Pictured from left to right: Trenton NJ Police Federal Credit Union founders Joseph Siefert, Victor Babecki, Thomas Bruthers, and Pasquale Narelli pose with the credit union’s first deposit.
As it celebrates its 77th anniversary and a new name that signifies its growth over the years, Central Jersey Police & Fire FCU proudly reflects on its heritage of being founded by—and continuing to serve—those in uniform protecting and serving the local communities surrounding the state capitol.
It all began back in 1939, when a group of Trenton, N.J. police officers saw a need amongst their tight-knit law enforcement community for affordable and reliable financial services that they couldn’t find at any of the local banks.
Joseph Siefert, Victor Babecki, Thomas Bruthers, and Pasquale Narelli came together to form Trenton NJ Police Federal Credit Union, which, at the time, only offered deposit accounts and loans—a service that was hard to come by elsewhere. The cooperative credit union structure allowed them to pool their deposits to loan funds to one another when needed in a safe and trust-worthy process.
When the Hamilton Police Department caught wind of the cooperative financial institution being run by and for law enforcement, the credit union opened its membership to include them.
One door down from the credit union’s branch in Hamilton is Mercerville Fire Company. When firemen began expressing interest in joining their brothers and sisters in uniform as members in 2012, the credit union opened its membership to include them. The credit union continued to grow and expand services, becoming a staple in the Trenton-area community of first responders, serving Bordentown, East Windsor, Ewing, Lawrence, and numerous other law enforcement agencies and fire departments.
The true test of any organization is how it faces a crisis. In this case, the state was forced to lay off 109 police officers, and those officers and their families were faced with the reality of significant financial uncertainty in a very bad economy.
The credit union didn’t hesitate, working with every single one of the affected officers to keep them financially sound in this time of transition. Credit union employees did anything and everything they could to help, from refinancing loans to extending the terms of loans and much more. For two police officers that were struggling to make their mortgage payments, the credit union went so far as to find them cheaper mortgage rates elsewhere to make sure they didn’t go under or lose their homes. “We did whatever we could do to help them,” said credit union CEO Barbara Rios. “That’s how we were founded; that’s what we do.”
As a result, not one of the police officers who lost their job defaulted on any of their loans.
It would be hard to think of a better example of the true “people helping people” philosophy of the industry. And it didn’t go unnoticed. The credit union’s efforts were recognized nationally by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), with a 2014 Louise Herring Philosophy-in-Action Award for its practical application of the credit union philosophy for internal programs and services that benefit membership.
With the credit union’s charter expanded to include police officers living within 25 miles of the credit union, in September 2016, the name of the cooperative was changed from Trenton NJ Police FCU to Central Jersey Police & Fire FCU to better reflect its new membership. Now, even very small police departments in the area have the opportunity to join Central Jersey Police & Fire FCU and enjoy the benefits of membership experienced by over 2,000 police officers and firemen.
The staff and board of directors also live and breathe the credit union’s mission. All of the employees are retired from law enforcement and the board of directors includes both active and retired law enforcement professionals from Trenton, Hamilton, and Mercer.
Rios herself has been involved in the credit union since 1985, when she became a member at the same time she was joining the Trenton Police Department. In 1993, Rios began working at the credit union part-time in between working shifts with the police department along with her colleagues. When she and her credit union coworkers retired in the early 2000s after 25 years of service, they became full-time employees and have been growing the credit union and serving their beloved police department (and many more) ever since.
At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on Central Jersey Police & Fire FCU, including how to join, visit www.cjpolicefirefcu.org or find another credit union near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com.