Local 1233 FCU: Serving Longshoremen of the Port of Newark for Almost 50 Years

Almost 50 years ago, Marvin Sykes decided that his fellow members of ILA Local 1233, Longshoremen of the Port of Newark, needed a safe, secure, and convenient way to manage their money, with an organization that understood their way of life.

Sykes, now a member of the credit union’s Credit Committee, spoke to Local 1233 FCU’s Manager, Khadjia Rover, about how the credit union got its start and how it has served longshoremen in the Newark area. Below, read Syke’s story as told by Rover…

 Odell Chisolm, Local 1233 FCU Vice President at the time (left)
with Marvin Sykes, Local 1233 FCU President at the time, one of the 
credit union's founders.

How did the credit union get its start?
The credit union got started in 1972 when the local union went on strike and there were no benefits and money for the workers. Marvin Sykes, who was the President of Local 1233 at the time, joined NJ Officers Credit Union to get a personal loan. When he joined, the Treasurer of NJ Officers CU, Mrs. Shugart, contacted the New Jersey Credit Union League to discuss with the Executive Board of Local 1233 how to form its own credit union.

Who were the key players?
Marvin Sykes, President, mentioned above, and Odell Chisolm were one of the first members to join the credit union. James Simmons, Vice President; Donald Yeldell, Credit Committee; Edgar Lee, Treasurer; and Charles Hill, Board of Directors, Education; also played a big role in the credit union’s start.

Why was the credit union formed, who was it established to serve?
The credit union was established to provide banking services for the members of ILA Local 1233 who were Longshoremen of the Port of Newark.

What was the need that the credit union was meeting that its members couldn’t find elsewhere?
Convenience, location, payroll deduction, and savings accounts.

Do you know how much the first deposit and/or loan was for?
The first loan with the credit union was $250.

What makes Local 1233 FCU different than other financial institutions?
Most loans are obtained without credit reports, and there’s the option of receiving different types of loans and competitive rates that you can’t find anywhere else.

Where was its first location?
The first and only location for the credit union was located at the ILA Local 1233 building located at, 731 South 10th street in Newark NJ.

How has the membership changed/grown over the years? What do you think was the cause for the membership growth?
More services were offered, and younger members in the industry joined to start saving. The membership of immediate families of Longshoremen and the growth of employment at the Port of Newark helped grow the credit union as well.

How did you become involved with the credit union?
Marvin Sykes’s father encouraged him to join NJ Officer’s Credit Union, which inspired Mr. Sykes to gain more interest in forming a credit union for his local union.

What keeps you involved in the industry?
Longevity on the job as a Longshoreman, dedication to the local as a longtime member, and being one of the first members to join the credit union since the beginning.

For more information on Local 1233 FCU, call 973-824-7246.

Looking Back: Members 1st of NJ FCU Chairman John Henderson Looks Back at CU’s 80-Year Legacy
By: Marissa Anema, VP, Marketing & Communications, NJCUL

As Members 1st of NJ FCU celebrates its 80th year of service to its community, Board Chair John Henderson, whose father was one of the original members back when it was Cumberland Teachers FCU, looks back for the League’s Legacy Series on the credit union’s founding and how its grown to be what it is today. He recently gave Marissa Anema some insight into the credit union’s humble beginnings as a teacher’s credit union…

Anema: Tell me how the credit union got its start?

Henderson: A group of like-minded teachers consisting of seven men and women from around Cumberland County organized what became in 1938 as the Cumberland Teachers FCU.

Anema: Who were the key players and founders?

Pictured clockwise from top left: Members 1st of NJ FCU Chairman
John Henderson's father, Laurence Henderson; 
John Henderson at the credit union's 80th anniversary celebration; 
Laurence Henderson's credit union passbook;
the credit union's 80th anniversary logo. 

Henderson: The initial founders appointed officers were Ralph Robinson – President 1938-1940; Laurence Henderson (my father) – Vice President 1938-1967; Robert Craig – Secretary 1938-1948; H. W. Letts – Board Member 1938; Mary E Rossi – Board Member 1938; J. Albert Starkey – Board Member 1938; and Carrie R. Schureman – Board Member 1938.

Anema: Why was the credit union formed, who was it established to serve?

Henderson: Our founders formed the credit union to help fellow teachers as a means to make loans more affordable.

Anema: What was the need that the credit union was meeting that the teachers couldn’t find elsewhere?

Henderson: In 1938, America was slowly pulling out of the throws of Depression and the economy was beginning to see signs of improvement. The "war drums" were sounding off in Europe and the turmoil which followed resulted in people looking for safe and secure places to handle their financial transactions. Our credit union built that trust and security amongst the teaching profession. I believe if you searched through other credit union originations you would find that workers were looking for like-minded interest.

Anema: Do you know how much the first deposit and/or loan was for?

Henderson: I am not sure if it was the first however my father, Laurence Henderson, made a $5 deposit on February 24, 1938. He was assigned the account #4. His booklet reflects his account activity for the year and shows he earned 25 cent dividend! I understand that the first loan was for $100 and all seven original members cosigned the loan! In 1942, our budget was $342.20. It also shows that we paid a state league dues of $25 and a convention fee of $8.

Anema: Where was the credit union’s first location?

Henderson: Individual homes were the center of the credit union including the homes of: Ralph Robinson, Rose Sternberg, Mary Doerr, and Beverly Brown. As we grew we continued operations out of a building on South Delsea Drive in Vineland; Landis Ave. in Vineland; and then we added a Bridgeton Branch, and after a merger with Salem Teachers Credit Union a branch in Woodstown.

Anema: What makes the credit union different than other financial institutions?

Henderson: I think the two most important are the “people helping people” philosophy and the not-for-profit structure!

Anema: How has the membership changed/grown over the years?

Henderson: During the course of 80 years, we have served teachers, school employees, staff from the City of Vineland, and various other select employer groups (SEGs).

Anema: What do you think was the cause for the membership growth?

Henderson: We provide a safe, secure, and trustworthy financial services while maintaining convenient and up to date services for our members.

Anema: How did you become involved with the credit union?

Henderson: My mother and father started an account for me when I was 3 months old in 1945. The day I was born, my mother was helping my grandmother pick strawberries for the market that morning. I presume that mother made the first deposit from her strawberry pickings. It has been my source for financial services ever since.

Anema: What keeps you involved in the industry?

Henderson: I still make use of the financial services; however, I still enjoy helping others and I believe that the words my father had carved in a piece of walnut over his fireplace hold the best reason: "Be thyself, and be worthy to be thyself"!

Based in Vineland, N.J., Members 1st of NJ FCU now serves over 8,000 members from 100 select employer groups. For more information on Members of 1st of NJ FCU, visit www.membersonenj.org

Advanced Financial Federal Credit Union: Innovation at Bell Labs Drives Credit Union Success in Local Communities

The credit union movement was founded on the philosophy of “people helping people”, with many of these financial institutions founded by working class citizens who saw a need amongst their colleagues for fair, convenient financial services.

Advanced Financial Federal Credit Union not only exists to serve its members through that philosophy, but they were born out of one of the largest and most innovative corporations in America, which was also operated with the “people helping people” frame of mind: Bell Labs.

It is not an overstatement to say that Bell Labs, a historic research facility based in New Jersey, had more to do with changing the lives of billions of people around the world: it was the birthplace of inventions as diverse as cellular phones, the laser, the transistor, and more.

From the start of Bell Telephone Labs Credit Union to now, the history and impact Bell Labs had on society left a mark on the credit union world as well. “When you talk about the credit union and where it comes from, you must highlight the amazing contribution of inventions that Bell Labs has produced, too,” said Alan Feigenbaum. “Without them, we wouldn’t have many of our modern products that we all take for granted.”

At its Murray Hill, N.J., location, three of its researchers—Harry Noll, Ellsworth Rand, and George Ehrhart—established what would become known as Bell Telephone Labs Credit Union in April of 1965. At the time, Bell Labs was a very large organization, with over 14,000 employees; about 6 percent were in the formal Research Area, where Noll, Rand, and Ehrhart worked. Taking responsibility for the credit union’s main operations, Noll carried everything in a briefcase and would go from member to member in the Research Area during lunchtime and take their deposits.

At first, the credit union did not provide any loans, just offered deposits and withdrawals. But as time went on, members turned to the credit union primarily for their lending needs, which weren’t being met by any other financial institution. Among its first members were part of the Communication Members of America, a union that represents workers in the fields of telecommunications, information technology, media, education, healthcare, and more.

In the early 1970s, the credit union opened up to other parts of the lab beyond the Research Area, which drew great interest from other Bell Labs employees. But it was when the credit union decided to move from the labs and become more independent—and renamed itself Advanced Financial Federal Credit Union in 1984—that business really expanded.

A key contributor to the success of Advanced Financial FCU is Bob McAnally, one of the credit union’s very first members and who is still involved with the credit union to this day. McAnally started at the credit union as a Credit Committee Member because it gave him the opportunity to work with people he knew and he found it “interesting.” He served as a board member for 25 years. He now serves as Chairman of the Nomination Committee.

Bob McAnally, Advanced Financial FCU Nomination Committee Chairman (left)
and David Frankil, President/CEO of the New Jersey Credit Union League.

“Bob is very importance to us at the credit union because he's always been involved and has been a member since we were formed,” said Advanced Financial FCU President/CEO Alan Feigenbaum. “He's a positive, pleasant person with a good understanding of the credit union movement.”

The credit union has grown to make an impact beyond its original field of membership as well, expanding to serve its local communities. In 2002, the credit union obtained a community charter, allowing it serve to all of Union County, and the in 2017, expanded further to include neighboring Essex County, N.J. The credit union now serves those who live, work, worship and/or attend school in, and businesses and other legal entities in, both Union County and Essex County, New Jersey.

“We are now able to bring community-focused financial services to neighboring Essex County,” Feigenbaum said of the expansion. “We already serve Blue Cross Blue Shield employees who work in Newark, N.J. This most recent expansion will allow us to bring more services to existing members, as well as to expand services to the entire Essex County community.”

For more information: https://www.advfinfcu.com/

To learn more about the benefits of credit unions and to find one near you, go to www.bankingyoucantrust.com

Fort Dix Federal Credit Union, Standing with Our Nation's Military for Over 50 Years

Commanding generals, sergeant majors, and other officers
of Fort Dix in front of the credit union in the 1960s.

FT. DIX, N.J. – The philosophy that credit unions were built on is “people helping people.” Credit unions were formed by those who had a common bond—workers, friends, neighbors, family members, for example—who sought to fill a need for financial support. The story of how Fort Dix Federal Credit Union came to be is one of family: both the brotherhood of men in the service and the daughter of one its founders, who runs the credit union to this day.

First called Camp 13 (and then Camp Dix), Fort Dix was built in 1917 as a training and staging area for troops headed to Europe to fight in World War I. The name was changed when the facility was significantly expanded in 1939, to serve the same purpose for troops headed to fight in World War II.

The mission continued after each of those wars, helping de-mobilize returning troops and eventually transitioning to mobilizing, training, deploying, and demobilizing Army Reserve and National Guard units. One of the largest sites in the country, some weekends see as many as 15,000 reservists on the base.

Fort Dix FCU was founded by men in the military to serve the unique needs of active and retired military members, along with civil service members and their families, which sets it apart from other financial institutions who have a one-size-fits-all approach to banking products and services.

Under the direction of Chief Warrant Officer Clarence P. Lines, Fort Dix FCU was founded on May 1, 1963 by Sergeant Major Max D. Martin and Post Sergeant Major John E. Kerner, whose daughter Janet Sperling runs the credit union today.

In the early 1960s, Kerner was assigned to Fort Dix as Post Sergeant Major and, at the time, there was no credit union that served the Army assigned to Fort Dix. This was especially problematic for the younger soldiers, many of whom did not have cars, and had a difficult time cashing checks and applying for loans without having to go off-base.

John and Bertha Kerner

Kerner was tasked alongside Sergeant Major Max Martin by Chief Warrant Officer Clarence Lines to do the research and establish a Fort Dix credit union to help these soldiers in need. The credit union opened the doors of its first location, a trailer, on May 1, 1963 with the first deposit of about six dollars. At that time, the maximum loan amount was set at $150.00. The original group of members was made up of 12 soldiers. After just eight months of service, the institution had welcomed more than 700 members.

During the summers of 1977 and 1978, the operations of the credit union became a family affair as the daughter of John and Bertha Kerner, Janet Sperling, began working part-time at the credit union. During that time, Sergeant Major Martin, at that point retired from the military, was the designated manager and also held a seat on the board. Bertha Kerner was the assistant manager and treasurer on the board, and John Kerner was the chairman of the board. Shortly after graduating from high school, Sperling became a full-time employee due to the unexpected passing of Sergeant Major Martin. Since then, Sperling has climbed the ranks, to become the CEO of Fort Dix FCU.

Sperling has seen the base and the credit union’s members change over the course of her 40 years with the credit union, especially after the merging of McGuire Air Force Base, United States Army Fort Dix, and Navy’s Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst in 2009. “With each war and each conflict, something has been different,” she explains. “There is no draft anymore, so you have less of the constant flux of younger people. We have more retired people, who have settled in this area, now than there were before because you had your boom of soldiers after World War II and after Vietnam who had to make a decision when they got out. What were they going to do? Where were they going to go?”

Despite the changes, the members of the Fort Dix FCU are here to stay because of the consistent, personalized service they receive. Sperling shares one of her favorite memories of her mother helping a member, which exemplifies the values Fort Dix FCU continues to provide to the their community. Bertha Kerner received a call from a member, an older gentleman that had just gotten out of the military, who had gotten into some trouble with the law and was going to face jail time if he didn’t post bail. After his arrest, he asked for a phonebook, looked up Bertha Kerner, called her, and explained the situation. Bertha Kerner drove down and posted bail for him, on the grounds that he would come into the credit union the next day to make arrangements to pay her back. He agreed. And after she posted bail for him and drove him home, the very next day, he went into the credit union and applied for a loan to pay off his debt. Since then, the gentleman has passed on, but his son is still a member of the credit union. “Even though we’re all the same, we’re all so very different,” says Sperling, “We all have that member focus that makes a difference.”

Pictured from left to right: Debbie Regi, Lisa Tuliano,
and CEO Janet Sperling.

Sperling and her staff carry on the legacy of her parents, who have since passed, by carrying on their dedication to the “people helping people” philosophy. “We’re all a nice little family,” says Sperling of her staff and members. “We know sometimes more things about the members than we need to know. We like our people.” And their people like them. Sperling says their members like speaking with their main teller, Lisa Tuliano, so much that when she’s on vacation, they’ll wait for her to come back before getting what they need. “Everybody loves Lisa,” says Sperling. “Because we’re so small, we can have that intimate relationship with people. It’s the people connection.”

Though the environment is ever-changing with the times on the Fort Dix base, its credit union still provides the same personalized service and care to their members—and is right there whenever they need it. Their primary focus is not on the numbers, but on the people that walk through their doors. Sperling continues the legacy that her parents left behind and remains focused on their mission to serve and stand with the United States military forces.

For more information, visit www.ftdixfcu.com.  

To learn more about the benefits of credit unions and to find one near you, go to www.BankingYouCanTrust.com.

Raritan Bay FCU, Serving the Hardworking Middle Class for Over 75 Years

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.

Something Old and Something New: Central Jersey Police & Fire FCU Reflects on its Rich History and Celebrates a New Name

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

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 FCUPresident/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

Carrying on its Heritage and Traditions: United Poles FCU is Still Going Strong

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.

Founded by Kimble Glass Factory Workers Over 75 Years Ago, Bay Atlantic FCU has Provided Generations of Family Friendly Service to its Community

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 latest installment of the Legacy Series, we’re featuring a credit union founded by nine factory workers, one of which is a relative of the credit union’s current CEO.

“Generations of Family Friendly Service.” That’s Bay Atlantic FCU’s tagline, which was inspired and voted on by its members. The credit union’s legacy drives this motto; the not-for-profit was founded over 75 years ago in 1939 by nine Kimble Glass factory workers who decided to join together for the mutual benefit of the group.

We often see credit unions with deep roots in a community – Bay Atlantic takes that concept to a whole new level. One of those nine founding workers, Lillian Steelman, is the great aunt of Gail Marino, Bay Atlantic’s current President & CEO. “You can say that the credit union is my blood,” Marino said. Marino has carried on that tradition of long-standing ties to the credit union, having begun working at the credit union (named Kimble Federal Credit Union at the time) in 1977 as a teller.

Over the years, Bay Atlantic FCU has grown to serve many other organizations, including Progresso and General Mills. But the credit union always stayed true to its primarily blue color legacy of meeting the needs of workers and their families. With expansion, the credit union changed its name in 2002 to Bay Atlantic Federal Credit Union to better represent the area it serves: the section of southern New Jersey between the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Bay Atlantic FCU now has two branches in that area: its main office on Elmer Road in Vineland and a branch in Millville. When the credit union decided to close a third branch on Crystal Avenue in Vineland, it chose to give back to the community by donating the building and land to the Boys and Girls Club of Vineland for their new Teen Center.

When she handed over the keys to the local nonprofit, Marino noted, "It is our intention to restore the chance for this facility to once again be an active location and, if possible, benefit the entire area."

Actions speak louder than words, and for Bay Atlantic, “Our history proves that our institution is based on the principle of ‘people helping people’,” said Marino.

Bay Atlantic FCU also continues to honor its past, recognizing the generations of members who have built the credit union into what it is today. For example, the credit union sends birthday cards to the senior citizens that have continued their membership into their golden years. “Sometimes it’s the only card they get,” Marino noted. “It’s the little things. It’s all about relationships.”

At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on Bay Atlantic Federal Credit Union, including how to join, visit www.bayatlanticfcu.org or find one near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com

Founded by School Teachers; First Financial FCU Stays True to its Roots and its Community

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.

Founded by Dedicated Educators, Greater Alliance Federal Credit Union Invites You to Join its Extended Family

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. Today, we’re featuring a credit union that got its start in Hackensack High School, which has now grown into a 19,000-member family that serves the entire surrounding area.

In 1937 five dedicated educators founded a credit union in Hackensack High School, established primarily for the purpose of serving teachers and their immediate families. One can only presume that at least one of the founders was a math or home economics teacher. From those humble beginnings sprang a tradition of more than 75 years of commitment to members, community, and service.

As it grew, membership was expanded to include a diverse mix of communities, employee groups, and associations in Bergen and Passaic Counties. Eventually the name was changed to reflect the broader membership, becoming Greater Alliance Federal Credit Union (GAFCU).

But despite its growth and expansion, one thing never changed – GAFCU has stayed true to its family-focused roots. The credit union itself is a family, and this may be one of the reasons for their enviable record of employee retention. Almost half (around 43%) of their employees have been with the credit union for 10 years or more, and more than two-thirds have been there for at least five years or more. The credit union has had only three CEOs since the 30’s—an unbelievable rarity in the financial services industry.

Its current CEO, Glenn Guinto, also has deep roots in the Greater Alliance family, having begun his career there as a part-time teller. His assistant, Antonietta “Tony” Tartaglione, has worked at the credit union for over 30 years, starting when she was in high school in 1978, when there were only two other employees other than herself.

“Our employee tenure is what makes us an institution in the truest sense of the word,” says Guinto. “Our members have been with us for many generations and we can attribute our tenure as one of the main reasons that we’ve developed their trust in us.”

In his free time, Guinto still enjoys visiting the credit union’s branch lobbies and saying hello to members that he used to wait on as a teller. “I enjoy talking to our members—and sometimes their children. Most of them still remember when I was waiting on them from over the counter,” adds Guinto.

From those five educators in 1937,  Greater Alliance has grown into a community credit union, owned by its over 19,000 members. If you live, work, worship,  go to school in, or if you belong to a business or any legal entity within Bergen or Passaic County, you are invited to join the rest of the family at Greater Alliance Federal Credit Union.

At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on Greater Alliance FCU, including how to join, visit www.greateralliance.org or find a credit union near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com.

Thunderbolt Area FCU's Rich History: Keeping it in the Family

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. Today we’re featuring a credit union founded by eight toolmakers who worked in America’s first Defense Airport.

The South Jersey town of Millville is rich in history, most famously known as the home of the Millville Municipal Airport, the first training ground in the country for pilots during World War II. Thunderbolt Area Federal Credit Union, located at the airport entrance, is a part of that history and holds quite a story of its own.

Its president, Bob Millard, is the son of the credit union’s founder, Asher K. Millard. Asher worked for Airwork Corporation, the engine overhaul shop located in Millville, as a toolmaker. He and seven other Airwork employees began Airwork Employees Federal Credit Union – later to become Thunderbolt Area Federal Credit Union – by pooling together their money, $5 each at the time. Until then, Asher had kept his money in a safe at home, lending to friends in need when he could. Laying the foundation for the credit union came as a natural next step for him.

The credit union gained its federal charter on May 1, 1951 and was located on the premises of its original sponsor company, Airwork Corp. Asher, however, couldn’t take off work from his position as a toolmaker to operate the credit union. So, his wife, Helen K. Millard, worked there part-time, for no pay, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Their son, current Thunderbolt Area Federal Credit Union president Bob Millard, at the ripe age of 8, began helping his parents with calculations. “Effectively I have been involved in some way for nearly 65 years,” says Millard. He was then elected to the board of directors in 1968 and eventually took over as president when his father retired in 1985.

When asked why he began working at the credit union, and continued for as long as he has, Millard says it’s the philosophy of “people helping people” that brought him there and kept him there. “I liked the concept,” he explains, “To help an individual, someone who just walks in, needs help, that’s where it counts.”

Where does the name Thunderbolt Area come from? It was also taken from the pages of the history of Millville. The Thunderbolt P-47 was a plane flown in World War II, and pilots of these planes were trained at the nation’s first Army airfield: Millville Municipal Airport. “Area” comes from the credit union’s change in charter to serve the surrounding area.

Through the years, Thunderbolt Area FCU has stayed true to its roots—its community and its humble beginnings—due to its founding family.

At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on Thunderbolt Area FCU, including how to join, visit www.tbafcu.com or find a credit union near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com