New Credit Union Office

Takes Root in Southwest Community Center

Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union (SCFCU) opened a second office in September in the Southwest Community Center. Abandoned by big business and neglected by business-as-usual politicians, the neighborhood is struggling to take its destiny into its own hands. Strengthened by a strong backbone of progressive "faith-based organizations," residents have banded together to build grassroots institutions such as Jubilee Homes, Time of Jubilee, the Southwest Business Resource Center, and the Alliance Network, as well as the Southwest Community Center. These groups drive much community-building activity. Jubilee Homes, for example, is a land trust that has built 70 homes on the neighborhood's vacant lots. The credit union's presence and activities should complement and support such efforts.

The new office is small, with space for just three staff, but opening it was no small feat. For a small community-based organization with a shoestring budget, adding a second office was complex and difficult. Unlike most community groups, a credit union operates at a high level of technological sophistication, precision, regulation and accountability. The credit union had to build its capacity in many ways: new equipment and technology, more staff and training, and new ways to provide services.

Opening a second office took much planning and more resources than the credit union could provide itself. Though the credit union has been entirely independent for most of its existence, we could not take this on without several grants, a loan, training scholarships, VISTAs, donated services and some hand-me-down equipment.

The opportunity to advance our mission by serving another underserved neighborhood pushed us onward, even when the task seemed unachievable. SCFCU will make basic financial services available where they are not now, provide loans for home ownership to those who are excluded, make financing available for home repair and renovation, cultivate small businesses in areas abandoned by big business, and keep the assets of this community at work locally.

Together with neighborhood organizations and progressive religious groups, we will help build a spirit of progress and hope in the Southwest neighborhood that will nurture more community action.

-Ron Ehrenreich