BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – With hopes that an investment in faith-based organizations will help to bridge the economic gap between the poor and rich, more than 130 credit union representatives attended a national conference here that addressed solutions to closing that margin. The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (NFCDCU) held its fourth Faith-Based Credit Union Conference on Nov. 9 in the historic center of the civil rights movement. Pressing issues of discussion included field of membership expansion and the effects of predatory lending on neighborhoods. “For those starting a credit union, there was information tailored just for them and for those of us with a few years under our belts of actually running a credit union,” said John DuPree, manager of Shiloh of Alexandria Federal Credit Union of Virginia, which recently received a field-of-membership expansion and a grant from the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. Workshops also included sessions on financial literacy in a scriptural context, the interrelationship between faith and finance, accessing public and private resources, and the role of ethics in a faith-based community development credit union. At a Friday night reception at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, across the street from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where four girls were killed after a Ku Klux Klan bombing in 1963, attendees reflected on the important role faith-based institutions have played in community development and civil rights history. “The ties that bind us together are stronger than the waters of baptism that separate us,” said Robert Pearson, an AmeriCorps*VISTA corps member from St. John United FCU in Buffalo, NY. “The conference was excellent and I was not surprised because people of faith never have a problem bonding regardless of religion.” Other conference attendees included NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar, Tony Brown, fund director of the CDFI Fund, Matthew Dunne, director of the AmeriCorps*Vista program and Rev. Dr. Robert Franklin of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. Dollar encouraged the conference participants to consider taking advantage of NCUA’s streamlined procedures for including an area designated as underserved into their credit unions’ field of membership. Roughly 111 credit unions have “adopted” 176 underserved areas during the first nine months of 2001, Dollar added, with the total population of these communities exceeding 8.6 million. “We have more than tripled the number of underserved areas adopted by credit unions so far this year versus what we saw all of last year,” Dollar said. “And we did so by a streamlining process and without any change to our rules. This proves that removing regulatory burden can bring positive results for millions of underserved Americans.” The NFCDCU represents 78 faith-based credit unions throughout the United States and offers special programming and services to these institutions such as technical assistance and capital support. NFCDCU has hosted three previous faith-based conferences in New York City, Cleveland, and Nashville. “We were truly blessed to have such a wonderful group of people in such a special place,” said Sally Edwards, NFCDCU faith-based steering committee chairperson and president of Zion United Credit Union in Denver. – [email protected]

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