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NEW YORK – The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions has announced the recipients of its Bridge grants, money that is meant to help so-called mainstream credit unions to partner with CDCUs and other economic development organizations in order to better learn how to serve low-income areas in their fields of membership. “We were delighted with the response to our request for proposals,” said NFCDCU Executive Director Cliff Rosenthal. “Our timeline was quite tight – only about 60 days – and it was extremely encouraging to receive more outstanding applications than we could fund.” The awardees will receive grants of between $25,000 and $100,000 for initiatives that will run through the end of 2005, the NFCDCU said, adding that CUES will evaluate their progress independently. The seven credit union recipients are the $418 million Bay FCU, headquartered in Capitola, California ($75,000); the $228 million Community Educators CU ($50,000); the $107 million Heritage Family CU ($100,000); The $111 million O.A.S Staff FCU, headquartered in Washington D.C. ($100,000); the $3.5 billion Patelco CU, headquartered in San Francisco ($100,000); the $12 billion State Employees CU, headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina ($25,000); and the $324 million The Summit FCU, headquartered in Rochester, New York ($50,000). The $500,000 grant that funded these other grants came from the Ford Foundation. The different approaches that the grants will seek to further and document are as diverse as the institutions themselves. Community Educators will use its $50,000 in project with Operation Hope, a local community development organization, in the building of a new branch in Fellsmere County, Florida. In order to provide an attractive set of products and services to the Hispanic members at the new branch, there will be expanded transaction services that include international remittances and gift cards, second-chance checking, income tax preparation, and first-chance loans, among others. The credit union hopes to reach as many as 1,500 new members in the coming year. Leo Roselip, Membership Officer at Community Educators spoke about their proposal. “This is absolutely a new path for our credit union,” said Roselip. “With the help of this grant we will be able to service a community that we haven’t been able to service before. This community is spending a lot of money on predatory services and check cashing outlets and we can create a depository relationship with them.” Patelco CU and Northeast Community FCU will use their $100,000 grant to establish a CUSO aimed at providing financial services to the multi-lingual and multi-cultural area that Northeast serves in San Francisco. The consortium plans to use multi-lingual, multi-cultural financial education to reach potential members. The financial education component will be coordinated by Patelco, and will include specialized workshops for small businesses and prospective homeowners. Anita Macias, SVP, Corporate Planning and Communication for Patelco spoke about the emerging partnership. “This consortium represents an extension of the path that we’ve been on with Northeast, and a new path with Mission Area. Youth financial education is vital and we are excited to connect to Mission Area’s YCUP. Financial Literacy is something that we’ve all been devoted to for a long time, and this youth component will greatly enhance our work.” While it might appear that the large credit union is the main force behind the program, Ms. Macias says this is not so. “Even though there is great disparity in asset sizes of the partners involved,” states Macias, “each credit union really brings something of equal value to the partnership. Big mainstream credit unions should not be concerned about having to do more than their part in such a relationship. Each partner, small and large, brings added value that creates a true sense of complementary competencies.” Rosenthal said that CUES would evaluate each effort by its own goals. “Did they achieve what they set out to achieve,” Rosenthal said. “That is what these grants will try to demonstrate, with the goal of showing paths to forward in this area.” He also noted that credit unions need to change the way they look at their role in their marketplaces. It is no longer really feasible, he argued, for there to be a regulatory approach to competition between credit unions, nor for credit unions to focus sharply on competing with one another. There are more than enough people who need credit union services to go around, he argued. -

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