SAN FERNANDO, Calif. – Latisa Rush doesn’t mind the limited hours at her credit union. It may actually be helping her to save money, she says, since she can’t access her savings account whenever she has the urge to do some “retail therapy.” “For me, because I spend money the way I do, it actually works out in my favor,” Rush says. Her credit union, Calvary Baptist of Pacoima FCU, may have the shortest hours of any credit union anywhere. Located in the basement of Calvary Baptist Church of Pacoima, the credit union lists its hours of operation on a flyer from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sundays. On a recent warm and sunny Southern California Sunday afternoon, Rush and a few others stood outside the church and wondered aloud when the credit union would open. Some had been waiting since noon, after a church official had told a caller the credit union would open then. It was now 2 p.m. and the wooden door to the credit union remained locked. For the credit union faithful like Rush, the wait was no big deal. For others, though, the limited and seemingly random office hours had them ready to convert. “It’s very difficult to reach somebody here,” complained Maggie Campbell, who said she has been showing up every Sunday for a month in an effort to close her account. Each time she shows up, the credit union has been closed. “Even on Sundays it’s difficult to get an exact time when you can actually come and do business,” Campbell said. “And that makes me uncomfortable. “What if we had large sums of money [in the credit union] and we had an emergency and needed to pull it out,” she said. “Whether you have one dollar or one million dollars, you need to have access.” By 2:30 p.m., the credit union still hadn’t opened. “See what I mean?” Campbell asked. A few minutes later, the chapel began to empty out. Carmen Williams walked down the 16 steps to the basement, went down a short, narrow dimly lit hallway, unlocked the door to the credit union and propped it open. She then settled behind the counter as Rush, Campbell and a few others crowded in. Michael Anderson, one of more than 20 associate pastors at the church and a member of the credit union committee, said the delayed opening was due to an extra church service added to the three normally scheduled on Sunday. He said members recognize the fact that the credit union is run solely by volunteers and that operating hours, like on this Sunday, can sometimes be unpredictable. “We usually try to get it open at the end of the second service,” he explained. “We usually stay open for 90 minutes or until all the people have taken care of their business.” “I think the members know the hours are at that time and they just kind of work around it,” he added. “They know we don’t have people here five days a week. We still have people joining.” The credit union is open to members of the church and their families. It currently has about 300 members, both adults and children. “We try to get our children to save at the credit union at an early age,” Anderson said. “We try to encourage them to save at an early age and teach them how to save.” Quarterly meetings among churchgoers are designed to encourage membership in the credit union. Some of those meetings have also included talks by financial experts about money management, he said. The church, started 50 years ago in a garage and a tent, today operates in a multi-building complex and has some 500 active congregants drawn from the San Fernando, Pacoima, Palmdale, Northridge and Los Angeles areas. The credit union was started about 30 years ago. Williams says she believes it was the first church-sponsored black credit union in the San Fernando Valley. Today, it has assets of approximately $300,000. The credit union primarily offers savings accounts and new and used car loans. “I myself have probably bought four cars through this credit union,” Anderson said. Even so, he and others admit that with few product offerings and its limited operating hours, the credit union isn’t really designed to be a member’s primary financial institution. Rush, who said she has been a member of the credit union since 1984, agreed. She uses another credit union to handle most of her financial needs but keeps her savings account at Calvary Baptist. “I feel safe putting my money in the church credit union,” she said. “I feel my money is in good hands.” She also likes the smaller, more personal approach, describing it as more of a “family setting.” “It is a family oriented credit union,” Anderson agreed. “It deals with this church family and their families that want to join.” Campbell, who joined the credit union on the recommendation of another church member, said she preferred the convenience offered by other financial institutions, some of which are open six days a week and which have ATM access for funds. “I wouldn’t discourage others from joining,” she said, adding that most do so to show their support for the church. “It just doesn’t make me comfortable.” Anderson said plans were “on the drawing board” to enhance the credit union and attract more members. “We’re always constantly thinking of new ideas for the credit union to help it even more,” he said. “Calvary Baptist FCU started on a shoestring,” he explained. “Some members got together and their idea was that the church needed its own credit union. By the grace of God, it started 30 years ago. And by the grace of God, it’s still open.” -

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