Laura Aguirre, president/CEO of $42 million asset Hawaii First Federal Credit Union of Kamuela, Hawaii, is the recipient of the 2016 Annie Vamper Helping Hands Award.
This award is the highest honor given by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions to credit union staff and volunteers who are deeply committed to the community development credit union movement.
Aguirre received her award at a special ceremony at the 2016 CUNA Community Credit Union Conference and The Federation 2016 Annual Meeting in Dallas.
According to the Federation, Aguirre consistently demonstrates the significant impact a smaller credit union can have on its community.
“Laura is one of the most caring people dedicated to helping the underserved that I know,” says Diane Guidry, Hawaii First Federal’s board chair. “It has been an honor to be a part of her team. We are always looking for better ways to help our community. Laura shares with her staff so that they all can make a difference, one person at a time, to be the best they can be and achieve their dreams.”
From 2012 to 2016, the credit union's assets and loans have grown by 21% and 23%, respectively, and provided more than $60 million in loans to members.
“Who knew that providing hope would generate so much growth?” says Aguirre, who describes herself as a true believer in the credit union philosophy of people helping people.
Aguirre’s upbringing included public assistance and homelessness. As a result, Aguirre understands, perhaps more than most, how encouragement and kindness can change lives. After a successful career in banking, Laura moved to Hawaii in 1992. Everywhere she looked, she saw people who reminded her of how she grew up. She was determined to help underserved, low-income, and native communities.
“Community development credit unions are so much more than financial institutions,” she says.
Hawaii First Federal has been an exemplar of what is possible with a CDFI certification—a designation the Federation promotes heavily. It opens up opportunities for community development funding from the U.S. Treasury’s CDFI Fund.
The CDFI certification led the way for the credit union to establish the Hawaii First Community Resource Center, which aims to financially empower members of the community, and develop other unique loan and share programs. The credit union has received five CDFI Fund awards totaling $3.3 million.
Hawaii First Federal is also a Federation secondary capital investee. The Federation has supported the credit union's growth and mortgage services, as well as its Community and Homeownership Resource Centers.
NEXT: Read Aguirre’s full remarks at the conference