Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Monday, May 14, 2007

Latest NCUD Letter

Recently I came across a Franciscan benediction that grabbed my attention. It says:

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

That is why we began this journey—to bring justice to the poor by breaking systemic poverty in East Palo Alto. Many factors motivated us; the lack of appropriate financial services, check cashing places that are charging exorbitant rates, the fact that East Palo Alto has no grocery store, no downtown, and few local businesses. When I look into a grandmother’s eyes, who is struggling with paying her bills and caring for her family, and when I see despair in the families of my son’s classmates, a fire is lit within me to fight injustice. As we stepped out in faith to start NCUD, we were “blessed with enough foolishness to believe that we could make a difference in the world”. Finally, I can look into that grandmother’s eyes and know that change is about to happen.

Two years ago, the specific dream was birthed of bringing a community development credit union to East Palo Alto. The hurdles have been high: Starting a financial institution can be mired in much more red tape than other endeavors. However, with the support of the City Council, the local churches of East Palo Alto, and experts from some of the leading law firms and financial institutions in the Bay Area, the launch is now in sight! With the continued blessing of God, and through much hard work and effort, all signs point to the East Palo Alto credit union opening this summer! God is truly good!

With the credit union opening approaching, NCUD has a vital role to play in its success. Our goal was never only to start a credit union, but to foster an array of programs that will help people rise above their circumstances. We have now begun to invest more time and effort into some of these projects that will support and enhance the credit union activities.

Our next project is a youth financial literacy initiative. Set to begin this fall, this initiative will bring desperately needed financial education through a cutting edge, web-based virtual economy called Economis that teaches kids how to earn, save, invest, budget, and give in an amazing and interactive way. Created by the organization, Ele:Vate, and implemented through the National Association of Street Schools (NASS) this program is truly the best of class. We're currently developing partnerships with several local youth organizations and schools to offer this program.

Following later in the year is a youth-led and youth-managed credit union where local young people can bank with real money. They will learn basic financial management skills, leadership and management skills, as well as serving their peers and community in a meaningful way. This is based on a very successful model in San Francisco that has been operating for over ten years and has over $140,000 in youth deposits! (More information about both these programs can be found at www.norcaludc.org.)

Other initiatives are poised to follow, timed with the growth of the credit union. I'm especially excited about NCUD’s plans for micro enterprise lending, but that's a little further down the road.

All of that said, I want to ask for your help. As we approach the opening of the credit union we are doing some very specific fundraising to lay the groundwork for the youth financial literacy initiative beginning in the fall. Would you be willing to help out? Your gift right now will play a vital role in pushing toward the finish line with the credit union project as well as insure the successful launch of our youth programs. There are three ways you can help:

1. Make a financial or stock contribution. Your gift right now is important ‘fuel’ for our engine, helping us to drive our vision beyond the credit union opening this summer.

2. Support our July 13th golf tournament. If you’re a golfer, bring you’re ‘sticks’ and join us! If not, we’re looking for major and hole sponsors, quality auction items and raffle prizes. If you’re not a golfer, please join us for our banquet and presentation following the golf. More information is on our website at www.norcaludc.org or call Jenni (NCUD’s Administrative Assistant) at 650-328-1890. More information can be found HERE.

3. Be a volunteer. We need skilled volunteers to help with construction build out, office / administration help, teaching financial literacy skills to youth and many other tasks, large and small.

We have come so far, but there is still much to do. I’m thankful to God and to all the people who have partnered with me in striving for justice, freedom, and peace for the oppressed through the power of the Gospel. Please stay tuned for the exciting announcement about the East Palo Alto credit union opening day!


  1. Anonymous3:12 PM

    What does NCUD stand for??

  2. Good question. Northern California Urban Development. It's the non profit I direct. You can check the website at www.norcaludc.org.

  3. John--

    Good luck with starting your CU! There's a whole world of CU bloggers out there that have an immense amount of experience and information just waiting to be tapped. Let's us know if we can do anything! God bless.