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New Video Explores Legacy of Bakersfield Credit Union First Founded by Cesar Chavez

Dec 13, 2018

Self-Help Federal Credit Union releases its latest legacy video — Kern Central Credit Union: A Legacy of Serving Workers in the Fields 

[December 12, 2018] Durham, NC On Tuesday, December 11, 2018, Self-Help Federal Credit Union (Self-Help) released its latest legacy video, Kern Central Credit Union: A Legacy of Serving Workers in the Fields.  The 7.5 minute video, viewed here, includes interviews with credit union members and community leaders who remember the early days of both Kern Central and the Farm Workers Credit Union.

In 1974, Kern Central Credit Union was formed in Bakersfield, California for the employees of the Kern County Refinery and other nearby employer groups. With the mission, “A Key to a Better Tomorrow,” Kern Central expanded its membership beyond oil field workers to serve individuals, especially the under-served in Kern County.

In 1995 Kern Central merged with the Farm Workers Credit Union, which was founded in 1963 by civil rights activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. When the Farm Workers CU started, agricultural workers had little or no access to mainstream financial institutions. The Farm Workers CU helped improve the lives of farm workers by offering them new savings tools and access to loans. Helen Chavez, Cesar Chavez’s wife, served as the credit union’s manager, overseeing a business that grew to serve 100,000 farm worker members.

The timeline goes through the merger with Self-Help Federal Credit Union, which occurred in 2010. Today Self-Help maintains its tradition as a “sí se puede” credit union by working to create economic opportunities for under-served families throughout California’s southern central valley.

Self-Help Federal Credit Union was chartered in 2008 to build a network of branches that serve working families and under-served communities. With 17 branches in California, nine branches in Illinois and Wisconsin, approximately $1.1 billion in assets, and serving more than 79,000 members, Self-Help Federal CU is one of the fastest-growing low-income designated credit unions in the country. 

The short video, Kern Central Credit Union: A Legacy of Serving Workers in the Fields, is part of Self-Help's Stories From the Vault series documenting the histories of community empowerment exhibited by the financial institutions that have joined the Self-Help family since 2004. The stories are varied, started by such groups as farmworkers, employers, blue-collar workers, people of color and people of faith. They served manufacturing and hospital workers, teachers, African Americans, immigrants and others in low-income or rural communities. 

Other videos in the series include: St. Luke Credit Union: A Legacy of Necessity (Bertie County, NC); Scotland Credit Association: Finding a Place Called Home (in Laurinburg, NC); and People’s Community Partnership Federal Credit Union (Oakland, CA) and more.

You can view the video here or by visiting For more information on this or other Stories from the Vault, please contact Jenny Shields, Director of Media Relations, Self-Help Credit Union at or 919.794.6798.

More information about Self-Help Federal Credit Union can be found at

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About Self-Help

Self-Help is a leading national community development financial institution headquartered in Durham, NC. Since 1980, Self-Help has provided over $8.5 billion in financing to 150,000 families, individuals and businesses. It helps drive economic development and strengthen communities by providing responsible financial services; lending to individuals, small businesses and nonprofits; developing real estate; and promoting fair financial practices across the nation. Through its credit union network, Self-Help serves over 150,000 people in California, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The nonprofit Center for Community Self-Help is the umbrella organization for the Self-Help family of nonprofit organizations, which includes Self-Help Credit Union, Self-Help Federal Credit Union, Self-Help Ventures Fund and the Center for Responsible Lending.