HOUSTON -- As the African American Credit Union Coalition marked the tenth year of its annual meeting, the group celebrated generating $24,000 in scholarships, encouraging the industry to raise nearly $2 million towards the building of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial and placing more than 200 college interns nationwide.
"Like every AACUC conference, we blend new ideas with tried-and-true practices, formal learning sessions and informal peer to peer conservations--serious work with serious fun," said Barbara Stephens, chairwoman of AACUC and president/CEO of $27 million Houston Municipal Employees FCU.
Stephens told attendees at the Aug. 6-10 conference that the coalition has come a long way since its incorporation in 1999. Mentorship, for instance, took on a different tone following Hurricane Katrina. Members of the group stepped in to assist 12 Gulf Coast credit unions that sustained extensive damage. Scholarships have been provided to Kenyan credit union representatives to attend Strathmore University in Nairobi.
Robert Harvey, co-chair of the AACUC funding development committee, thanked the conference's sponsors while acknowledging lower attendance numbers this year due to a cutback in expenses at some credit unions.
Both Dick Ensweiler, president/CEO of the Texas Credit Union League, and Anthony Hall, chief administrative officer for the city of Houston, sang the praises of credit unions as a tightly-knit, vanguard group.
"Texas credit unions are diligent on legislative strength," Ensweiler said. "With CUNA, the AACUC and everyone standing together, we can do all we can to face the bankers."
In 2003, the coalition launched its Pete Crear Lifetime Achievement award and later, a scholarship in the industry veteran's name.
This year's recipient of the lifetime recognition was Richard Turnley, CEO, manager and treasurer of $30 million Southern Teaches and Parents FCU since 1959. Turnley is a fixture in Louisiana, elected to the state's House of Representatives in 1972 and serving until 1984 when he was elected to the Senate. During the 1960s, Turnley was instrumental in providing technical support to Louisiana credit unions in parish school systems, according to AACUC. He would later travel to South Africa to do the same for credit unions there. Throughout the late 1990s, he made eight trips to the continent to serve as a training facilitator through the World Council of Credit Unions.
Turnley is an example of the type of pioneer in the movement that will be recognized in an interactive exhibit being put together by AACUC. The "Journey of Hope-Destination of Dreams" exhibit, which will feature African-American pioneers that contributed to the growth of credit unions over the past 100 years, is scheduled to debut at America's Credit Union Museum in Manchester, N.H., on Oct 15. Attendees at the coalition's annual meeting were given a sneak peek of a DVD that contains interviews and snapshots of the movement in its early days.
"Many of our fore parents worked tirelessly with very little resources but a whole lot of time," said Helen Godfrey-Smith, chairwoman of the AACUC mentorship committee. "Can you images the hours of volunteerism?"
The AACUC has raised $15,000 towards the exhibit, Godfrey-Smith said. Donations will be used for production costs and other related research expenses. The coalition is aiming to raise $30,000. Attendees were asked to submit names and stories of African-American pioneers by Sept. 15 to firstname.lastname@example.org.