BUFFALO, N.Y. (8/18/14)--First it was criss-crossing the state of New York, searching for donated supplies to equip a fledgling credit union. Now, organizer Emma Smalley is going door-to-door collecting signatures to support the creation of a new credit union on Buffalo's west side.
Smalley, who is the manager of $4.1 million-asset Niagara Falls (N.Y.) Penn Central ECU, set the path for Good Neighbors FCU more than a year ago after receiving preliminary approval from the National Credit Union Administration.
Final approval from the regulator requires 400 signatures from the neighborhood. So far, the door-to-door campaign has captured 280 signatures, but Smalley is reaching for 1,000 (Business First of Buffalo Aug. 15).
Good Neighbors FCU received a low-income credit union designation. The neighborhood is heavily populated with immigrants who distrust financial institutions, preferring to pay a fee to cash their checks and keep the money at home, Business First noted. Those cash-heavy households are prone to theft, and state estimates say Buffalo's "unbanked" or "underbanked" pay an annual average of $900 in fees.
"You shouldn't have to pay five bucks to cash a check, or 22 to 23% interest on an auto loan just because nobody has shown you how to fix your credit," she told Business First. "It's unfair asking people to play the financial game when nobody has shown them the rules."
Steve Deisig, board chairman, said he hopes the credit union's cooperative governance, focus on financial literacy and membership structure will draw people to use the credit union for transactions, learning about credit and ultimately being able to purchase houses or cars.
"There's a community-good aspect to our credit union," Deisig told Business First. "We are there to help these people."
In addition to April's cross-state road trip where Smalley collected office supplies and equipment from fellow credit unions, she is working to raise at least $100,000 for startup operational funds.