NAPERVILLE, Ill. (9/23/15)--Eighty volunteer leaders attending the Illinois Credit Union League’s Chapter Leaders Conference participated in The Life Simulation, a three-hour role- playing activity, to help them understand the day-to-day pressures and challenges faced by struggling, low-income families.
The eye-opening poverty simulation, offered in conjunction with the National Credit Union Foundation, was to encourage credit unions to offer products and services more applicable to low-income members.
The conference was hosted jointly by the league and the Greater Decatur Chapter of Credit Unions. It was the first time the simulation was facilitated for a group of statewide credit union chapter leaders, said the league. Attendees played roles such as people who were newly employed, homeless, or senior citizens on disability or raising grandchildren. They ran the gamut of community resources, including social service agencies, a bank, a payday lender, police, childcare providers, utilities, school, and other scenarios of life.
“The takeaway is to not only help credit unions develop more empathy, but to also really get them thinking about what products or services they could be offering to these struggling families, such as small-dollar loans, non-prime auto loans or secured credit cards,” said Mark Lynch, senior program manager for the foundation.
Wednesday Medlen, education liaison and Illinois Youth Involvement Council representative for the John L. Kelly Chapter of Credit Unions, noted that credit unions “just need to be there for our members and think about what type of referrals to agencies in our community we can make available.” She is business development/membership officer at Community Plus FCU, Rantoul, Ill., which offers programs such as non-prime auto loans, Second Chance Checking, free financial counseling and credit building programs.
Hope Garrett, second vice chairman of the Danville Area Chapter of Credit Unions and CEO of Education Personnel FCU, Danville, also attended a similar simulation at CUNA Management School. She said credit unions have more opportunities to help low-income families than they may realize. “As part of the credit union movement, we are in a unique position to (get involved and provide assistance to their community). It’s what we are chartered to do.”