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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.

Credit Unions: More Convenient Than You Think they Were 

By: Daniel Jacinto

How many times have you heard cons that seem to outweigh the pros of becoming a credit union member? You may have heard that free ATMs for are scarce. You may think that a credit union is too local, that you can’t get branch services nationwide. You may also think, “How could a credit union compete with my big bank that offers a vast number of services?”

Credit unions have often been labeled as inconvenient and low-tech. But that isn’t all necessarily true. What you may not know is that credit unions are financial cooperatives. They work together on one sole purpose–benefitting their members. It’s what credit unions believe in. It’s what they were founded on, the “People Helping People,” mantra. That’s why credit unions nationwide have established a network through CO-OP Financial Services that challenges the “inconvenient” and “low-tech” labels.

The Shared Branching network through CO-OP Financial Services has over 5,400 branches nationwide that provide full-branch services to you–the member. This cooperation places credit unions as the 3rd largest in branch locations nationwide, ahead of competitive opposition like Bank of America and PNC Bank. If you’re a member of credit union that is part of that network, you can find Shared Branching locations where you can conveniently do your banking by using the online locator. There are also apps for both iPhone and Android phones where you can quickly and easily find branches and free ATMs.

Speaking of ATMs…there are nearly 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs in the network that provide convenient account access at locations including 7-Eleven, retail locations, and more!

In addition to being convenient, credit unions are also personal. They treat you like a member, not just a number. As a credit union member, you have a voice in the fate of the credit union’s future thanks to their democratically-controlled structure.

New Jersey’s credit unions provide banking you can trust! They have the banking services you need, with  little to no fees for accounts, low loan rates, and higher deposit rates. To find one near you check out this locator here!

Technology: Improving the Credit Union Experience 

February 15, 2017 Categories: credit union

Credit unions want to #CU_Thrive. Watch Raffo's story on how he uses technology to bring the credit union branch to younger members.

Credit Unions: Reaching New Parents at the Right Time 

February 08, 2017 Categories: credit union

Life is full of changes. Some you expect. Some you don't. When life took an unexpected turn for Bryan Dowd, he turned to his local credit union. And, life for this new Millennial dad has been a little brighter ever since. Bryan's story is a great example of how we work with credit unions to help them connect when the time is right. Why do we do it?

Credit Unions: Focused on Your Needs First 

February 03, 2017 Categories: credit union

All Leslie Finklea wanted was to build a home for her family. So, when her bank declined her mortgage application, she was lost. After advice from a family member, she turned to her local credit union. They want to #CU_Thrive and can do what banks simply can't: focus on your needs first.

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

Credit Unions Around the World Celebrate ‘The Authentic Difference’ on International Credit Union Day 

By Daniel Jacinto

Celebrated every third Thursday of October since 1948, International Credit Union Day (ICU Day) is a day dedicated to recognizing the credit union movement throughout history, honor those who dedicate their lives to the movement, recognize the hard work of industry employees, and to show CU members appreciation.

This year, ICU Day was celebrated on October 20th with the theme of ‘The Authentic Difference.” It was dedicated to communicating the unique qualities that make credit unions special. Credit unions celebrate this day by spreading credit union awareness in the form of sharing goodies, giveaways, and specials with their membership. Read on to see how credit unions around the world celebrated International Credit Union Day.

British Colombia, Canada

Canada’s largest credit union by membership, Coast Capital Savings, celebrated International Credit Union Day by reflecting on its commitment to the principles and values that continue to drive its success. "All that we are today and all that we will become in the future is inspired by our roots and our continued commitment to helping our members achieve financial well-being and supporting the enrichment of our local communities," said Coast Capital Savings President and CEO Don Coulter.

New Jersey, United States

Bay Atlantic FCU had free giveaways at their branches that were given to members that stopped by in celebration of “The Authentic Difference”.

Credit Union of New Jersey (CUNJ) celebrated ICU Day with goodies for both their staff and their members. Staff members were provided with international snacks and were able to wear jeans. CUNJ members had several goodies, such as snacks and giveaways, at all branches. At the Ewing branch, an NJ 101.5 radio station van was on-site playing music and giving away prizes from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Deepwater Industries FCU served delicious snacks to their members that included coffee, doughnuts, and cookies in the morning and hot dogs, chips, and drinks in the afternoon.

First Financial FCU (FFFCU) held a social media contest on their Facebook and Instagram pages asking members to comment with why they love being an FFFCU member. A winner was pulled out of a drawing for a $20 Visa gift card for that lucky member.

Garden Savings FCU set up tables at all four of its branches to celebrate ICU Day and handed out pens, key chains, and snacks. Each branch offered members the opportunity to win a $50 Visa gift card by verifying or updating their email address.

Jersey Shore FCU held an open house from October 17th to October 22nd in celebration of ICU Week. Refreshments, giveaways, and loan and credit card specials were offered to members. Members were also given a chance to win $2,500 with a Refer-A-Member promotion.

Members 1st of NJ FCU hosted an open house throughout October in celebration of International Credit Union Day encouraging anyone in the community to visit the credit union and receive a gift. On ICU Day, Members 1st of NJ FCU provided refreshments, handed out giveaways, and held a drawing for a chance to win an Amazon Echo. For children under 10 years old, a coloring contest was held.

Newark Board of Education Employees FCU set up tables in their branch’s lobby with materials to hand out, along with candies and other goodies.

Rutgers FCU shared refreshments at their Busch, Camden, College Avenue, and Newark branches in celebration of International Credit Union Day.

New Zealand

Co-op Money NZ, the trading name for the New Zealand Association of Credit Unions, celebrated ICU Day this year by working with Pacific Island banks to strengthen their identity theft protection for members banking with them through Co-op Money NZ’s AccessDebit Scheme. Co-op Money NZ is a co-operative representing member credit unions and building societies in New Zealand.

For pictures of New Jersey credit union celebrations please click here.

How to Create a Holiday Budget and Avoid Post-Holiday Stress 

By Daniel Jacinto

The kids are back to school, temperatures are getting chilly, and store shelves are filled with pumpkin-spiced everything marked down on clearance…these are all symptoms of Autumn falling upon us. Before you know it, the holiday shopping season will be here—and immediately after—the post-holiday season that’ll leave you feeling broke.

Fear not holiday shoppers, you can remedy that holiday hangover and keep from feeling like you only have lumps of coal. Follow these steps to keep your wallet in check after the holiday shopping season.

Create a Gift List

Decide whom you’ll be buying gifts for this season, ask them for gift ideas, and come up with a number of how much you can spend. Create a list and stick to it.

Start Saving ASAP

Once you’ve created a gift list and a budget, open a savings account at a credit union and start depositing small amounts of money. This will keep your spending on track.

Many credit unions require a minimum balance on a savings account of at least $5, which is doable to keep the account active for next year’s holiday shopping. To find a credit union near you to open up your holiday savings account check out our credit union search engine here.

If you need to save more try selling unwanted items online on sites like eBay or on your mobile device on the Let Go app.

Shop Early and Before Black Friday

The best time to shop is right now before the Black Friday mess. The deals offered may run a week prior to Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals. Having worked at a retailer before, I’ve seen pre-Black Friday sales that were the same as the Black Friday sales.

The deals you typically find may not actually even be the best ones, at least compared to sales offered throughout the year.  They may even be the same ones from recent years. A Nerdwallet.com study surveying Black Friday deals in 2013 comparison to 2014 at 27 stores found that 93% of the ads contained at least one repeated deal.

O.K., smart holiday shopper. Now that you’ve got the remedy to your post-holiday stress you can start planning that tropical vacation you’ve been dreaming about…or building up your savings for a rainy (or snowy) day.

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.

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