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SEATTLE – Bob Harvey is on a mission to break down one major misconception about the African-American Credit Union Coalition. Harvey, who was recently elected chairman of the AACUC, wants the industry to know that the group is not a “splinter organization” and welcomes anyone who feels as strongly about the Coalition’s mission. “One of the challenges, and this includes banking and insurance (industries), is there have been few minorities,” said Harvey, who is also president/CEO of $422 million Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union (SMCU). “Minorities, be it Black, Hispanic or Asian, any organization with a large minority base, is deemed as a splinter organization and people who are of those minority groups may choose not to join.” In its seventh year, AACUC now has more than 300 members and was founded to increase the credit union movement worldwide through the perspective of volunteers and professionals of African-American and African descent. While it does not track the race of its members, as evidence of its inclusiveness, several state leagues, NAFCU and CUNA and at least a dozen notable vendors are AACUC members. Board support is also critical. Jim Yearby, past chair of SMCU and a member of the board for more than 20 years, attended the last two AACUC conferences. Members from around the country pulled together after Hurricane Katrina through an informal network to assure that everyone in the affected states were accounted for, Harvey said. The AACUC has donated $2,000 to the Louisiana Credit Union League for that storm’s relief efforts, and while Hurricane Rita was not as destructive, NCUA is checking the operational status of some 50 credit unions in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. Harvey said more donations to assist CUs in the latest hurricane could come when assessment is done on how many were affected. Meanwhile, AACUC’s role may expand in another direction given the number of credit unions that have been impacted by both hurricanes. “The big concern is any credit union operating on a very thin margin, an interruption (of this kind) can kill it,” Harvey said. “When you don’t have a credit union, you don’t have members, no jobs, and no loan repayments. We’re literally waiting for the water to recede.” Harvey said credit unions “have the sense to see that if members can’t repay loans” in situations that occur as a result of a devastating hurricane, “they’re not going to try and collect.” It’s those unexpected mishaps such as natural disasters that indirectly fuels one of the AACUC’s goals of providing an outlet for credit union execs that would not otherwise have the financial resources to receive ongoing education. NAFCU, for instance, recently partnered with the Coalition to launch the Cornerstone Award, which will be given annually to two AACUC members to help defray the costs of attending one of the trade group’s conferences. CUES also offers scholarships to attend its institutes as does CUNA with its conferences and management schools. “It costs an individual on average of $2,500 to attend a conference when you add in airfare, hotel and registration,” Harvey said. “AACUC has members who are very junior, CEOs, and everyone in between. Everyone can’t afford to go.” Under his watch, Harvey said the Coalition will continue to align with members who want to go but can’t afford to. Another ongoing mission is funding. “Thanks to the generosity of board members and some of the larger credit unions, we’ve been able to get the organization off the ground,” Harvey said. “Revenue is still important. You can’t do anything without money.” Harvey also wants to beef up AACUC’s employment efforts. The group has a section on its site for job postings and its internship program continues to field more interest each year from CU employers wanting interns. And, the AACUC will continue to tell the stories of many of the movement’s members who have served diligently and often quietly for three or more decades. Harvey mentions Pete Crear Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Rita Haynes, CEO of Faith Community United CU, for her 40 years of service and Bill Porter, president/CEO of $1.2 billion Municipal Credit Union. “This is a good industry to work in,” Harvey said. “The industry needs good people so it’s important for us through our internship program, networking, employment (resources) and being an inclusive organization” to bring those people to credit unions. -

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