Austin talks | The pressure for the West Side credit union continues

Almost a third of the seed money needed to open a credit union on the West Side has been raised.

The Leaders Network, which is leading the effort to start a credit union, raised $ 43,850 of the $ 150,000 needed to secure matching funds from the Chicago philanthropic community to cover the $ 300,000 in start-up costs.

The Leaders Network is asking others to join their founding circle and pledge a $ 5,000 contribution.

“There are a lot of people who want this to be successful. It’s like an idea whose time has come, ”said Rev. Marshall Hatch Sr., pastor of the New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Missionary Church and co-chair of the Leadership Network.

Hatch said he sees opening a credit union as a tool for community development, and the Leaders Network is in a good position to fundraise because of its collaboration with different churches and community organizations.

The idea of ​​opening a credit union on the West Side has been under discussion for years.

“It is disturbing to see how African Americans have been marginalized and experienced so much difficulty in the banking industry,” said Reverend Ira Acree, pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church and co-chair of the Leaders Network.

“We wanted to see what we can do. We had done a lot of marches, made a lot of protests. It’s an option we looked at a few years ago, but last year we had the courage to pull the trigger. ”

Part of that courage, Acree said, came as Michelle Collins, a former community development banker and West Sider native, joined the network.

“I have been an advocate for credit unions for a long time. I have been a member personally, and I see the value of those, ”Collins said. “It’s essential: access to capital, affordable loans, quality loans and even deposit products. The West Side has been the victim of predatory subprime and lending, and a lack of access to small business loans and small home loans. I think a credit union can fill that gap.

In 2020, WBEZ Chicago and City Bureau reported the large disparity between the amount of money loaned by banks in predominantly white neighborhoods compared to predominantly black and Latin neighborhoods.

“We found that 68.1% of the dollars loaned for the purchase of homes went to predominantly white neighborhoods, while only 8.1% went to predominantly black neighborhoods and 8.7% went to predominantly Latino neighborhoods,” he said. reported WBEZ.

“In other words, for every dollar the banks loan to white Chicago neighborhoods, they only invest 12 cents in black city neighborhoods and 13 cents in Latino neighborhoods. This is despite the fact that there are a similar number of predominantly white, black and Latino neighborhoods in the city.

While the Leaders Network hopes to fill a gap with the credit union, they believe banks play an important financial role.

“We are not anti-banking or in competition with the banks,” Collins said. “We can all be in partnership. Sometimes people who come to the bank who are not yet bankable, maybe can send them to us. And we can help them get there, and then send them back. There is a role for everyone.

One of the main goals of the credit union is to be a vehicle to improve the financial literacy of West Side residents and to help people become better fund managers.

“Your goal is to develop people and develop communities, in your loans, in everything you do. And so that’s where we want to be, ”she said.

The Leaders Network hopes to take over an existing credit union, which will allow it to start up and operate faster. A precise location has not yet been determined but a possible site: along the Soul City Corridor on West Chicago Avenue.

“This credit union is an example of what we do for ourselves,” said Rev. Marshall Hatch Jr., co-founder and executive director of the MAAFA Redemption Project, which has joined the Founders Circle and is committed to raise $ 5,000. “Now is the time to do it, we have the energy and focus. “

Updates on the credit union are given at the monthly Leaders Network Zoom meetings on the second Tuesday of the month.

For more information, to donate to the fund and / or to express your interest in becoming a member of the credit union when it opens, visit the fundraising page here.

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