NASSAU, Bahamas – With the theme of “Making a World of Difference,” the African-American Credit Union Coalition recently held its annual conference here. More than 200 traveled to the Caribbean island for the Aug. 10-13 meeting, which also included attendance from natives from the Bahamian credit union movement. “We’ve made some real strong connections,” said Helen Godfrey-Smith, AACUC chairwoman and president/CEO of $63 million Shreveport Federal Credit Union. This conference marks the last year Godfrey-Smith will serve as AACUC chairwoman after taking the helm in 2003. AACUC board members were planning to meet the week of Aug. 22 to name its new chairperson and new officers. Representatives from the Bahamas’ largest CU, Teachers and Salaried Cooperative CU, Ltd., attended the meeting along with officials from the Bahamas Cooperative League. Some of the highlights included a presentation from Anne Cochran, president/CEO of the Louisiana Credit Union League, on her liaison work with credit unions in South Africa. As part of its mentoring outreach, earlier this year the AACUC approved $2,700 in scholarships for three native Africans to attend the African Management Institute. The World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. sponsors the Institute, which was held at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya June 6-18. Rita Haynes, manager of $9 million Faith Community United Credit Union (FCUCU) in Cleveland, was also honored with the Pete Crear Lifetime Achievement Award for her 40 years of service at a recognition dinner. She has been with FCUCU since 1959 and has been CEO for the past 13 years. Haynes, who also serves as board chair of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, has used that platform to promote and guide the mission of CDCUs on a national scale. “It was a lonely journey at first,” Haynes said commenting on the lack of African-American presence and influence in the credit union movement during the first few decades of her involvement. But she learned, quoting her mentor, Moses Hill, “If you want to make a difference, you have to be at the table.” The AACUC’s popular internship program was also highlighted recognizing the 35 interns that participated this summer. Three of the interns were awarded the Pete Crear Scholarships, each worth $2,000. Godfrey-Smith said the AACUC is working on taking the internship program to another level with an effort to educate the industry on hiring young CEOs. “We’ve taken on the mission of the idea of bringing a more youthful look to the movement,” Godfrey-Smith told attendees, adding the retirement of older CEOs over the next few years could be an opportunity to bring another dimension to the movement. The AACUC is also moving forward with another program that will record the history of credit unions from an African-American perspective. The goal is to have a written record in place by 2008, the year marking the anniversary of the first credit union established in the United States. Godfrey-Smith said AACUC interns have already identified several key milestones including the establishment of one of the first African-American CUs formed in 1927. Bob Hoel, director of the Filene Research Institute, who also gave a presentation on research at the conference, and Pete Crear, WOCCU president/CEO, said they will assist in the effort, Godfrey-Smith said. The AACUC’s mentorship program will be revamped to assist small, financially healthy credit unions on going to the next level. The Coalition will help with business plans to include strong growth cycles, Godfrey-Smith said. Scholarship partnerships with CUNA and CUES have helped those who lead small credit unions to attend management schools and industry conferences. To assist with many of its outreach programs, the AACUC and the National Credit Union Foundation launched the Pete Crear Fund in August 2004. The fund is a donor-designated fund within NCUF’s Community Investment Fund (CIF). Credit unions can participate by making investments in their corporate CU and directing the investment be placed in the CIF. One-half of the investment income is returned to the investing CU and the remaining portion of the investment income is split between the coalition and the league or foundation of the state of original investment. Godfrey-Smith said the fund is “strong and growing.” Other AACUC conference guest speakers included Gary Officer, president/CEO of the Associated Black Charities and former head of the National Credit Union Foundation; Crear, who spoke on his new mission at WOCCU; and Tarra Jackson, lending protection manager at CUNA Mutual Group, who spoke on credit union sales culture from an African-American perspective. NCUA Region III Director Alonzo Swann returned this year to serve as a facilitator on a best practices panel while NAFCU President Fred Becker also returned to provide a legislative and regulatory update. The AACUC will travel to Seattle for its 2006 annual conference. [email protected]

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