Since our founding in 1980, serving rural families and communities has been a core part of Self-Help’s mission. Indeed, half of Self-Help Credit Union's branches and a quarter of its members are in rural North Carolina. Self-Help and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have partnered for the last 25 years to make loans more accessible for rural businesses. Below are some examples of this partnership, pulled from this new study of Self-Help’s rural lending history.
Self-Help is a leading child care facilities lender because we understand the importance of quality, early childhood education in all communities, including rural ones. To better serve these communities Self-Help utilized a USDA program to lend to dozens of rural North Carolina child care facilities, providing jobs as well as quality child care slots. With this learning, Self-Help has partnered with USDA nationwide on loans to rural charter schools serving mostly low-income students.
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Self-Help and USDA have led the renewable energy charge in North Carolina, lending to 37 unique solar companies in rural areas and supporting the addition of over 240 megawatts of clean energy to the state’s power grid. Most of these loans provide new income to the farmers who rent their land. Self-Help also partnered with the USDA on a loan to Blue Ridge Biofuels in 2015. This Asheville company provides sustainable fuel for businesses and residents of Buncombe County by converting used vegetable oil from local restaurants into diesel fuel.
Self-Help has long made loans to cooperatives, such as Hendersonville Community Co-Op, which offers natural foods and other healthy products in Hendersonville, NC. When the Hendersonville Co-Op was looking to expand in 2010, Self-Help worked with the USDA to make them a loan. Self-Help was able to share the lessons of this partnership with the Minnesota USDA and make a 2015 loan to Eastside Food Co-Op in Minneapolis.
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Self-Help’s partnership with the USDA hasn't been limited to lending. This summer Self-Help Credit Union branches have served as distribution sites for the USDA’s Buncombe County School summer food program. This initiative provides low-income children with free lunches during summer weekdays.
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Self-Help is honored to partner with USDA on our lending to rural communities for the past 25 years. This report details some of the history between the two organizations.