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DALLAS – People helping people. It’s a well-worn slogan, but nothing better explains why two-year-old New Mt. Zion Baptist Church CU has experienced the success it has, according to James McQuirter, credit union president. Since its chartering in June 2000, New Mt. Zion has seen a 48% increase in membership to 330 members and a 250% increase in assets to $371,000. The credit union serves the members of New Mt. Zion Baptist Church, which has a roster of approximately 3,000. McQuirter, an IBM management retiree, spent his career launching new IBM products and departments. Post-retirement found him volunteering on the finance committee at New Mt. Zion Baptist Church. When the Rev. Robert Price, New Mt. Zion’s pastor, envisioned a credit union for his church, McQuirter slipped into a familiar role. But this time, it would be a credit union he would play a pivotal role in launching. McQuirter attributes the growth and success of his young credit union to the other credit unions that gave of their resources to ensure a successful start-up. “About 15 credit unions helped with the start-up of our credit union. The help offered was overwhelming,” McQuirter said. McQuirter praised Dr. Cherie Burks, president of Covenant Savings FCU in Copperas Cove, Texas for her mentorship, her donation of hours of education, guidance and encouragement. McQuirter hopes New Mt. Zion will model itself after Covenant Savings. The seven-year-old Covenant Savings is a full-service credit union with $195 million in assets, serving 1800 members. “Our bottom line is people and profits. Are we helping people and making a profit? Are members changing how they think about money, or are we just another place to cash a check?” said Burks. Burks makes sure the credit union is not just another place to cash a check. During the last 12 months, 4500 people have attended her free financial education classes. Burks helps her members understand that they have a symbiotic relationship with other members at the credit union. “I am in need of a place to save and earn interest, and you have a borrowing need. We are there for each other,” said Burks. “We will declare victory if we can accomplish what Burks has at Covenant Savings,” said McQuirter. McQuirter was amazed when Texans CU in Dallas allowed him to back his vehicle up to their warehouse, opened the doors and told him to take whatever office supplies and equipment he needed. Ken Sorrels, president of Credit Union of Texas in Dallas, gave McQuirter access to his credit union’s management expertise. McQuirter expressed great appreciation for the counseling he received on many legal and regulatory issues. Eric Grant, president of Mt. Olive Baptist Church FCU in Fort Worth offered McQuirter his credit union’s business plans. CAM FCU in Dallas offered software assistance. McQuirter said, much like these credit unions, the charter members of New Mt. Zion also were generous in contributing their money, not knowing what their return would be. “It was an act of giving on the part of the `haves.’ They knew they were helping others,” said McQuirter. In February, New Mt. Zion offered a seven-hour Bible-based money management seminar. Bill Matthews, a certified financial planner, taught the class free of charge and plans to teach more. He is also offering free financial analysis for individuals who have attended the class, according to Bridget Armstrong, manager of New Mt. Zion Baptist Church CU. A goal of New Mt. Zion is to help members increase their financial skills. The credit union offers a risk-based lending program with incentives to help high-risk members improve their credit ratings. Initially, loans are offered at rates of 14%-17%. If the member makes regular payments for a period of time or agrees to payroll deduction, the interest rate may be lowered. The program has met with success; several members have been tracked and have improved ratings. Now it’s New Mt. Zion’s turn. Five churches have contacted McQuirter about pursuing credit union charters. At least one is “well along” in the application process. “One of our goals is to become a contributor to the credit union system of which we are a part,” McQuirter said. -

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