In spite of freezing temperatures in Durham, NC, an enthusiastic group of credit union members, board members and staff gathered on the evening of November 13 for the Center for Community Self-Help/Self-Help Credit Union annual meeting. With heartening reports on Self-Help’s impact this year and heart-warming stories from members, for a couple of hours it was easy to forget the cold outside.
Board chair La-Tasha Best-Gaddy kicked off the meeting and asked members to approve minutes from last year. Scott Misner, vice-chair, facilitated board elections. Congratulations to the following people who were elected unanimously:
Self-Help CU Board - Ed Fulbright, David Kearns, La-Tasha Best-Gaddy and Alan Reberg
Center for Community Self-Help Board - Linda Shaw
Randy Chambers, Self-Help CU president and chief financial officer, presented a financial update on Self-Help CU’s lending performance this year through September. He reported an increase in total assets, boosted by new deposits, and home lending is also up significantly.
While presenting positive results, Randy noted that the demand from first-time home buyers is high, and many families continue to face barriers to homeownership. “We need your deposits more than ever,” he said.
Randy also reported that Self-Help CU is expanding its presence in Charlotte and Raleigh. In July this year, we relocated our former Pineville branch to Providence Road in Charlotte. That branch is staffed with two full-time loan officers. We’re also excited to be opening a new branch in Raleigh this January. The Raleigh branch, formerly a Suntrust location, is now being renovated and staffed up.
Latoyia Boria, area branch manager in Durham, introduced Tory Williams, a member who joined us a few months ago. Mr. Williams explained that he approached Latoyia for help in buying a new vehicle. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, because he’s had credit issues and already had been denied by several banks.
“Latoyia has been resourceful and helpful. She showed me step-by-step how to get the process done.”
As Tory shopped for a vehicle, a salesman tried to convince him to pay a deposit to place a hold on a car. When Mr. Williams said he didn’t have the money, the salesman offered to finance the deposit—at a very high rate. But, instead, Mr. Williams worked with Latoyia to get an affordable loan.
”He’s been disciplined, diligent and tenacious,” Latoyia said.
It’s clear we have a mutual fan club here, and a relationship that will continue.
“Jaded and Guarded”
Susan Perez-Travers, a mortgage loan officer in Durham, introduced Dorothy and Linisha Williams, a mother and daughter who are new homeowners with Self-Help home loans.
Linisha, the daughter, credits her mother with nudging her to come to Self-Help. “I came in jaded and guarded,” said Linisha, who previously had faced rejections by lenders. “I met someone at Project Hope who helped us with our credit. Mother kept saying, ‘We’re going [to Self-HelpCU].’”
Susan, the loan officer, said the Williams weren’t ready for a loan when they first came to her, but she talked with them about steps they could take to build credit and save money. When the Williams came back a second time, it was obvious they had done a lot of work. Susan was able to walk them through the process, and she also identified a source for down payment assistance. On June 1 this year, they closed on their new home.
Linisha said she had been reliant on Section 8 subsidized housing when she first came to North Carolina. Now she sees a brighter future for herself and her children. “My 22-year old daughter is now in the process of buying a home,” she said.
An Entrepreneur’s Story
Another special guest at the meeting was Darnella Warthen, introduced by Jennifer Sherwin, commercial loan officer. Darnella first came to Self-Help CU in 2007 for a loan to help her start a child care center. Now she is operating four centers in Durham.
Darnella said she started out as a single mother at age 18. She went back to school, worked full time, and discovered her love for children. “I had a dream in my heart, I wanted to do more. I just didn’t know how to do it,” she said.
For several years, Darnella was employed at a job that made her miserable. She talked to Jennifer, the loan officer, several times about the possibility of starting a child care business, but didn’t follow up. Finally, after a really bad day at work, she called Jennifer and said, “I’m coming to see you today.”
The result was a loan for her first child care business. Over the years she opened more child care centers, all the while saving as much money as she could. When she was ready, she came to Self-Help for a loan to buy the buildings where her child care centers operate.
Today Darnella owns three buildings. Her child care centers employ 35 people and serve 180 children every day.
A Bit of Family History
At this point in the meeting, we took a short break from speakers to watch a short documentary. Lee Albritton, Kinston branch manager, introduced “Carolina Family: A Legacy in Kinston,” a seven-minute video that tells the story of Self-Help CU’s legacy credit union in the Kinston area. This is part of a series of short documentaries we’re producing the preserve the history of the remarkable credit unions that have merged with Self-Help CU and Self-Help Federal Credit Union in recent years. Watch them all here.
Thoughts from the CEO
Martin Eakes wrapped up the meeting with a few observations. After introductory comments, he said, “I want to convince you that we’re about to have a recession, and it’s best to be prepared for it.”
He noted that since World War II, there have been 11 periods of economic expansion. The average length of those expansions was 63 months; our current expansion is now in its 125th month. The implication was clear: An expansion can’t last forever, and we’ve gone past the expected limit. He also showed an analysis of nationwide home prices that suggests the expansion is losing steam.
He pointed out that the bubbles and busts in our economy are exacerbated by the extreme wealth inequality that has been accepted in our country. Showing data describing disparities in wealth and homeownership, he said, “We’re more unequal than ever before. These disparities are not acceptable or sustainable. They are a problem for the whole economy, and makes it unstable.”
“My message to you: Keep saving,” he said.
Martin said that Self-Help aims to be strong enough to avoid foreclosing on families and businesses when they get in trouble. As part of our preparation, we are focused on growing our deposit base.
He closed with a personal reflection, recalling when he heard about the massacre that occurred in Greensboro, NC on November 9, 1979, when Ku Klux Klan members and the Nazis killed five people. Martin was in law school at the time, and dropped everything to drive to North Carolina with other students to take part in protests against the murders.
“You’ve got to love your enemies, but sometimes you’ve got to stop them first,” Martin said. “It’s also important to build kindness and community, because it’s going to take all of us together to effect real change.”
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To find out more about Self-Help’s work and impact, see our latest annual report.