During February 2022’s Foundation Dinner, Chicago’s Faith Based Credit Union Alliance (FBCUA) will receive the Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Organization, recognizing its collective impact serving many of the city’s communities of color.
There are few finer examples of the credit union movement – and the cooperative principles that drive it – than the ten institutions comprising the FBCUA.
Formed to provide mostly African American residents of south-side Chicago with safe, reliable and affordable financial products and services, these credit unions were, at times, the only financial institutions that would lend to people of color.
“Credit unions like Israel Methcomm FCU (chartered in 1963) and Park Manor Christian Church CU (chartered in 1955) provided a safe place to save and offered loans that allowed their members to build assets,” wrote Pamela Owens, SVP, organizational development and capacity building for Inclusiv, in a nomination letter.
“I have heard many stories of these credit unions providing the loans that made it possible for parents to send children to school, businesses to be started and homes to be bought.”
For many of the 5,600 members served through the FBCUA, economic inequity remains an issue but the FBCUA’s handful of employees and nearly 200 volunteers work tirelessly to improve their members’ financial lives.
These small organizations open their collective doors every Sunday after service and for a few hours on weeknights. Economies of scale are achieved through true cooperation, with each individual credit union being completely open and accessible to the others, sharing resources, training, planning and best practices.
Another nominator – Tom Kane, president and CEO of the Illinois Credit Union League – believes the collective embodies “the goodness that can occur when credit unions and their volunteers come together to improve the lives of their members and better their communities.”
He said, “The Faith Based Credit Union Alliance provides a much-needed lifeline for savings and credit that otherwise wouldn’t be available to many of their members.
“The ideals behind this cooperative financial relationship – people helping people, neighbors helping neighbors, church members helping fellow church members – are on full display in these credit unions.”
While FBCUA credit unions have seldom let their focus slip from serving their members, their cooperative model, success and impact has led to nationwide change.
“I am moved by the power of their collaboration and the passion with which they run their organizations,” said Tom Sakash, CUNA manager of small credit union initiatives. “The FBCUA’s commitment to both financial empowerment and collaboration have inspired many of the programs that CUNA now runs for small credit unions.”
Congratulations to the Faith Based Credit Union Alliance.