Dear NCUD Friends,
As I write this letter I'm brimming with excitement and thankfulness. Our journey began three years ago with a seemingly random conversation with NCUD co-founder Marc Prioleau regarding poverty, justice, opportunities and economic development in East Palo Alto. That conversation planted a seed of faith that now, after much planning, praying, crying, countless meetings and much perseverance, has blossomed into two very significant milestones: the opening of Community Trust Credit Union of East Palo Alto this December and the kicking off of our youth financial literacy initiative!
Credit Union Update
Earlier this month we received our final building permits from the City, paving the way to a projected opening in mid-December. I can now say that East Palo Alto, for the first time in history, will have it's own community focused financial institution - by the people and for the people! Finally there is a safe alternative to predatory lenders and check cashers. There will now be choices other than storing money in "mattresses and cookie jars". The residents of East Palo Alto no longer have to look elsewhere for basic financial services.
Since we've received the permits our lives have been a flurry of activity as we are making final plans, discussing the exciting and mundane topics of paint colors and door hardware, lining up contractors and laborers, and sharing the great news about the soon-to-open institution with community leaders and citizens. The space we now occupy on Bay Road will be transformed into the new credit union branch. Many of you have been a vital part of this effort; I cannot thank you enough. After the new year we will have a grand opening celebration which all of you are invited to attend.
Youth Program Update
As exciting as the credit union opening is, it's not the entire vision of NCUD. The credit union merely serves us as a launching pad and support for an array of innovative and critical programs. One of our next goals is to reach children and youth so that by the time they approach adulthood they will be equipped to make the right choices regarding debt and finances.
In September, we kicked off our youth financial literacy initiative. For this effort, we are working with five other organizations including New Creation Home Ministries, O'Keefe Family Center, College Track, the YMCA, and Beechwood School. All together we are working with about 100 middle and high schoolers teaching financial literacy skills. Some students are enrolled in our 'Economis' training program where they learn checking, saving, budgeting, investing and philanthropy skills through a cutting-edge, on-line 'token economy' program. The organizations we’re working with would not be able to offer this program to their students without our assistance.
Even with our fledgling effort we're seeing great success and excitement with the students as they learn vital skills that will help them succeed. Students have many misconceptions about money that makes the need for financial literacy a stark reality. One student asked why he would want to put his money in a bank if there was a real danger that the bank could get robbed. He believed it was safer in a hidden place, under his "control". Many of the students are learning about saving with 'token' money through our Economis program. It was a new and exciting realization for many of them that they could gain interest on money they deposited into a savings account. It's important to correct the students' misconceptions about finances, so they can make good decisions before they make crucial mistakes that will affect their lives for years.
With all the great progress we've made, there are still many ways that you can help us complete our goals. A gift right now will go a long way in helping us expand our capacity to offer youth programs to other organizations and schools. With the credit union opening, the next year is critical as we build the emerging community of members that the new institution will serve. This is an exciting but seminal time for us: your support will serve to enhance and secure our efforts, further building our momentum.
Again we want to thank you for standing with us over the past years. Many of you took a risk by investing your time, talents, and prayers, and by giving sacrificially. Our hope is that you feel as much a sense of accomplishment as we do! We're looking forward to many great things to come as we finish out 2007 and look forward to 2008.
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'