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ALEXANDRIA, Va. – NCUA has chartered Pioneer Community Federal Credit Union, a credit union which concerned residents of Palisade, Nebraska began forming after an area bank closed its branch in their town. The new credit union will serve persons who live, work, worship, or attend school in the low-income community of Hayes County and Hitchcock County, Nebraska, as well as businesses and other legal entities in those counties, a source in the agency said. The rural community in southwest Nebraska has a population of 4,179. Palisades residents, who number about 300, became concerned when the AMFirst National Bank decided to close its branch in their community in June 2002. Moving swiftly, the residents convinced the bank to donate the building and some of the branch’s equipment to the Pioneer Investment Group, an organization of about 10 people who organized to buy and operate the town’s one caf four years ago when it was in danger of closing. The group, in turn, will provide the building and equipment to the new credit union, according to Frank Potthoff, a retired manager for the local power authority and one of the group’s principal organizers. “Yep, we got the notice in late January or February that they were gonna close the branch in June. The letter cited a lack of business at the branch but, really, I don’t really know about that. It never seemed to me that they tried too hard,” Potthoff said. The group got the idea that a credit union might serve their need for closer financial services because another rural county in Nebraska had faced the same problem about 10 years before and had come up with a credit union to address it. The group traveled to the credit union and came back convinced that it would be possible, Potthoff said. From there the group sent a survey to about 300 residents of the town and the counties the credit union would serve, asking if residents would support a credit union should one be established. When the response came back strongly in favor of the credit union, Potthoff said, “we just called the consultant that had helped the other county set up theirs and the he guided us through the process.” The consultant, Chuck Kapf, could not be reached for comment as of press time but has reportedly helped set up several primarily rural credit unions in the state, according to Potthoff. The credit union’s organizers anticipate that the new institution will be able to draw the $5.5 million deposited in the bank branch locally, the NCUA source said, and a figure Potthoff agreed with. “I expect that will get at least that much,” he said, noting that there were six defined communities in the credit union’s field of membership, ranging from between 150 and 600 people and the furthest 35 miles away, which is not far in Nebraska terms, he said. “Truth be told I think there are a lot of ways a credit union could try to serve these areas, ways that bank never did try,” Potthoff said. -

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