HOUSTON – Not every credit union ribbon cutting begins with a praise and worship service, but that's exactly how faith-based Light Commerce Credit Union began its grand opening celebration. More than 500 individuals streamed through the doors of sponsor church, New Light Christian Center Church, on a recent Saturday morning to meet credit union board members and hear Dr. Ira Van Hilliard share his vision for the new financial institution. "LCCU is the manifestation of a vision that I have of making a major step toward the economic development of a collective group of our members. When any group chooses to pool their intellectual, financial and administrative resources, they make an accelerated move toward economic empowerment," said Hilliard, the church's pastor who first started pursuing the idea of a credit union more than two years ago. Hilliard wants LCCU to foster wise stewardship of member resources based on biblical principles. Following the ceremony, members walked or drove to the nearby credit union for the ribbon cutting. A church-owned helicopter circled above, documenting the event with photographs. A total of 289 people, representing 309 accounts and deposits of $118,475, joined LCCU that day. A pre-membership drive, in which prospective members turned in applications in advance of the grand opening, facilitated the enrollment process. For them, no paperwork was required at the grand opening – just an initial account deposit. By the end of its first month in operation, credit union membership had increased to 414, with deposits of $172,287. Initially, the credit union is offering prime share, Christmas Club and Vacation Club accounts. They have also introduced a minor savings account called "NuGen." Members are enthusiastic about LCCU and already are questioning when checking accounts and loans will be available, according to credit union President/Manager Harlene Johnson. The credit union has a three-phase plan that targets financial investments, financial education and financial services development, she said. "Members are talking about moving all their accounts to the credit union," said Johnson. "We're just not quite ready for them to do that. We will be full service eventually, but we will add services based on what's in the best interest for all members." In April, May and June, the credit union will begin focusing on the financial education of members through courses taught by credit union personnel, as well as outside resources. "We will be using the NEFE (National Endowment for Financial Education) training materials in small group settings for members of all ages and stages. We have a large children's ministry, and we will begin by talking to high school juniors and seniors to prepare them for the onslaught of credit card applications they will start receiving. We will talk to newly marrieds about budgeting and financial planning, and just teach people how to do basic things like read a credit report or complete a credit card application," Johnson said. Located on Crown Park Drive on the north side of Houston in office space donated by the church, the credit union is open six days a week. Its potential field of membership numbers more than 23,000 and includes members and employees of three church facilities in Houston, one in Beaumont and one in Austin, and also a Christian school, a daycare and a non-profit community development corporation affiliated with the church. -

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