Credit union clarifies role
Published 8:34 am Monday, June 29, 2015
Recently you posted a “Letter to the Editor” from a gentleman questioning “why a private business is operating on public property.” More specifically, why Firemen’s Federal Credit Union is allowed to operate on property owned by the Bogalusa School Board. After reading the letter, I feel compelled to answer and set the record straight — as many inaccurate and untrue claims were made.
Here are the facts:
Bogalusa Schools Federal Credit Union was chartered in 1955 to serve employees and retirees of the Bogalusa School Board. A Federal Credit Union is not a privately owned business. It is a not-for-profit financial institution, owned solely and equally by its members. Its purpose is to promote thrift and help its members through product and service offerings designed to enhance the responsible use of credit. The credit union office was originally located in the School Board offices, but the credit union later purchased a trailer and was allowed to locate to the rear of the school board property. The credit union paid its own water, telephone, electricity and other such maintenance charges — as it continued to provide conveniently located services to the Bogalusa Schools membership.
On July 29, 2013, the members of Bogalusa Schools Federal Credit Union voted to merge their approximately $1 million in assets with Firemen’s Federal Credit Union. Firemen’s Federal Credit Union has been in existence since 1934 and is the third oldest federal credit union in the United States. Assets were approximately $150 million prior to the merger. This merger allowed members access to a wider variety of services — for example, checking accounts, mortgage loans, ATMs, debit cards, payday loan alternatives and financial counseling services to assist those members with lower than average credit scores who pay higher interest rates and fees. Prior to the merger with Firemen’s two other credit unions were also approached as merger partners, but neither would commit to continue operations from the existing site. Firemen’s Credit Union not only agreed to continue service, but renovate the trailer and assume operations and all expenses at the site, along with enhancing the menu of products and services offered. It was a win-win situation for all involved.
All Federal Credit Unions are served by a volunteer board of directors and supervisory committee. Any profits earned after operational expenses are returned to the members through the payment of dividends, reduced fees and lower interest rates. Since the merger, membership has grown 48 percent. This is a testament to the quality member service and advocacy you can expect as a member of Firemen’s Credit Union.
Firemen’s Credit Union has both a low income service designation as well as certified community development financial institution status. This means we are committed to serving our low income designated communities, such as Bogalusa, and partner with various entities, such as the School Board, to provide financial literacy education to students as well as family members. We are in the final phase of planning a Bogalusa community resource fair slated in the fall to bring together community partners serving the Bogalusa community. We are working on potential grant opportunities for financial literacy. These are just a few examples of how your credit union serves the community.
With regard to membership access, with a low income designation, we are tasked with reaching out into the community, allowing membership through a broader range of partners, accessing many unbanked and under banked individuals unable to utilize traditional banking products and services. We were able to expand membership to all individuals who are students of Bogalusa Schools as well as their family members, in addition to the employees, retirees and their family members.
Finally, I feel it is important to note that Mr. Barber is not correct in regard to other organizations’ access to credit unions. Both Washington Parish Teachers — through Washington Educational Association Federal Credit Union located in Franklinton — and St Tammany Parish teachers — through St. Tammany Federal Credit Union located in Slidell — have the benefit of credit union services.
Our Credit Union has nine member service centers, including the one in Bogalusa. We are also members of CUSC, giving member access to over 5,000 locations nationwide during travel or emergencies. Please visit our website at www.noffcu.org or feel free to email Shasta Leininger, director of credit union development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or myself, Judy DeLucca, chief executive officer, at email@example.com with any questions, comments or concerns.
I want to thank our credit union members and the Bogalusa School Board, superintendent and employees for your foresight and support, allowing us to serve this great community. Our credit union motto of “People Helping People” is alive and well in Bogalusa. I invite anyone interested in credit union service to call or come by to open your membership and see the magic happening.
CEO, Firemen’s Federal Union