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MANHATTAN-In its first year of granting Social Entrepreneurship Awards, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research honored Neighborhood Trust Federal Credit Union with a $9,500 check. Neighborhood Trust is a low-income, community development credit union with $7 million in assets and 4,000 members. The awards recognize “those who have taken the responsibility to help individuals and neighborhoods in their struggle for self-improvement.” The prizes were awarded to four non-profit organizations across the nation in operation for less than 10 years. Neighborhood Trust has been helping its members grow wealth for nearly five years. “Grants are an important source of revenue for us,” Neighborhood Trust President Mark Levine explained. He said there was a very nice dinner ceremony for the award and it provided exposure for the credit union. “It’s nice to see that credit unions are getting acknowledged as a real economic [tool].” The credit union’s field of membership is mostly composed of immigrants, many of whom have never had a relationship with a traditional financial institution. While the credit union offers members the typical account and loan services, one of the programs that may have drawn the Manhattan Institute to them is its school banking program. Every week, the credit union sends tellers to area elementary schools, opening accounts for fourth and fifth graders and taking deposits. Many of the children are the first in their families to open an account. Though Neighborhood Trust was not physically affected by the terrorist attacks of September 11, Levine is beginning to hear anecdotal stories from many of its members, some of whom worked in the World Trade Center and were laid off. Levine said it was too soon to feel the economic impact of the attacks but he said he was worried about the credit union’s members because of the cutting of low-skilled jobs in the hospitality industry and elsewhere.

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