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DALLAS, SAN ANTONIO, EL PASO, Texas – Three Texas credit unions became the first recipients of Texas Credit Union League’s “Juntos Avanzamos” designation last week, and as such, are now flying a flag carrying those words outside their branches. The credit unions – Neighborhood Credit Union, San Antonio Employees Federal Credit Union and West Texas Credit Union – received their flags in special presentations attended by credit union and governmental dignitaries and members of the press. Juntos Avanzamos, which means “Together We Advance,” is the league’s Hispanic outreach program, which has as its goal recognizing credit unions in Texas that have a true passion for serving the Hispanic market and empowering them to be more successful. “The purpose of the initiative is to help credit unions identify how they can best serve the Hispanic market and encourage them to adopt programs that are consumer-friendly. We’ve developed a checklist they can review to find out if they qualify. When they do, they can apply for the Juntos Avanzamos certification,” TCUL CEO Dick Ensweiler said during the ceremony at Neighborhood Credit Union Jan. 23. To qualify for the designation, credit unions must complete a seven-part application that asks them to demonstrate their understanding of and their capacity to serve the Hispanic market. Credit unions must supply information on operations, products, demographics, strategies for serving, and board/staff support relative to this initiative. Staffing bilingual tellers, maintaining a physical presence in the Hispanic community, and providing international remittances and financial education are mandatory requirements. Applicants must score 80 out of 100 points to earn the designation. As a “capacity to serve” credit union, all three are now eligible to apply for grant dollars through the Richard L. Ensweiler Fund that can be used to support programs such as financial education workshops, home buying seminars, participation in community events and financial wealth building initiatives. They also will receive 500 copies of the Building a Financial Foundation for your Family brochure. This Spanish-language brochure outlines the path to financial freedom, from setting a budget and cash management to financial goals and homeownership. Seor Ramon Imperial Zuniga, CEO of Caja Popular Mexicana – the largest credit union in Mexico with almost one million members-spoke at the ceremonies at each of the credit unions in Spanish and through an English interpreter. “We have the same nature, the same philosophy. That’s why for the last five years we’ve been working with TCUL in this partnership,” he said of CPM’s cooperative effort with the league to build Hispanic involvement in credit unions on both sides of the Mexican border. “We’re not only interested in people saving their money, but in them using it wisely, working to improve people’s lives. We have been exchanging information (with TCUL) and are very happy with the benefits we have received. We are proud to be here at the first credit union to be instated in the Juntos Avanzamos project. We are certain that through this program many people will gain access to financial services.” Texas is home to the second largest Hispanic population in the United States, representing about 32% of the state’s population, according to the 2000 census, and approximately 30-40% of Neighborhood’s demographics. “We believe Texas Hispanics of modest means should be able to use financial services such as checking accounts and loans without having to pay the exorbitant fees pawn shops and check cashing services charge,” said Chet Kimmell, Neighborhood Credit Union CEO upon accepting the Juntos Avanzamos recognition. Kimmell said his credit union’s community financial education program exemplifies their commitment to the Hispanic community. He cited an example of a family who, after attending the program, joined the credit union and opened a checking account. Shortly thereafter, the family’s apartment was burglarized. Couches and mattresses were slashed in hopes of finding the family’s savings, but their money was safe inside the credit union. The family since has opened seven accounts, he said, including a credit builder loan. Dr. Juan Hernandez, a former cabinet member in the Mexican government, presented the honored credit unions with the Juntos Avanzamos flag, which will alert the Hispanic community that they can find friendly, affordable financial services inside. -

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