A new credit union is coming to the West Side and Black Rock neighborhoods. Called the Good Neighbors Federal Credit Union, after Buffalo’s nickname The City of Good Neighbors, it aims to help tackle one of the biggest factors of poverty for anyone living, working, studying, worshiping, or volunteering in one of Buffalo’s classically low income areas.
One in four people don’t have access to quality financial services in the West Side and Black Rock; this includes services like a checking account, savings account, loans for things like buying a car to get to work, to start your own small business, to fix up your house. All the way down to the ability to cash or deposit paychecks to pay bills and buy groceries.
When you can’t get access to the basic services that you need, you find a way to make do without it. For most people in this situation that means going to alternatives like check cashing centers, money orders, rent to own businesses, and more. These kinds of alternatives are a poor substitute because they will charge high interest rates and fees which squeezes more and more money out of families that are already struggling in these neighborhoods.
These problems obviously affect refugee families more often because of the difficulty with language barrier and how that can lead to even harsher exploitation.
These are the very same refugee families who have been brought to the United States as a last resort after fleeing their homes. They have filled empty houses and it isn’t a far jump to understand that they are a key factor in Buffalo’s revival. They shouldn’t be left in the dust.
There is a solution to these kinds of problems. A solution that is rooted in the wants and needs of the people of the West Side and Black Rock. A credit union is a non-profit that provides those very same services of checking accounts, savings accounts, loans, and more, but it does so cooperatively.
The money it gives out in loans come from those people who have savings accounts with the credit union and so it becomes a way for citizens to pool their money together to help each other effectively. Any interest paid on loans taken out from the credit union is paid back to those keeping their money there, which is different from banks where a large portion of that interest would go to CEO’s or investors from all over the world.
Credit unions are accountable to their members, with the decisions of the credit union being made by a board of directors that is elected by those members. In contrast, banks boards are elected by those same unseen investors just mentioned.
The Good Neighbors Federal Credit Union may be an incredibly valuable resource for the people of the West Side and Black Rock, and so it is aiming to open its doors within a couple of years. However a credit union is only as powerful as the people who believe in it and take ownership of it. Opening credit unions isn’t easy and the group organizing the Good Neighbors Federal Credit Union can’t do it without help.
On Wednesday September 2nd, the Good Neighbors FCU had a community forum hosted at PUSH Buffalo’s headquarters on Grant St. They gave a presentation outlining where they are in the process of getting their doors open which includes already having over $2 million in deposits promised from other credit unions and having conducted a survey to prove that people want a credit union in their neighborhood.
The presentation also talked about what’s left to be done, the big two pieces being a.) needing to raise $300,000 to cover expenses such as computers, rent, utilities, and software during the first few years of operation as well as b.) needing a big following of excited West Side-er’s who can’t wait to have the credit union open its doors and are willing to help.
Obviously the second part, having excited helpers, can be very helpful in the job of raising that $300,000. With that in mind the Good Neighbors FCU is going to be running a crowdfunding campaign on www.givegab.com September 19th.
They’re having a launch party to get the ball rolling that same day at Community Beer Works over at 15 Lafayette Avenue starting at 5:00 PM. Anyone interested can learn more by checking out their website at www.goodneighborsfcu.com or calling (716)418-8500 ext. 136.
Having access to financial services is a key factor in escaping poverty and the Good Neighbors Federal Credit Union aims to give low income West Side-ers what financial services they feel they need, but it can’t pull it off without people taking part and making it their credit union.