Lydia Bailey, a teller at FirstLight FCU, participates in FirstLight's PRIDE video series.

Credit unions work to advance LGTBQ+ communities

June 30, 2021

As credit unions work to advance the communities they serve, they also look for opportunities to demonstrate they are a part of those same communities. With June marking Pride Month, several credit unions have used CUNA’s Advancing Communities portal to share their stories of service to the LGBTQ+ community.

FirstLight FCU, El Paso, Texas, has dedicated itself to telling the stories of employees, members, and the community, which is why it launched its PRIDE stories video series to highlights LGBTQ+ employees.

“Our employees really embraced the concept; we thought we’d get one or two responses, but we got a plethora,” said Sidney Alvarez, creative strategist and storyteller with FirstLight. “By encouraging our employees to share their narrative, we want to not only engage with them but the community around us, including the LGBTQ+ community and its allies.”

Alvarez said FirstLight believes in the importance of looking inside to see what’s happening outside, as employees live in the community as well.

“FirstLight wants to put the spotlight back on our community, and our members are the community,” he said. “We want to show that we’re a part of the fabric of this community however we can, whether through initiatives like this, or financial literacy events, community initiatives, sponsorships, or just getting out there and volunteering.”

Alternatives FCU, in Ithaca, N.Y., has been working with underserved members since it was founded 42 years ago, says Reiley Schoen, chief operations officer, and it continues to benefit members through community partnerships.

Alternatives collaborated with Planned Parenthood of Greater New York for its TransAction financial empowerment program, which provides term loans and lines of credit at special rates for transgender and non-binary members seeking to access care and services.

“Our executive team thought this was a great program to offer, especially knowing how expensive these services can be and the risks of predatory lenders,” Schoen said. “It won’t cover the entire process, but it’s a steppingstone, and it’s designed to be affordable; we don’t want to charge a huge rate for someone to live their true self.”

Designing the program involved mutual training between Alternatives and Planned Parenthood staff that worked to make both more comfortable. Credit union staff learned on how to provide a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, while Planned Parenthood staff learned about fairly priced lending products, community development education, and accessing services.

As they were putting the program together, Alternatives was able to secure a $23,000 grant for the program from NCUA’s Underserved Outreach Initiative. 

“I’m grateful for our leadership team for getting this program off the ground. They said they would have done it with or without the grant from NCUA,” Schoen said. “This is the kind of thing I’d love to see repeated all around the country.

Schoen encouraged credit unions to examine the underserved groups in their communities and to work to tailor products and services to meet their unique needs.

“This program aligns with Alternatives’ emphasis on filling the gaps in our community, whether its supporting women and minority-owned businesses, financial education programs for children, or working with individuals coming out of prison to give them some solid financial footing,” he said. “We’re consistently looking to see who we can help in our little corner of the world.”