Rita Haynes to Receive 2009 Wegner Award for Individual Achievement

National Credit Union Foundation Presents Credit Union Movement's Highest National Honors

Rita Haynes: Treasurer, Manager & CEO, Faith Community United Credit UnionThroughout her credit union career that’s still going strong after over 50 years, Rita Haynes has changed thousands of people’s lives. Her Faith Community United Credit Union lives up to its name by showing faith in low-income communities, saving members from a downward financial path, and offering those who have filed for bankruptcy a helping hand toward redemption.

Haynes rarely seeks personal accolades, yet she always answers the call to share her amazing stories. So Haynes has humbly accepted the prestigious Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Individual Achievement. This means on February 23, 2009, Haynes will have the opportunity to inspire her largest audience ever: the 21st Annual Wegner Awards Dinner hosted by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF).

For the second straight year, the gala dinner will take place at the Grand Hyatt Washington on the opening night of the Credit Union National Association’s 2009 Governmental Affairs Conference. Online registration will be available later this fall.
During Haynes’ first 27 years at Mount Sinai Credit Union (now Faith Community United) in Cleveland, Ohio, she was a volunteer who served in the credit union three days a week without pay. When asked to take on more responsibility, she agreed – and for the past 23 years, Haynes has worked as the treasurer, manager, and CEO. Haynes and her team of four full-time and four part-time employees share the conviction that teaching the poor to save and use money wisely is not just a job; it’s a religious calling.
“Despite her credit union’s limited resources, Rita Haynes has been relentless in her calling to raise the financial strength of people with the greatest needs,” says Laida Garcia, a member of the NCUF Awards and Recognition Committee. “The positive impact that Rita has made in her underserved inner-city community is truly an inspiration. Her dedication, innovation, and credit union spirit is what the Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Individual Achievement is all about.”
Through Haynes’ visionary leadership, Faith Community United has shown strength, stability, and staying power while banks abandoned inner-city neighborhoods. Recognizing that Cleveland-area residents were left with little or no access to basic financial services, Haynes in 1989 converted her single church-based field of membership to a community charter so that the credit union could serve all of Cuyahoga County.
In 1996, Faith Community United became the first credit union in Ohio to be designated as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) by the US Department of Treasury. As a result, the credit union earned a $350,000 matching grant from the CDFI Fund to expand its technology and systems, and a $250,000 grant from Fannie Mae.
Fannie Mae grants $250,000 to Faith Community United CU
During the most recent decade, Faith Community United has truly spread its wings. Over the past 10 years, the credit union has increased membership from 2,589 to 6,300, and built assets from $4.7 million to $10.1 million.

This phenomenal growth is driven by three unique programs that reflect the credit union’s religious roots.

"Amazing Grace"

Cleveland Plain Dealer article: "A Saving Grace"The most celebrated service initiated by Haynes is the “Amazing Grace Program,” which includes “Grace Loans” and an “Amazing Grace Line of Credit.”

Grace Loans are affordable, short-term loans up to $500 that are critical for low-income members to stay free of predatory lenders. Grace Loans were introduced to Faith Community United members in 1999, after most banks had moved out of inner-city Cleveland and high-cost payday loan stores moved in.

Haynes and her staff developed a competitive program that made the deposit advance loan process quicker and easier. Borrowers must participate in an automatic savings program that helps them save at least $10 per month – even while living on fixed incomes and facing escalating prices for gas, groceries, and medicine.

After one year of positive experience with the Grace Loan, members are eligible for the Amazing Grace Line of Credit. Two advances per month are permitted at each member’s convenience – reducing the need for payday loans. Members are still required to save at least $10 per month even if they don’t draw on the line of credit.

During the past eight years, the Amazing Grace Program has delivered 21,696 loans totaling over $7.1 million. Amazingly, 75% of these borrowers had previously filed for bankruptcy. Credit scores for 43% of borrowers were between 400 and 499. In addition, 18% of borrowers had no score prior before being approved by the credit union. Yet delinquency rates are less than 0.1%. The Amazing Grace Program has been their salvation.

"Greater Grace"

In 2007, Haynes added the “Greater Grace Program” to assist members who are burdened with large debts from multiple payday lenders and are struggling to break free. Once members learn how to consolidate all of their payday loans at the credit union, Haynes personally sets their interest rates. Then members have up to 24 months to repay.

Financial education is encouraged as a part of all Grace Loan programs. The credit union counsels members one-on-one, and also offers the Balance financial fitness program for members who prefer to be counseled by phone.

"Mercy Mortgage"

With $300,000 in grants from the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, Faith Community United has helped members facing foreclosure catch up on their loan payments and keep families in their homes. The credit union works to help these members refinance their entire predatory mortgages into a “Mercy Mortgage,” saving them an average of $200 per month.

Haynes not only helps members save assets, but build assets as well. Hundreds more lives have been changed through Faith Community United’s asset-building programs:

First IDA Pilot

In 1998, Haynes recognized an innovative opportunity with the state of Ohio, which was looking for an institution to pilot Individual Development Accounts (IDAs). The institution had to commit to raising matching funds from credit unions, foundations, and even banks. Haynes took on the challenge, and Faith Community United qualified as the first credit union to offer IDAs in Ohio.

These IDAs have enabled more than 100 families to purchase homes, start small businesses, and further their education.

Guaranteed Business Loans

To further develop her community, Haynes recognized the need to help start more small businesses. In 1999, she succeeded in qualifying Faith Community United for approval as a Small Business Administration (SBA) lender. This empowers the credit union to make loans partially guaranteed by the federal government to businesses that create jobs in her community.

At times, some of these businesses have faced a cash flow crisis and found themselves locked out of funding from other sources. But the doors are always open at Faith Community United. The credit union provides micro-business loans up to $5,000 to businesses in a pinch.

"Wheels" to Work

Haynes’ newest asset-building idea is a resource for non-prime borrowers to secure financing for a car or repairs needed to get to work. The “Wheels” program is designed for members who don’t qualify for credit or “regular” loan programs, or who need repairs they cannot afford. The interest rate is determined by each member’s credit score according to the credit union’s risk-based lending policies.

In the Wheels program’s first seven months, Faith Community United made 21 loans totaling over $152,000 to help non-prime borrowers get back to work and keep their jobs.

Local and State Credit Union Leader

Haynes’ reputation as an overachiever has made her a welcomed addition to many organizations’ board of directors. She served as chair of the Inner City Association of Minority Credit Unions, made up of 28 church credit unions in Cuyahoga County. She has played a leadership role in WECO Funds and the “Cleveland Saves” program – a broad-based coalition of non-profits promoting asset building and wealth creation.

“Rita is a hero to her community and especially the members of her credit union,” said Ohio Credit Union League President Paul Mercer, Haynes' lead nominator for the Wegner Award. “She is truly deserving of this award. I have been lucky enough to work with Rita for 15 years and have witnessed first-hand what her dedication to the community has accomplished and how she has inspired her fellow credit union leaders throughout Ohio and the nation.”

On the state level, Haynes was instrumental in founding the Ohio Credit Union Foundation in 1997. She was a charter member of the board of trustees, and her guidance was critical during these formative years. Today Haynes continues to serve on the Ohio Credit Union Foundation Board, working toward a similar mission as the National Credit Union Foundation: to promote consumers’ financial independence through credit unions.

National Credit Union Leader

Haynes Testifies at State Legislation HearingOn the national scene, Haynes has devoted her time in leadership with the African American Credit Union Coalition and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.

Haynes served six terms as the Federation’s chair, overseeing a $23.6 million increase in capitalization for community development credit unions (CDCUs). Haynes was also instrumental in launching the Community Development Partners program, which brings CDCUs and mainstream credit unions together to open new delivery systems and document best practices for serving low-income neighborhoods.
Rita Haynes shakes hands with Congressman KucinichWith so much knowledge and experience, Haynes has often been called on to testify before state and Congressional committees to share her stories of service to people of modest means.

Her testimony to the Ohio House of Representatives’ Financial Institutions Committee in 2005 helped pass legislation that was ultimately enacted to update the Ohio Credit Union Act for the first time in 18 years.
Rita Haynes testifying on Capitol Hill in 2007
In 2007, Haynes was called to testify before the US House Domestic Policy Subcommittee hearing on foreclosures, predatory mortgages, and payday lending in America’s cities. She explained how her credit union’s Grace Loans are a proven payday loan alternative that could be replicated across the nation.

“Rita is not only an outstanding local leader, but a national leader with a wide vision and deep commitment to the entire credit union movement,” concluded Cliff Rosenthal, Executive Director of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions. “By her personal integrity and unstinting dedication, she has set a standard for all of us.”

About the Wegner Awards

The awards are named in honor of the late Credit Union National Association CEO Herb Wegner, whose tireless dedication, innovative ideas and deeds truly revolutionized the way that credit unions serve their communities. The awards that bear Wegner’s name honor his legacy and recognize his spirit of “innovative, creative, risk-taking” leadership.
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