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First Basin members group disappointed in lawsuit plans

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ODESSA, Texas (3/13/08)--Members of a group that opposed the now-withdrawn attempt by First Basin CU to convert to a mutual savings bank expressed disappointment in learning the credit union may sue the group's founders. Members of the opposition group, Save First Basin, say the management of the Odessa, Texas-based credit union announced Tuesday it would sue three members, including Letty Moreno, a co-founder of the group. Moreno is a former vice president at the $114 million credit union. The group has "done nothing wrong. We have simply stood up for what is right and told the truth," said Moreno in a press release from the group. The group had been vocal in pressing for details about the election results on the proposed conversion. The credit union cancelled a scheduled membership vote on the proposal earlier this year. And on March 4 CEO Shem Culpepper announced the credit union was withdrawing the conversion proposal. Now Save First Basin is planning to field a slate of candidates in the next board election. Danny Armstrong, a member of the credit union for 17 years, said he was "disappointed" in hearing the news of a potential lawsuit. "They have spent at least half a million dollars of [the credit union's money] for something that would benefit themselves, not the members." Anna Vera, a member for 10 years, said the credit union "should not be attacking members because their bank plan was rejected."

Iowa foundation receives grant from racetrackcasino

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DES MOINES, Iowa (3/13/08)--The Iowa Credit Union Foundation received a $10,000 grant in January from Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino through its 2007 Community Betterment Grant Program. The funds will be used to support the Credit Union Family Partnership Project, which will make individual development accounts (IDAs) available to qualified families through participating credit unions. An IDA is a matched savings account in which a participant saves for one of four specific purposes:
* Saving funds for a down payment or closing costs on a first home; * Creating an account for post-secondary education or job training; * Starting or expanding a small business; or * Purchasing a vehicle to commute to work.
The Prairie Meadows Grants Advisory Committee--comprising education, religious and business leaders from the greater Des Moines area--reviews grant requests and recommended funding levels. The Iowa foundation was one of more than 190 organizations to receive funding from Prairie Meadows. “Individual development accounts help working families leverage their savings toward the purchase of a long-term financial asset,” said Marybeth Foster, foundation executive director. “These funds will allow us to select our participating credit union partners and to provide financial education to families and individuals in the program. “Our goal is not only to help families save money, but to give them the tools they need to better manage their finances for the long term,” she continued.

50000 grant from CUNA Mutual to train youth to build homes

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MADISON, Wis. (3/13/08)--Operation Fresh Start will use a $50,000 grant from CUNA Mutual Group to fund a new youth team devoted to housing issues in a Madison. Wis., neighborhood. The North Side neighborhood is considered a key in the city’s efforts to combat crime and gang activity while improving the lives of low-income families. In recent years, the number of families on public assistance in the area has increased 60%, and 70% of elementary school students in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. CUNA Mutual’s grant will go to training a crew of 16- to 24-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds to perform housing rehabilitation and construction activities. The contribution from CUNA Mutual will “enable Operation Fresh Start to connect more at-risk youth with educational and community services while creating measurable benefits on the city’s North Side. The result will be more self-reliant, successful young people and a safer community,” Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said. Operation Fresh Start crews are composed of 10 to 15 participants in a year-long combination of classroom instruction, on-the-job training and ongoing mentoring. The team funded by CUNA Mutual will work to build an energy-efficient, affordable, single-family home. “This grant will add a new crew of young people and give them the opportunity to develop life-skills and vocational talents that will help them build positive relationships and a desirable employment history,’’ said Connie Ferris Bailey, Operation Fresh Start’s executive director. “We have a long waiting list of youth who could benefit from our program, so it’s great to be able to add another crew.” CUNA Mutual employees will play a role in mentoring and tutoring members of the crew, who will be working toward their high-school equivalency and vocational placement. “One of the reasons our employee philanthropy team selected Operation Fresh Start as a recipient of such a donation is the organization’s focus on helping youth to gain maturity and learn positive work habits such as thoroughness and personal initiative,” said Steve Goldberg, executive director of the CUNA Mutual Foundation. “The holistic approach to developing a young person’s potential and transforming negative behavior into positive results for the community really impressed our employee team,” he added. The company’s decision to contribute to Operation Fresh Start was a result of the company’s strong 2007 financial performance and its desire to support organizations that benefit the community, said CUNA Mutual President/CEO Jeff Post.

League-supported card security bills stall in Wisconsin

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MADISON, Wis. (3/13/08)--Two plastic card data security bills backed by credit unions and the Wisconsin Credit Union League did not make it out of the State Assembly Tuesday. The bills--AB 745 and SB 439--would have prohibited merchants from retaining consumers' secret personal identification numbers or security codes after processing a credit or debit card transaction. The bills were killed Tuesday evening by a procedural motion during the Assembly's floor session, said the league. AB 745 was tabled, preventing the full body from taking an up or down vote on the measurer. Both bills had easily passed through both chambers' financial institutions committees and passed the full State Senate without objection. The popular measures had 44 legislators listed as sponsors, but lobbyists and individuals representing merchants, retailers and other special interests had launched a massive campaign against the measurers, the league had said earlier this week (News Now March 10). "We're disappointed that Wisconsin consumers won't be able to enjoy the protections this bill would have afforded them," said league President Brett Thompson. "But we're committed to standing up for consumers and working hard to see this legislation considered next session. "Had this bill been allowed to receive an up and down vote before the full Assembly, we feel it would have passed," Thompson said. "Clearly it had broad bipartisan support, momentum, and in a recent survey, approximately 75% of Wisconsin voters voiced approval for legislation such as this." The legislation was introduced by Rep. Brett Davis (R-Oregon) and Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie).

CUNA Mutual working on land trade

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MADISON, Wis. (3/13/08)--CUNA Mutual Group is working on a land trade with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Research Park near its Madison, Wis., headquarters. The trade is contingent on CUNA Mutual creating a master plan for 52 undeveloped acres that it will own after the deal is completed. As part of the deal, CUNA Mutual would give 20 out of 60 acres of undeveloped land to the research park (Wisconsin State Journal March 6). The research park in turn would give CUNA Mutual 12.5 acres. CUNA Mutual’s mixed-use development plan would include multi-family housing, apartments for older adults, office space and limited retail operations, Dan Larson, CUNA Mutual director real estate and commercial property, told the newspaper. “The research park land investment will be good for the community and our policyholders, as the development is phased in over the next several years,” Rick Uhlmann, CUNA Mutual senior manager of media relations, told News Now. “We look forward to working with the UW Research Park, the city of Madison and neighbors in creating a development that will benefit all. “CUNA Mutual has a number of commercial real estate investments around the country. This one just happens to be across the street from our headquarters’ front door,” he added.

TCUF doles out 102773 in grants

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (3/13/08)--Credit union members will benefit from the $102,773 in grants the Texas Credit Union Foundation (TCUF) has given to credit unions and related programs. The awards include training calendar grants for four credit unions, scholarships for a TCUF Financial Literacy Celebration event and a National Endowment for Financial Education Train the Trainer Program March 27-28. Three scholarships for the National Youth Involvement Board conference in August also are included (LoneStar Leaguer March 12). Four credit union chapters each received $2,000 for educational programs; the Texas Credit Union Department received a grant to help its examiners attend training; and four FOCUS Award winners will receive $1,000 each to attend conferences. Junior Achievement partnerships with credit unions in Nacogdoches and Texarkana were funded by the TCUF. As a result, thousands of students will be taught by a trained credit union volunteer. Other grants included sponsorship of the Texas Council on Economic Education’s Teacher of the Year Award, which provided discounted registration for 90 credit union members and teachers at a state conference. Security One FCU, Arlington, received a grant to partner with the local Boys and Girls Club. TCUF also plans to partner with GECU, El Paso, and the University of Texas-El Paso using a $20,000 grant to create a financial literacy video for college students. The next grant cycle goes through April 29. Information and applications are available on TCUF’s website. The grants are supported by credit unions, chapter and individual donations, Community Investment Fund investments and sponsorships from golf tournaments.

CU System briefs (03/12/2008)

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* LATHAM, N.Y. (3/13/08)--U.S. Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter, right, (D-N.Y.) was presented with the New York State Credit Union League's 2007 Legislator of the Year award by Marie Betti, CEO of Western New York FCU and a league board member, at Slaughter's office last week in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes a legislator who has shown outstanding commitment to issues of importance to New York's credit unions. "Credit unions play an important role in promoting the economic well-being of New York's families, especially those of modest means," Slaughter said. "I will continue to work with these institutions as they strive to assist individuals with their financial needs while fostering community development." Slaughter has formed close relationships with credit union leaders in the 28th congressional district and is one of 14 New York co-sponsors of the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (CURIA). (Photo provided by the New York State Credit Union League) … * SAN DIMAS, Calif. (3/13/08)--Financial Service Centers Cooperative Inc. (FSCC) CEO Sarah Canepa Bang will be featured on "21st Century Business," hosted by Gen. Alexander Haig on CNBC Sunday. She will discuss how the shared branch services at 7-Eleven stores are revolutionizing the way consumers and credit unions perform financial services. Bang also will address the importance of making credit unions the most convenient financial institutions through innovative delivery solutions and more access points for deposit. Air times are: 3 p.m. EDT; 2 p.m. CDT; 1 p.m. MDT; and noon PDT. For specific market dates and air times, use the link … * NEWARK, Ohio (3/13/08)--Fiberglas FCU was forced last weekend to cancel its 68th Annual Meeting due to blizzard conditions. More than 300 members had planned to attend Saturday. The credit union donated unused food from the convention's meals to the Salvation Army of Newark. The charity's representatives said the donation would provide enough food for more than a week. The $97 million asset credit union also donated more than 50 centerpieces to Flint Ridge and LPN, nearby nursing homes. Shown here during the deliveries are, from left: Shani Smith, vice president of marketing at the credit union; John Hughes, administrator at Flint Ridge Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center; and Luke Kellett, Fiberglas FCU business development officer. (Photo provided by Fiberglas FCU) … * ST. PAUL, Minn. (3/13/08)--A former city employee pleaded guilty to stealing more than $34,000 in coins he collected from parking meters. Vincent C. Schettner, 63, pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft of public funds. He was arrested after a teller at City and County CU in downtown St. Paul told an off-duty police officer that a member regularly deposited large amounts of coins in the credit union, according to court records. He deposited between $1,000 and $1,500 each week and usually took $800 to $900 back in cash (Star-Tribune March 4) … * AUSTIN, Texas (3/13/08)--Austin City Council has authorized a contract with Velocity CU to offer low-interest loans to residential customers of Austin Energy for home energy improvements (Austin Business Journal March 7). Velocity is a $426 million asset credit union based in Austin. The initiative is part of Austin Energy's Power Saver Program. Improvements that would qualify for the loans include HVAC system upgrades, solar screens, attic insulation upgrades and other energy improvement plans …

Financial literacy program fun for youngsters

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RALEIGH, N.C. (3/11/08)--Local Government FCU (LGFCU) is debuting a financial literacy initiative aimed at engaging children eight years old and younger in basic financial concepts such as saving, interest and planning ahead. The $766 million asset credit union created a youth initiative that started with trading cards, which were mailed to its youngest members. The cards introduced five new mascots: twins Josh and Zoey, their wise dog Winston, mentor Sweet Pea and funny little fellow from the library, Seymour. After building familiarity with the mascots, LGFCU launched a website, The fictional online world, Penny Hollow, offers games and activities to slowly introduce children to basic financial concepts, adding new activities several times a year to grow with the child and keep interest piqued. The site's design was build to accommodate growth, fueled by use and the feedback of users and their parents. "The importance of literacy at an early age can't be emphasized enough, but the approach needs to be unique," said LGFCU President Maurice Smith. "We need to be thinking of fresh ways to make learning fun. Our efforts are already being well-received by our youngest members, so we feel confident we are on the right track. Hopefully, an increased awareness in this matter will encourage others to develop their own plan." LGFCU is working with a new Youth Advisory Council and its 19 other Advisory Councils to gain input and feedback on the children's initiatives to help ensure the public is getting material in a useful way. The credit union pointed out that only 48% of seventh-graders in North Carolina are financially literate. "There is obviously a trend here--and it's not a good one," said Smith. "We need to get children engaged in the idea of financial literacy from the very beginning, and then continue to support their education so they will grow into financially responsible adults."