Posts in Category: legacy series

Raritan Bay FCU, Serving the Hardworking Middle Class for Over 75 Years  

June 07, 2017 Categories: legacy series

Many credit unions were founded by groups of workers in areas where traditional banking services were either unavailable or beyond their means. Such is the case with Raritan Bay Federal Credit Union, which was founded in 1941 to serve workers of National Lead.


Founding members of Titanox FCU (what is now known as Raritan Bay FCU). From left to right: Steve Stankovitz, Mitch La’Voie, John F. Kroeger, John Andrejewski, and Rocco Fazari.

Not only does Raritan Bay FCU have deep roots, but the original founders exhibited an amazing devotion to their fellow members that is a hallmark of the cooperative credit union business model. During its 75th anniversary celebration last year, Raritan Bay FCU honored one of its original members, John Andrejewski, in recognition of his 75 years as a member and 41 years of service as an official to the credit union.

Andrejewski, now 97 years old, recently took the time to reflect on the early days of the credit union, its humble beginnings in a single room at the lead plant, and how its blue-collar start has defined its mission to this day.

It all began in 1941 when five National Lead workers on the management team began the credit union with the approval of the plant manager, who gave them a room to start the operations right in the plant. As new employees joined the ranks at the plant, they became members of the credit union. Andrejewski joined as soon as he became a maintenance worker for National Lead in 1941. His member number was, and still is to this day, one of the very first account numbers of what has now become almost 11,000 members. And he has been involved in the credit union’s growth every step of the way.

“The credit union was for the people. For the working man. For the blue-collar worker,” he explains while reminiscing about the credit union’s humble beginnings at the plant. The credit union, named Titanox Federal Credit Union at the time, was there for the workers who needed loans. The plant workers very seldom defaulted on them, says Andrejewski, because they had a steady stream of income from the plant, but also because they had a loyalty to their fellow workers, including Andrejewski, who served on multiple committees for the credit union over the years.

The credit union moved to several locations after it left the National Lead building in the late 1950s, including a space it rented from the South Amboy First Aid Squad, until it finally found its home in 1993 at 491 Raritan Street on the border of Sayreville and South Amboy, where it still remains today. Andrejewski oversaw the plans for the building, which serves as the credit union’s headquarters, and is playfully teased to this day for some of the out-turned bricks on the corner of the building he chose to make it look “a little bit different.”

As membership expanded, Raritan Bay FCU went through a few name changes. After including the communities surrounding the plant—Sayreville and South Amboy—in 1982, the credit union’s name was changed to Titanox-Community Federal Credit Union, then to Raritan Bay FCU on April 21, 1988. In 1997, it opened a second location on Main Street in South River.


Andrejewski (left) celebrating the credit union’s 75th anniversary with Board Chair Elsie Mroczkowski (center) and President/CEO Ron Behrens (right).

In 1999, Raritan Bay FCU became the first credit union in New Jersey to open a Student-Run Credit Union Branch, which was located in South Amboy Middle/High School. Students were given the opportunity to volunteer at the high school branch where they learned the basic principles and practices of the financial services industry and the operation of a small business. High School seniors are also offered the opportunity to apply for a scholarship through the credit union to help off-set the cost of college.

Current President/CEO, Ronald Behrens, noted that Raritan Bay FCU stays involved in its community by supporting many events throughout the year and paying homage to its roots in the area surrounding the plant, including Sayreville Day, South River's National Night Out, South Amboy's Raritan Bay Festival of the Arts, Sayreville Police Annual Torch Run to benefit local Special Olympics, and The Breast Cancer Walk in Edison. They even devote revenue from ATM usage to Toys-for-Tots and other local charities, collect non-perishable foods for over 80 local food pantries, soup kitchens and 25 other community social service agencies, and provide scholarship awards to high school seniors for college education.

The credit union’s dedication to its community, especially its younger generations, earned it recognition over the years; the credit union was awarded the Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award for New Jersey in 2013 and 2014.

The credit union now serves almost 11,000 members in all of Middlesex County and along the Raritan Bay. More information at www.rbfcu.coop.

Something Old and Something New: Central Jersey Police & Fire FCU Reflects on its Rich History and Celebrates a New Name 

February 01, 2017 Categories: legacy series


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

Jersey Shore FCU: A Tale of Two Credit Unions and One Dedicated Founder  

November 10, 2016 Categories: legacy series

Although they offer many of the same services, credit unions operate in a fundamentally different way than banks, one founded on the philosophy of “people helping people”. Credit unions were typically founded by friends, like neighbors, workers, and people who worship together. Such is the case for Jersey Shore Federal Credit Union, which was founded by John DiNofrio, who now serves as the credit union’s chairman.

The tale of how Jersey Shore FCU was founded has nothing to do with the famous (or infamous) TV series, and certainly involved far less drama. It actually begins with the founding of another credit union: the FAA Pomona Federal Credit Union. In 1963, James John Benson, an assistant chief air traffic controller at the Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center at the Atlantic City Airport, saw a need amongst the workers for financial assistance that was not being met by any other local financial institution. Focused on the Technical Center’s federal employees, Benson started the financial cooperative with just $25 for the charter and $40 for supplies.

Around that same time, John DiNofrio, a young employee of the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center and a board member of FAA Pomona FCU, fell in love with the “people helping people” philosophy of the credit union. He wanted to bring the cooperative benefits of credit union membership more broadly to the public, to help more than just federal employees meet their financial goals.

So in 1979 John, his wife Marianne, and six of their closest friends joined together to found Linwood Community Federal Credit Union to serve their hometown of Linwood, N.J. DiNofrio had members contribute just $2 to join, and set the minimum deposit amount at $50. The first loan the credit union gave out was just $300 to a Linwood City employee.

The credit union began operations in the Mayor’s office in City Hall —he was a friend of the DiNofrio’s—just one night a week. As the credit union grew, and began to operate a few more nights a week, the Mayor moved the credit union to the office of taxation to give them more room. All the while John and Marianne volunteered their time to the credit union, never getting paid for their service, until they hired an assistant. They began paying the assistant and Marianne a modest stipend of $1.50 an hour, preferring to provide maximum benefits to their members.

The fate of the FAA Pomona Federal Credit Union and Linwood Community FCU converged when the two merged in 1994 and the organization continued to grow to serve more and more members in its local community. In 2005, it was officially named Jersey Shore Federal Credit Union to better reflect the more than 200 area businesses and organizations it had grown to serve in the Jersey Shore area. It also modified its charter, allowing the credit union to provide complete financial services to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Atlantic and Cape May counties. The credit union now touches the lives of 12,000 members with its “people helping people” philosophy.

“John has successfully piloted the credit union in his role as Chairman,” said Jersey Shore FCU President/CEO Jim Burns. “He helped foster membership growth, expand its branch footprint and provided valuable guidance to both the Board and the executive management team. John promotes the people helping people philosophy in not only his dealings with the credit union but the way he carries himself in everyday life.”This October, the man that had a hand in leading both credit unions that became Jersey Shore FCU, John DiNofrio, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Jersey Credit Union League at its Annual Meeting and Convention for his life-long dedication to the credit union movement here in New Jersey.

DiNofrio is a true example of how the cooperative spirit is ingrained in credit union leaders from the very beginning. When asked about his continued commitment to the cooperative credit union movement, DiNofrio says it’s not just a philosophy. He says, “People helping people is a way of life for me.”

At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on Jersey Shore Federal Credit Union, including how to join, visit www.jerseyshorefcu.org or find another credit union near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com

Carrying on its Heritage and Tradition: United Poles FCU is Still Going Strong 

September 29, 2016 Categories: legacy series

Although they offer many of the same services, credit unions operate in a fundamentally different way than banks, one founded on the philosophy of “people helping people”. Credit unions were typically founded by friends, like neighbors, workers, and people who worship together. Such is the case for United Poles Federal Credit Union. Thirteen Polish community members in Perth Amboy, N.J., founded the credit union, which to this day, is an integral part of that community’s identity.

In the 1950s, the Polish community in Perth Amboy was a tight-knit one, gathering at one local banquet hall for all of their celebrations, from weddings to christenings to graduations.

When Polish immigrants were having trouble getting loans and other banking services due to the language barrier and other challenges, the community came together once again for a very different purpose than celebrations. Hearing about the cooperative concept of credit unions, 13 members of that community saw a solution, and formed their own credit union in 1965—United Poles Federal Credit Union. Their start was modest, with an initial deposit of just $3,200 contributed by its members. United Poles FCU wasn’t anything like a typical bank start-up in other ways too, lacking plush offices and expensive furniture—the credit union’s official headquarters was a room it rented above a local bar.

United Poles FCU grew to include 400 members of the community within ten years, and it wasn’t until the late 1970s that the credit union hired a full-time manager. By the 1980s they had grown enough to open their first brick and mortar branch, the same building that is its headquarters today in Perth Amboy. Over the past few decades, the credit union has grown to include another branch location in Linden, with a total of 2,200 community members, and $38 million in assets.

The credit union’s current CEO, Iwona Karpeta, came to work at the credit union in 1996 as a college student. She traveled to the U.S. from Poland for an internship, working on a thesis on the credit union movement. She stayed, moving up the ladder to a teller, loan officer, loan supervisor, and so on, eventually becoming CEO in 2005. She is only the fourth leader of the credit union in it’s over 50 years of service.

“I’ve worked here for 20 years and it’s more than just a job,” says Karpeta. “At the end of the day, it’s about helping people. And that’s exactly how the credit union started over 50 years ago. People saw a need to help each other, and today we’re trying to do the same.”

You can feel the sense of community at the credit union. All five staff members, including Karpeta, speak the language. Each of them has been with the credit union for at least 10 years or more. They know most of their members by their first names and even know their voices when they call. They now serve the great grandchildren of some of the credit union’s original members and have watched them grow over the years.

“We know our members,” says Karpeta. “We know every wedding, funeral, birth…you name it. It’s a small community, and even though it has spread out across the state, it is still very tight.”

At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on United Poles Federal Credit Union, including how to join, visit www.unitedpolesfcu.com or find another credit union near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com.

Founded by Kimble Glass Factory Workers Over 75 Years Ago, Bay Atlantic FCU has Provided Generations of Family Friendly Service to its Community 

September 13, 2016 Categories: credit union difference legacy series

Although they offer many of the same services, credit unions operate in a fundamentally different way than banks, one based on the philosophy of “people helping people”. Credit unions were typically founded by friends, like neighbors, workers and people who worship together. In our latest installment of the Legacy Series, we’re featuring a credit union founded by nine factory workers, one of which is a relative of the credit union’s current CEO.

“Generations of Family Friendly Service.” That’s Bay Atlantic FCU’s tagline, which was inspired and voted on by its members. The credit union’s legacy drives this motto; the not-for-profit was founded over 75 years ago in 1939 by nine Kimble Glass factory workers who decided to join together for the mutual benefit of the group.

We often see credit unions with deep roots in a community – Bay Atlantic takes that concept to a whole new level. One of those nine founding workers, Lillian Steelman, is the great aunt of Gail Marino, Bay Atlantic’s current President & CEO. “You can say that the credit union is my blood,” Marino said. Marino has carried on that tradition of long-standing ties to the credit union, having begun working at the credit union (named Kimble Federal Credit Union at the time) in 1977 as a teller.

Over the years, Bay Atlantic FCU has grown to serve many other organizations, including Progresso and General Mills. But the credit union always stayed true to its primarily blue color legacy of meeting the needs of workers and their families. With expansion, the credit union changed its name in 2002 to Bay Atlantic Federal Credit Union to better represent the area it serves: the section of southern New Jersey between the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Bay Atlantic FCU now has two branches in that area: its main office on Elmer Road in Vineland and a branch in Millville. When the credit union decided to close a third branch on Crystal Avenue in Vineland, it chose to give back to the community by donating the building and land to the Boys and Girls Club of Vineland for their new Teen Center.

When she handed over the keys to the local nonprofit, Marino noted, "It is our intention to restore the chance for this facility to once again be an active location and, if possible, benefit the entire area."

Actions speak louder than words, and for Bay Atlantic, “Our history proves that our institution is based on the principle of ‘people helping people’,” said Marino.

Bay Atlantic FCU also continues to honor its past, recognizing the generations of members who have built the credit union into what it is today. For example, the credit union sends birthday cards to the senior citizens that have continued their membership into their golden years. “Sometimes it’s the only card they get,” Marino noted. “It’s the little things. It’s all about relationships.”

At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on Bay Atlantic Federal Credit Union, including how to join, visit www.bayatlanticfcu.org or find one near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com

Founded by School Teachers; First Financial FCU Stays True to its Roots and its Community 

August 24, 2016 Categories: credit union difference legacy series

Although they offer many of the same services, credit unions operate in a fundamentally different way than banks, one based on the philosophy of “people helping people”. Credit unions were typically founded by friends, like neighbors, workers and people who worship together. In our third installment of the Legacy Series, we’re featuring a credit union founded during the Depression by a group of teachers in Asbury Park, N.J.

The Great Depression started in 1929, and continued for more than a decade. During that time, the economy came to a standstill, banks were failing left and right, and many people were resorting to the only safe haven they knew for their money – under the mattress. In 1936, a group of Asbury Park, N.J. schoolteachers decided there was another way to provide essential banking services to themselves and others, all while protecting their savings. 

In true cooperative spirit, this group came together to help each other in a time of need and organized themselves into one of the earliest credit unions in America: Monmouth County, NJ Teachers Federal Credit Union. Today, 80 years later, that credit union still exists, much larger and now known as First Financial Federal Credit Union. 

Getting from Monmouth County Teachers FCU to First Financial FCU took more than a few years of growth and expansion, cooperative efforts, and dedication to specific communities. Under the leadership of Harold “Pop” Shannon, the credit union grew to serve other teacher-related populations: employees of both the Monmouth and Ocean County Boards of Education. The small shop went through a name change to reflect the groups it served: Mon-Oc Teachers Federal Credit Union.

From that small office in Asbury Park (pictured), over the years the credit union expanded again to serve municipal employees (followed by another name change, to Mon-Oc Public Employees Federal Credit Union), employees of some local hospitals and nursing facilities, and several small businesses (when the name then became simply Mon-Oc Federal Credit Union).

In April 2003, Mon-Oc FCU became a community credit union, serving anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. With this expansion, the credit union became First Financial Federal Credit Union in July 2006.

Celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, the credit union stays true to its roots as an organization founded by teachers. “Education has and always will be a pivotal piece of our organization, and we have stayed true to our educational roots by continuing to support our members and the local community through financial education,” says First Financial FCU President/CEO, Issa Stephan. “We hold free monthly seminars on various important topics such as budgeting, credit management, debt reduction, how to buy a home or car, and more. Our Foundation provides annual college scholarships to Monmouth and Ocean County students, as well as classroom grants to teachers within our community. We are proud to support our local teachers, students, and educate as many members of our community as we can.”

First Financial FCU may have grown and seen some changes in its 80 years, but it has stayed true to its early years as a dedicated source for financial education and services for its community.

At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on First Financial Federal Credit Union, including how to join, visit www.firstffcu.com or find one near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com.

 

Founded by Dedicated Educators, Greater Alliance Federal Credit Union Invites You to Join its Extended Family 

August 03, 2016 Categories: credit union difference legacy series

Although they offer many of the same services, credit unions operate in a fundamentally different way than banks, one based on the philosophy of “people helping people”. Credit unions were typically founded by friends, like neighbors, workers and people who worship together. Today, we’re featuring a credit union that got its start in Hackensack High School, which has now grown into a 19,000-member family that serves the entire surrounding area.

In 1937 five dedicated educators founded a credit union in Hackensack High School, established primarily for the purpose of serving teachers and their immediate families. One can only presume that at least one of the founders was a math or home economics teacher. From those humble beginnings sprang a tradition of more than 75 years of commitment to members, community, and service.

As it grew, membership was expanded to include a diverse mix of communities, employee groups, and associations in Bergen and Passaic Counties. Eventually the name was changed to reflect the broader membership, becoming Greater Alliance Federal Credit Union (GAFCU).

But despite its growth and expansion, one thing never changed – GAFCU has stayed true to its family-focused roots. The credit union itself is a family, and this may be one of the reasons for their enviable record of employee retention. Almost half (around 43%) of their employees have been with the credit union for 10 years or more, and more than two-thirds have been there for at least five years or more. The credit union has had only three CEOs since the 30’s—an unbelievable rarity in the financial services industry.

Its current CEO, Glenn Guinto, also has deep roots in the Greater Alliance family, having begun his career there as a part-time teller. His assistant, Antonietta “Tony” Tartaglione, has worked at the credit union for over 30 years, starting when she was in high school in 1978, when there were only two other employees other than herself.

“Our employee tenure is what makes us an institution in the truest sense of the word,” says Guinto. “Our members have been with us for many generations and we can attribute our tenure as one of the main reasons that we’ve developed their trust in us.”

In his free time, Guinto still enjoys visiting the credit union’s branch lobbies and saying hello to members that he used to wait on as a teller. “I enjoy talking to our members—and sometimes their children. Most of them still remember when I was waiting on them from over the counter,” adds Guinto.

From those five educators in 1937,  Greater Alliance has grown into a community credit union, owned by its over 19,000 members. If you live, work, worship,  go to school in, or if you belong to a business or any legal entity within Bergen or Passaic County, you are invited to join the rest of the family at Greater Alliance Federal Credit Union.

At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on Greater Alliance FCU, including how to join, visit www.greateralliance.org or find a credit union near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com.

Thunderbolt Area FCU’s Rich History: Keeping it in the Family  

July 20, 2016 Categories: credit union difference legacy series

Although they offer many of the same services, credit unions operate in a fundamentally different way than banks, one based on the philosophy of “people helping people”.  Credit unions were typically founded by friends, like neighbors, workers and people who worship together. Today we’re featuring a credit union founded by eight toolmakers who worked in America’s first Defense Airport.

The South Jersey town of Millville is rich in history, most famously known as the home of the Millville Municipal Airport, the first training ground in the country for pilots during World War II. Thunderbolt Area Federal Credit Union, located at the airport entrance, is a part of that history and holds quite a story of its own.

Its president, Bob Millard, is the son of the credit union’s founder, Asher K. Millard. Asher worked for Airwork Corporation, the engine overhaul shop located in Millville, as a toolmaker. He and seven other Airwork employees began Airwork Employees Federal Credit Union – later to become Thunderbolt Area Federal Credit Union – by pooling together their money, $5 each at the time. Until then, Asher had kept his money in a safe at home, lending to friends in need when he could. Laying the foundation for the credit union came as a natural next step for him.

The credit union gained its federal charter on May 1, 1951 and was located on the premises of its original sponsor company, Airwork Corp. Asher, however, couldn’t take off work from his position as a toolmaker to operate the credit union. So, his wife, Helen K. Millard, worked there part-time, for no pay, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Their son, current Thunderbolt Area Federal Credit Union president Bob Millard, at the ripe age of 8, began helping his parents with calculations. “Effectively I have been involved in some way for nearly 65 years,” says Millard. He was then elected to the board of directors in 1968 and eventually took over as president when his father retired in 1985.

When asked why he began working at the credit union, and continued for as long as he has, Millard says it’s the philosophy of “people helping people” that brought him there and kept him there. “I liked the concept,” he explains, “To help an individual, someone who just walks in, needs help, that’s where it counts.”

Where does the name Thunderbolt Area come from? It was also taken from the pages of the history of Millville. The Thunderbolt P-47 was a plane flown in World War II, and pilots of these planes were trained at the nation’s first Army airfield: Millville Municipal Airport. “Area” comes from the credit union’s change in charter to serve the surrounding area.

Through the years, Thunderbolt Area FCU has stayed true to its roots—its community and its humble beginnings—due to its founding family.

At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on Thunderbolt Area FCU, including how to join, visit www.tbafcu.com or find a credit union near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com

 
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