ACFCU vision produces grants, award

Douglas Fritz • Mar 4, 2017 at 8:33 PM

Half a decade ago, Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union had a specific vision in mind.

The financial institution wanted to become a provider of community and economic development to underserved people and businesses in the region.

In recent years, ACFCU “walked the walk” to a great degree in that regard. And in 2016, the country took notice.

ACFCU — which was the first of what are still only three federally certified Community Development Financial Institutions in the Tri-Cities area — was awarded two important grants in addition to beating out 49 other state winners to garner a national service award from the Credit Union National Association.

ACFCU Chief Executive Officer Ron Scott said the Louise Herring “Philosophy-in-Action Member Service Award” was given for a trademarked ACFCU program — myMoneyTrackSolutions — which exemplifies the credit union’s mission.

“Many people in our service area lack traditional financial services,” Scott said. “Often they wind up relying on predatory services instead, which typically leads to a cycle of increasing debt. We created myMoneyTrackSolutions to provide a socially responsible, non-predatory solution.”

Hundreds of ACFCU members have benefited from the program using in-depth financial counseling sessions in a “stair step” approach to greater financial security and better financial health.

Finding ACFCU and going through the program has been a life-changer for Johnson City’s Lela Williams, who was paying more than two-thirds of her monthly fixed income on multiple title loans.

“It was just like a vicious cycle,” Williams said about the high-interest loans. “And they all said they were going to help.”

Through ongoing financial coaching with ACFCU, Williams was able to secure a loan that consolidated her debt — and to build the knowledge that will help her stay in sound financial shape.

Scott said ACFCU is building community partnerships with key nonprofits in Johnson City and its other markets, which stretch from Kingsport and Rogersville north into parts of Southwest Virginia and Southeastern Kentucky.

“Our mission and the assets we bring to the table complement the work of several partners who also have economic empowerment for low- and moderate-income people at the heart of what they do,” Scott said. “Ultimately, we help one another achieve more together.”

The same interdependence holds true for ACFCU’s overall membership. As a financial collaborative, the credit union relies on members from all demographic backgrounds and income levels to create a balanced whole. Scott said the same infrastructure that helps ACFCU serve members who are financially challenged is deployed to provide more affluent members with a high level of convenience using mobile and online technology.

“As a CDFI, we have to prove we’re serving people who are often overlooked by traditional financial institutions,” Scott said. “The knowledge we’re doing that is a game-changer for members who are benefitting directly, but it’s also an inspiration for our staff and all of our other members who know they’re part of an organization that’s truly bringing positive change in their communities.”

More information about ACFCU is available at www.myacfcu.org or by calling 800-378-3778.

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