A contest sponsored by the National Credit Union Foundation's REAL Solutions program has brought five examples of the credit union philosophy in action to light.
The REAL Member Solutions video contest sought entries from credit unions and members about how their credit unions and the REAL Solutions program helped them establish and achieve their financial goals.
The contest was meant to bring forward stories like these so that the foundation could show credit unions the REAL Solutions program's impact. The videos also provide credit unions and leagues a way to bring CU impact to the attention of lawmakers as well.
In the winning video, Oscar Rivera described how he had had an account with a bank four years ago but the bank had declined to lend him money to purchase a car. A friend told him about the $100 million Guadalupe Credit Union, headquartered in Santa Fe, he said.
After he joined the credit union, he was able to get and repay a loan for a car and a mobile home and then apply for and receive a mortgage and a loan to purchase a pizza shop with a partner. He still works at his other job to help make ends meet, he said, but he looks to the shop for the future.
"I like my other job just fine," Rivera said, "but here, this shop is mine, and all my family is here with me."
As a prize, Rivera won a free trip to Washington, D.C. along with one representative from the credit union and the New Mexico credit union league. As a guest of NCUF, Rivera will share the stage at a VIP event held prior to the Wegner Awards dinner, which is held during the GAC. In addition, Rivera will receive a savings account deposit of $500, the foundation said, adding that the members featured in the four remaining videos will receive a savings account deposit of $250.
"Congratulations to Oscar Rivera and Guadalupe Credit Union," said Lois Kitsch, national program manager for REAL Solutions. "Rivera's story truly exemplifies the credit union difference and illustrates how REAL Solutions is impacting the credit union movement."
The other four members in the finalist videos did not address business loans but instead talked about financial and consumer education along with low-income lending.
Sometimes a credit union's actions with the most impact are those that help their members avoid making bad decisions.
Andrew Gaines, a member of the $8.5 million Lakeside Credit Union, headquartered in Oak Creek, Wis., recounted in his video how a clerk from Lakeside helped keep him from making a significant financial mistake with a home he could not have afforded.
Gaines said a young man from a "banking institution" had approached him with a loan offer for a new home. Gaines was skeptical, but the banker convinced him he could afford it. When he mentioned the offer to a credit union clerk, the clerk helped him review his finances and conclude that he could not afforded the mortgage.
"The long and the short of it was that when all was said and done, I would have been upside-down in this house and probably would have lost it in six months," Gaines said, adding thanks to the credit union for helping him avoid a costly mistake.
Tamika Anderson, a single mother in Michigan, described how the $260 million ELGA Credit Union, headquartered in Burton, managed to help educate her as to how to better organize her spending habits and keep her house.
Prior to going in to see the credit union for help, Anderson detailed how she would use overdraft protection to cover expenses and how this wound up putting many of her payments at risk. Getting financial counseling from the credit union helped her to change her habits, though she admitted at first it was a shock.
"The envelope message was crazy," she said. "It consisted of two to three hundred dollars per paycheck that I divided among five envelopes. The envelopes were groceries, gas, pet supplies, hair and nails (which eventually got kicked out) and miscellaneous or family entertainment."
Anderson she learned pretty quickly that she had under-
budgeted for some things and had to move money around to make it work, but eventually she managed to catch up on all her payments.
"I remember calling Karen [Anderson's CU credit counselor] and saying, 'I got a different statement! I am all caught up on the mortgage," Anderson said.
Robin Pharo, president of a home building organization in Madison, Wis., that specializes in environmentally sound construction, described how her firm had come to the $1.5 billion Summit Credit Union for help with a loan available through the economic stimulus program.
Pharo said the firm had been to banks prior to the CU and had found them unwilling to help them because the income to the banks from the loans had not been sufficient. Summit, however, helped them, Pharo said, because they realized how much the loans would help the company and because, as a credit union, Summit was all about helping the members.
All videos will be available for viewing at the upcoming GAC.