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.