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.