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CLEVELAND – When it comes to social outreach, credit unions, particularly those with community charters, need to go beyond basic PR since “simply getting your float in the parade or sponsoring a Little League team” does not cut it. That message to CU executives to step up their social service projects, more significantly with an emphasis on financial payback to constituents, was delivered during a well-attended “Revitalizing Your Commitment” breakfast at last week’s annual meeting of the Ohio Credit Union League. “It’s OK to get your name out before the public but I think we really have to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty,” declared Kelly Schermerhorn, vice president of operations at the $80 million CES CU of Mt. Vernon and an active speaker on behalf of CUNA outreach and education programs. Schermerhorn, who spoke in March before the California/Nevada Credit Union League annual conference on serving the Latino market, called on Ohio CU executives to come up with more creative and concrete products to service the low- and moderate-income clientele. He cited first-time homebuyer services, payday alternatives and financial literacy as three areas that require more focused attention by CUs in Ohio and elsewhere. “I’m not saying to stop doing the parades, but there has to be much more and that means relying on just the low-risk activities,” said Schermerhorn. Credit unions, he said, “need to stop cherry picking” and get involved in financial literacy training and education in the schools in a broad program much like those being tested in Ohio schools by banks and CUs in the Mount Vernon market. He cited a “reality store” venture being offered in a series of classroom visits by financial executives to Mt Vernon schools.

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