California recognized International Credit Union Day and the 100th anniversary of the credit union movement. From left are: Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Scott Haggerty and Cooperative Center FCU CEO Gary Bell. (Photo provided by the California Credit Union League)
Counties in California and Nevada declared ICU Day Thursday and also recognized the 100th anniversary of credit unions. “Citizens and businesses are facing unprecedented financial challenges, and credit unions are vital to helping local communities in providing service to their members,” said California and Nevada Credit Union League President/CEO Bill Cheney. “We are honored that our credit unions have been recognized by local government for all the hard work and services they provide within their communities.” Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas proclaimed ICU Day Thursday, and commended Vermont credit unions for their “people helping people” philosophy of pooling personal resources and leadership abilities to help people. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty also proclaimed Thursday as ICU day. He said that credit unions work to create a brighter economic future for their members and communities, and that credit unions provide access to credit, encourage savigns habits and “develop strong alliances that transcend political and geographical boundaries.” “Minnesota credit unions take this opportunity to pay tribute to the founders of the credit union movement,” said Mark D. Cummins, Minnesota Credit Union Network president/CEO. “ICU Day provides us with an opportunity to look to the future and renew our pledge to the credit union movement, while thanking those who work hard to maintain, sustain and build modern cooperative financial institutions.”