By David Morrison
Staff Reporter

August 16, 2006


The Woodstock Institute, an occasional critic of how well
credit unions are serving low-income members has released the first case study
from a program which aims to help CUs improve in that area.


The Building Community Assets program seeks to help pair
credit unions with community groups in underserved areas.  In this
instance, the group is the Fresno West Coalition for Economic Development
(FWCED) and the credit union is the $414 million Fresno County Federal Credit
Union (FCFCU).


After hitting a roadblock in creating a partnership with
a credit union, FWCED sought the technical assistance of the Woodstock
Institute, which proved to be vital for facilitating a relationship between
FWCED and FCFCU, the Institute reported.


The goals of the partnership were to increase credit
union membership among Fresno West residents, provide better access to credit
union services by locating an ATM in the area, and offer financial services
tailored to the community such as affordable home mortgages and small business


Additionally, the credit union would assist the
association in providing financial education services, including session on
basic personal financial management, first-time homeownership, small business
development and awareness campaigns about predatory loan alternatives. 
With assistance form the Woodstock Institute over the past year, bylaws for the
Fresno West Association were written and adopted, which began the process of
the establishing the associational field of membership between the Fresno West
Coalition and the Fresno County Federal Credit Union.


As of July 26,
2006, the Fresno West Association had 275 members.  The
Association has experienced great success in getting their members join the
credit union with 50 members having joined and opened accounts with
FCFCU.  The association has experienced great success in getting their
members to join the credit union with 50 members having joined and opened
accounts with FCFCU.


The credit union has also conducted two three-hour home
ownership workshops which were attended by over 60 community members, at a
local community and set up booths at FWCED's EITC tax assistance sites, and it
worked with the Fresno West Association to develop a full financial workshop


The credit union designated a staff member to work with
the financially underserved, and has been actively organizing and leading
additional financial workshops as part of the Fresno West Association's
programming.  Additionally, FCFCU has proven a solid partner of FWCED as
they have participated in every one of their monthly First Time Homebuyer
workshops since June 2005.


The classes have average 25 individuals and the FCFCU
will be one of the lead organizations in their new Homeowners Institute that
will provide in-depth assistance towards purchasing a home, credit counseling
and repair, money management, the purchase process, etc.


The effort has also drawn media coverage.  An
article in the Fresno Business Journal discussing predatory lending featured a
discussion about the partnership.