Self-Help’s mission and history are strongly linked to Black history, and many of the credit unions we have merged with reflect great achievements by local Black leaders. For example, Seaway, a division of Self-Help Federal Credit Union in Chicago, was once the largest Black-owned bank in the Midwest. As we celebrate Black History Month, Franja Brown, a business development director and financial coach at Seaway (pictured above in a coaching session), offers her personal thoughts:
It is during Black History Month, especially, that I reflect upon leaving a legacy for my grandchildren, and all children. As written in Proverbs 13:22: “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children …” In my living, thinking and doing, I strive to follow through with this lesson and teach my family to do the same. From establishing savings accounts, to ensuring that I protect my home and other assets, I do it all with the vision of building a legacy for my family.
Last July I took my six-year-old grandson, Camden, to Seaway’s Crestwood branch to open his first savings account. I gave him a piggybank when he was only four years old, and he loved to fill it with his savings: gifts he received from his grandmother and others, and small amounts he earned by doing chores. When we went to open the account, his eyes were shining, and even beneath his mask, I could see the excitement on his face. It was a moment I will never forget.
Working for an organization like Self-Help has allowed me to reflect on my personal and financial goals and my vision for my family. I am thankful that I’m able to align myself with an organization whose mission matches my vision. Self-Help has provided me the opportunity to be in a better financial position in terms of long-term savings, with employee benefits offered such as the “Save Challenge” (Self-Help’s matched savings plan available for all staff) and retirement savings plans. This is confirmation that I’m moving in the right direction in terms of my career.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to (1) perform a job for an organization such as outreach with community and faith-based organizations in various Chicagoland communities, (2) provide loans for nonprofits and small business owners during challenging times, and (3) provide financial coaching to clients with the goal of helping them prepare for homeownership. These tasks provide a feeling of being relevant: relevant to my family, to our members, to borrowers and relevant to my community!
Seaway merged with our affiliate Self-Help Federal Credit Union in 2017 to continue its legacy of providing fair access to financial services to communities of color—families who had often previously faced discrimination or been systematically shut out of the economic mainstream. To learn more about Seaway, see our short documentary. Find out more about youth savings accounts here.
Franja Brown has extensive experience in branch management for financial institutions, ranging from coaching sales teams to creating systems for regulatory compliance. In 2013, Franja joined Seaway Bank as Central Division Operations Officer. In her current role at Seaway, a division of Self-Help Federal Credit Union, Franja serves as Business Development Director and Financial Coach. In addition to being a proud grandmother, she is active in her community and in her church.