Left to right: Self-Help Regional Director Ron Wiley with Sisters Ann Kendrick, Gail Grimes, Teresa McElwee and guests.
Many “grand openings” can seem like a necessary formality, but that was not the case for our new branch in Apopka, Florida. It was more like a family reunion. According to the branch manager, Geannina Hiraldo, the February 22 event attracted an enthusiastic crowd, including “new members and members who have been with us from the very beginning and people who have supported us for years."
The new space with an option for drive-through sevice is wonderful, but for staff and members this branch means more than a new building or its amenities. It’s a visible investment in the future of the community.
Sister Teresa McElwee visits with Randy Chambers, Self-Help President.
Special guests at the Grand Opening were three of the renowned “Apopka Nuns,” Sisters Ann Kendrick, Gail Grimes and Teresa McElwee. As young Sisters of Notre Dame du Namur, they were called decades ago to come to Apopka to serve farmworkers and other low-income families. Working in partnership with the community, the sisters helped develop badly-needed resources, such as a health clinic, better housing and—a credit union.
We have captured the story of the credit union’s beginnings in a short video called A Sister Act. This short documentary (seven minutes) includes interviews with local credit union members and one of the key founders, Sister Ann Kendrick. According to Sister Ann, the credit union is a “holy, sacred trust.”
Geannina stays in close touch with the credit union’s founders. Before the new branch opened, Sister Teresa, who is now confined to a wheelchair, joked with Geannina about how they would dance together to celebrate the new building. At the Grand Opening, as soon as the ribbon was cut, Sister Teresa turned to Geannina with a twinkle in her eye and said, “Geannina, it’s time to dance.”
Branch manager Geannina Hiraldo with Regional Director Adelcio Lugo.