Residents of a Shreveport, La., community who have very little access to affordable financial services and education will now have somewhere to turn thanks to Pelican State Credit Union.
The $200 million cooperative in Baton Rouge, La., in partnership with Volunteers of America and the Church of the Highlands, recently celebrated the grand opening of its first financial resource center.
The center is located on the Volunteers of America campus in the historic Highland neighborhood where residents do not have access to or do not qualify for low-cost financial products, according to Pelican.
Open Monday through Friday, unsecured loans, credit cards, microbusiness loans, payday loan alternatives and second-chance checking will be available. A certified credit counselor will be onsite to help members with financial education, including assistance with improving their credit scores, budgeting and avoiding various fees by stretching their paychecks.
“Pelican created an approachable, casual environment to make everyone feel welcome,” said Jeffrey Conrad, president/CEO of Pelican. “This, in addition to the wildly popular free coffee, has created a conversational atmosphere appreciated by our visitors.”
To capture the community’s attention during the center’s grand opening, Pelican brought in a money booth and gave current and new members an opportunity to grab some fast cash. The credit union said it gave away $1,627 to the 73 members who took a turn in the money booth.
Pelican said although the money booth was a novelty, it is serious about the purpose of this new endeavor.
“Our financial resource center shares a mission with the Church and Volunteers of America – to teach independence,” Conrad said. “We want to convert unbanked Shreveport residents to credit union members, which will reduce the fee burden they now endure at payday lenders, check cashers and authorized utility bill payment centers.”
The center’s partnership was initiated by the Church for the Highlands, which desired to add a financial ministry to the many programs already offered, according to Pelican. The leaders of the church reached out to Pelican because of its long history of providing financial education and community outreach, the credit union said.
Pelican has 10 branches across Louisiana and serves more than 33,500 members nationwide.