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MILWAUKEE – A church on the fringes of North Milwaukee will become the sponsor of the first new Wisconsin credit union in 12 years when the credit union opens its doors on April 3rd. The pastor and members of Christ the King Church had long seen the need for a way that the church could help its members and its neighborhood financially, particularly in the areas of building good financial habits, starting savings and having access to lower interest loans and financial services. They decided a credit union would be the best way of meeting their needs. The church, which began in a YMCA building in Milwaukee almost 20 years ago, has grown to where it occupies a more modern campus and modern structures. But the church leadership, including the Rev. John McVicker, has not forgotten the needs of people in his congregation for financial education and financial services, according to Ken Little, one of the CTK credit union’s new board members. The leadership of the church saw how many of the congregation had begun to identify more as consumers than as savers, Little explained, and there were enough congregants with a financial background to make starting a credit union a feasible solution to the problem. Little, whose background has been rooted in the banking industry and who now serves as vice president of Milwaukee-based State Financial Bank, appeared unaware or unwilling to comment on the irony of having a banker involved in the formation of a credit union. “We just believed a credit union was the best financial structure to help us meet our financial goals,” Little said. In the broadest context, Little said a credit union would help the church’s members close the “wealth gap” between minority and non-minority populations so that, over time, those gaps might be able to close. Initially, the credit union is going to be an entirely church run affair, Little explained. The credit union will only open in hours close to worship services on Sundays and Wednesdays and will operate at first out of the church offices. Little said the new credit union will also deal, at least a little bit, with cash – something that other new credit unions have sometimes shied away from doing. “We don’t expect there to be a lot of cash at first,” Little said, “but some of the business is going to be cash for sure.” The credit union benefited from a $15,000 investment from the church and Marshal and Ilsley Corp, another Wisconsin bank, invested $10,000, Little said. Little acknowledged that the 1,200-member congregation lucked out by having members with financial backgrounds. In addition to him as a bank official, another credit union board member is an auditor and other congregation members are attorneys and accountants. Suzanne Cowan, director of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Services’ Office of Credit Unions said that the presence of financial professionals among the congregants had helped the credit union get started, but added that it still took a fair amount of work and time. “It’s always a bit of a challenge for us,” Cowan explained. “We don’t want to discourage anyone but it is a lot of work for a group of people who have to be very dedicated because they are not doing it for personal gain.” Little said that the credit union organizers are willing to accept slow growth from their institution, beginning with only savings accounts before gradually being able to offer other products such as checking accounts, certificates of deposit and small loans. Little also made the point that even though the credit union will be rooted in the church, it will be outwardly focused as well. The new credit union’s field of membership will include both the Church’s membership as well as a swath of North Milwaukee. -

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