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Presidential candidate speaks at CU museum

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MANCHESTER, N.H. (12/28/07)--Former Massachusetts Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a campaign speech Thursday at America’s Credit Union Museum in Manchester, N.H.
Mitt Romney speaks at America's Credit Union Museum while on the presidential campaign trail.
From left are U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), New Hampshire Credit Union League President Dan Egan, Ann Romney and Mitt Romney. (Photos provided by the New Hampshire Credit Union League)
Romney began his speech by addressing the assassination of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazair Bhutto, who was killed Thursday morning. He focused the remainder of his speech on his belief that family values and the work of the American people are the solution to challenges that the nation faces. He indicated that American people and independent enterprise are the best resources for addressing the issues that the nation faces. After his speech, Romney held a press conference at the museum. Romney then joined his campaign staff; U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.); his wife, Ann; Dan Egan, New Hampshire Credit Union League president; and Peggy Powell, executive director of the museum, for lunch.

CU System briefs (12/27/2007)

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* RALEIGH, N.C. (12/28/07)--Coastal FCU has launched a full-service real estate firm, Daymark Realty, serving the Triangle area. Daymark, which will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of the $1.8 billion asset credit union, was formed through the credit union's partnership with existing realtors. It has seven licensed realtors and will be managed by broker-in-charge Louis Guillama and realtor Michael Laino … * MANCHESTER, N.H. (12/28/07)--St. Mary's Bank, the nation's oldest credit union, has pledged $30,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Manchester's "Building Better Lives" Capital/Endowment Campaign. The goal of the $6.6 million campaign is to help the club expand to meet a recent surge in demand for services. The credit union's gift will help the club construct a new 15,000-sq. ft. facility, renovate its existing facility, and maintain and enhance its programs. Posing with children at the club are, from second-left in back row: Ronald J. Rioux, president/CEO of St. Mary's Bank; Gary Frost, executive director of Boys & Girls Club of Manchester; and Tom Champagne, director of community outreach at St. Mary's. (Photo provided by St. Mary's Bank) … * EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (12/28/07)--A $10,000 reward is being offered by CUNA Mutual Insurance Co. to anyone providing information that helps solve a Nov. 20 robbery at East Hartford FCU, said Connecticut police. Three teenagers who fled Manchester police last month were questioned and are no longer suspects in the robbery, which occurred at 9:45 a.m. One man wore a Halloween mask, and another wore a ski mask. They jumped the counter and demanded money. About six people were in the credit union, but no one was injured. The suspects got away in a stolen car, which was found abandoned later (The Hartford Courant Dec. 22) … * FRESNO, Calif. (12/28/07)--A Former Tucoemas FCU member service representative has been indicted in a $48,000 embezzlement from the credit union by a federal grand jury, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. Tamara Navarrette, 27, of Visalia, Calif., is charged with embezzlement from a credit union prior to April 2005 while she worked in the credit union's Whitendale and Cypress branches. Accounts embezzled were from older members, ranging in age from 65 to 97 years. If convicted, she faces a maximum 30-year sentence in prison and a $1 million fine (US Fed News Dec. 20) … * HARAHAN, La. (12/28/07)--Carolyn Ricks, director of compliance and credit union development at the Louisiana Credit Union League, died Dec. 25 at a hospice center in Harahan, La. She was 63. Ricks was employed by the league for nearly 30 years and assisted credit unions throughout the state with research and compliance information. She also served as a director on the league's board. A memorial service will be at noon Dec. 31 at Lamana-Panno-Fallo Funeral Home, 1717 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, LA. A wake will be held from 10 a.m. until the service. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to St. Mark's United Methodist Church, 1130 N. Rampart St., New Orleans, LA 70116 …

CUs catch the holiday spirit

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MADISON, Wis. (12/28/07)--There was no loss of holiday spirit among credit unions this holiday season--many helped out with special community projects, or with their own employees. In addition to giving holiday bonuses, Fairwinds CU in Orlando, Fla., also granted its employees holiday wishes (Orlando Sentinel Dec. 25)
Northwest FCU, Herndon, Va., collected more than 175 new, unwrapped toys for Northern Virginia Family Services’ annual holiday toy drive. From left are: Juri Valdov, Northwest FCU president/CEO; Laura Dawson, Northwest FCU Foundation chairman; and Linda Rogus, Northwest FCU Foundation managing director. (Photo provided by Northwest FCU)
For the past five years, Fairwinds employees have posted their wishes on a company Intranet page, starting in mid-November, for all to read. President/CEO Larry Tobin, who started the Holiday Wish program, reads all the wishes--230 this year--and chooses those he thinks the credit union should fulfill. This year, the credit union granted nine employees’ holiday wishes. One recipient was Lorena Rodriguez, 22, who recently gave birth to a baby boy. Because Rodriguez’s husband remains in Mexico, she wished for the money to fly there so that the family would be together during the holidays. Smaller requests, such as an article of clothing, are often granted by co-workers or managers. This year, more than 50 Fairwinds employees used their $100 bonuses to help a co-worker burdened by debt. Other credit unions also pitched in this holiday season to help those in need. Wescom CU of Pasadena, Calif., “adopted” 150 children in Southern California. About 100 of the credit union’s employees bought 450 gifts for the children, which were distributed through local charities. Employees gave the children gift cards, clothing and toys (San Gabriel Valley Tribune Dec. 20). CU Community CU in Springfield, Mo., adopted a second-grade class at a local elementary school. The children at the school come from low-income families and most qualify for free or reduced lunches. The credit union collected $2,500 in cash and donated gifts to the children. The credit union also treated the children to a holiday party Dec. 12 with Santa and Mrs. Claus. “It’s an indescribable feeling to see the looks on their faces when they open the gifts,” said Susie Kasterke, vice president of operations (CourierNet Dec. 19).
Numerica CU, Spokane, Wash., raised $19,165 for a local charity at the credit union’s annual employee auction. Erynne Hallock, Numerica training coordinator, displays one of the items donated by an employee for the auction. (Photo provided by Numerica CU)
Credit unions also held clothing drives to collect mittens, scarves, coats and other items to help those in need. AmeriCU CU in Rome, N.Y., held a Mitten Challenge to collect gloves, hats, mittens and scarves for the Salvation Army (Post Standard/Herald-Journal Dec. 3). DuTrac Community CU and Dupaco Community CU in Dubuque, Iowa, held clothing drives for the needy. Dupaco collected more than 3,300 garments through its “Coats for Kids” drive. FirstLight FCU in El Paso, Texas, collected shoes for 242 children, and Franklin Mint FCU in Broomall, Pa., raised $1,000 for Operation Warm, which provides new winter coats for children. Members of America First CU, Ogden, Utah, donated $40,000 to charitable organizations throughout the state. Service CU in Portsmouth, N.H., donated $30,000 in gift cards to help military families. In addition to sharing gifts, credit unions also shared the message of People Helping People. United Labor CU in Kansas City distributed a holiday music CD with eight songs and a two-minute message from the credit union. The CDs were given to local labor organizations and media outlets in Kansas City. United Labor representatives gave out the CDs Dec. 14 during a holiday party, which U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-District 5) and former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes (D) attended.

Delaware newspaper notes CU v. bank battle

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WILMINGTON, Del. (12/28/07)--Credit unions “keep a brake on banks,” according to an article published by a Delaware newspaper commenting on the ongoing debate between banks and credit unions. Credit unions offer their members lower fees and better returns on savings than banks, the article said (Gannett News Service Dec. 27). Banks would raise their fees even more if credit unions didn’t exist, Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group told the newspaper. Banks argue that credit unions have abandoned their original mission and should be taxed. But unlike banks, credit unions do not have shareholders and are not for profit. Credit unions also use their earnings to pay dividends to members, the newspaper stated. Credit unions are owned by members and are run by a board of directors made up of volunteers from the credit union’s membership. It’s a different atmosphere, said Patrick Mahaney, president/CEO of the Delaware Credit Union League.

CUs join to start East Palo Altos first CU

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EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. (12/28/07)--Four California credit unions formed a partnership to open the first credit union in East Palo Alto Dec. 19. The new Community Trust CU, officially a branch of Modesto-based Community Trust CU, will hold a grand opening in January (Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal Dec. 19). The new credit union is the result of a partnership among the $48.5 million asset Community Trust CU; the $2.009 billion asset, Palo Alto-based Addison Avenue FCU; the $826 million asset, Palo Alto-based Stanford FCU; and the $4.278 billion asset, San Francisco-based Patelco CU. Addison Avenue helped underwrite the early development of the new credit union branch by purchasing a three-year interest-free $100,000 certificate of deposit and by contributing startup capital. Community Trust, due to its work with traditionally underserved communities in the area, offered its name and experience as a community development financial institution to the new credit union.

Service CU offers website in English Spanish German

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PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (12/28/07)--Service CU launched a new website Dec. 20 that offers complete Internet banking services in members’ three major languages--English, Spanish and German. The $1.081 billion asset, Portsmouth-based credit union worked with Port City Web--a Greenland, N.H. provider of eCommerce solutions--and Ektron--a Nashua, N.H. provider of content management solutions, to create the website (ENP Newswire Dec. 20). Features of the new site include a financial education center, fully automated online account opening and funding, market indices, and a relocation center for military members. The site also offers instant decisions on loans, including mortgages and home equity loans. “Our members are on the move, whether they are on a military base in Texas, Germany or Italy, or raising a family in New Hampshire,” said Gordon Simmons, president/CEO of Service CU. “More importantly, we are communicating to members in their languages they may be using in the home setting, enabling them and their families to gain an understanding of the financial options available to them--from early-pay loans, to high-yield money market accounts, to low-cost auto and mortgage loans,” he continued.

Peer-to-peer lending challenges traditional lenders

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MADISON, WIS. (12/28/07)--The concept of borrowing from peers rather than from financial institutions or credit card companies is gaining broader acceptance, but worries some lenders. Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is offered by a few companies with each providing different twists in service (USA Dec. 26). The main reasons that borrowers turn to P2P lending are to obtain lower interest rates than most financial institutions offer and to avoid amassing credit card debt, according to a Javelin survey conducted in November. Zopa is a United Kingdom-based P2P lender that began operating in the U.S this month. It has an unusual lending model that allows borrowers with good credit to obtain a loan from one of six credit unions that partner with Zopa. Members who want to earn interest on their savings can purchase one-year Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured certificates of deposit (CD) from the credit unions. The CDs pay interest rates up to 5.1%. However, the American Bankers Association (ABA) said P2P lending circumvents the operations of financial institutions by linking borrowers directly to lenders. ABA said the banking industry is monitoring this situation. The upshot is that the growth of the P2P market could be a threat to unsecured lenders--especially credit card issuers--who will have to become more competitive with rates and rewards offered to customers, said ABA.

Conservationists question building CU in greenspace

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ERIE, Pa. (12/28/07)--Conservationists in Erie, Pa., are questioning the sale of some of the city's proposed greenspace to Erie FCU for construction of a branch office. The city had commissioned a study of enhancing the green space along the Bayfront Connector. When it announced it was selling 1.5 acres to the $244.4 million asset credit union for $273,3000, conservationists complained (Erie Times-News Dec. 22). Mayor Joe Sinnott said the parcel's size lends itself to commercial use. The credit union is needed there and it wouldn't interfere with other greenway plans, he added. Norb Kaczmarek, CEO of Erie FCU, noted the credit union will spend "a good amount of money on landscaping and making it look nice. Our record of landscaping our existing buildings is second to none. We also recognized the need to create jobs and create a tax base." Kaczmarek also noted that a financial institution is needed in the area and it was a nice investment for the area.

CUNA open Monday but closed Tuesday

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WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (12/28/07)--The Credit Union National Association's (CUNA's) Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wis. offices will remain open on Monday, Dec. 31, and will be closed Tuesday in observance of New Year's Day holiday. News Now will publish on Monday, but not on Tuesday. It will resume its regular publication on Wednesday.