Our Stories

Charles "Chuck" H.


“I had a member who came in wanting to do an auto loan. We went through all the steps, and the entire time, I was engaging with him in conversation about his life. I want to know about our members because if there’s something I can help them with, I want them to come back here. So we started talking. Before you know it, 30 minutes went by. I was still working, but we were so into the conversation trying to get to know each other. He left having gotten approved for his vehicle. He came back and wanted to do another loan with me, too -- to do some other work on his home. To this day he won’t go to any other branch, and he lives all the way in Illinois. There are all of these branches between us where he could stop, but he chooses to drive 40 minutes just to come here. And that’s how you know you’ve touched somebody. I call him all the time just to see how he’s doing. I know a lot about the member, and he got a chance to know me. The conversations are so appealing that we’ll be talking and talking. It will be going so smooth that, before you know it, you know me and I know you now.”

“I don’t know what other institutions do. I just know what we do. And we stand for education and our community. We’re backing up everything that we’re saying. We care about our city that we live in. We want to see our members grow and to be able to be successful in life. Payday loans can get stretched out, so I want our members to be able to get the money they need and pay us back quickly so they won’t have to worry. I also want them to know they have a quick fix option if they need it. St. Louis Community Credit Union’s affiliate non-profit also has Red Dough: low rates, affordable payments, no predatory lending. I would recommend them any day of the week instead of paying 600% or 700% interest.”

- Charles “Chuck” H., St. Louis Community Credit Union


 

Mildred L.

 

Older woman standing in lobby posing for camera.

“I’ve been a member at the St. Louis Community Credit Union for 31 years.  They have served me well anytime I needed assistance, which was kind of often. I was a single parent with a four-year-old son when I came to St. Louis and my husband was deceased. I had to get my son into school, I had family members who always had issues, and I had to help them financially, too. Usually, I needed loans to get me through the summer just to keep me afloat. So anytime I needed help, the credit union was there for me. And I’ve always tried to never disappoint them.”

- Mildred L., St. Louis Community Credit Union member since 1987

 

 

 


 

Jeremy Goss

 

Young man standing outside storefront with arms crossed.“I’m not even that healthy of a guy. I eat junk food all the time. I have the privilege of choice, so I can choose to eat burgers and fries today or to eat healthily. But after moving from Houston to St. Louis for medical school, I realized that not everyone could choose to eat healthy food. As a medical student, I saw people in this city struggling to find and afford healthy food where they live because it just didn’t exist. And I got a double dose because, while on rotations in the hospital, I saw the side effects of this disparity manifesting as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. This was especially frustrating because minorities are disproportionately affected by food inequity as many live in communities where there are no grocery stores. Moreover, they have limited resources and limited transportation to be able to access good food in neighboring communities. So, over time, the lessons that we’re supposed to learn about what to eat and how to prepare it are never learned. I was motivated to learn as much as I could about food deserts and food access issues in America, in general, and in St. Louis, specifically. And I knew then that I had to do something about it. If good food didn’t exist in these neighborhoods, I was determined to bring it to them. Then, I accidentally started a business. I used my frustration as fuel to develop a non-profit grocery store called The Link Market.” 

“I developed a partnership with Metro Transit and together we dreamed big about what was possible. The end result was The Link Market. I approached Bi-State Development to discuss how food access and transportation issues overlap. We batted around ideas for what it would mean to bring retail food sales to these locations knowing full-well that they’re food desert communities. Bi-State pursued funding from Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH), and MFH saw the vision and gave financial support to make this possible. So we have this location at the North Hanley MetroLink Station in our family, a mirror location at the Wellston MetroLink station, and recently we bought a mail truck to help connect even more people with even more food through grocery delivery.”

“Working with St. Louis Community Credit Union has completely changed the paradigm of my thinking about what a financial institution does. I expected a toaster when we opened our company’s savings account. I didn’t expect for them to champion our work and sponsor it to the level that they have. When my work with The Link Market began, one of the first calls I made was to the credit union. Together we formed an incredible partnership. They sponsor a program called Healthy Rx. Because food is medicine, we’re working with area clinics to include food insecurity questions in their patient intake questionnaires. When patients with unmet food access needs are identified, they’re given a prescription for fruits and vegetables which guarantees them deep discounts when they buy groceries at the The Link Market. Additionally, every season we put together a store circular so that customers can see what new variety of fruits and vegetables we have to offer. SLCCU was the first business to purchase ad space in our circular to help us offset some of our production costs. We’ve received corporate sponsorships before, but this is a unique relationship because the credit union actually cares about our communities. It’s not about the dollars, it’s about the people whose lives we get to change together.”

 - Jeremy Goss, Founder, The Link Market


 

Laura Kozak

 

Woman standing by a sign outside.“Credit unions are fundamentally about neighborhoods, neighbors, and economic development. Grace Hill Settlement House loves St. Louis Community Credit Union because it is an anchor. We were the first not-for-profit agency to house a credit union in St. Louis in our building. Good banking partners take informed risks, and having trustworthy partners matters.

A decade ago, before we opened our SLCCU flagship branch, there was a payday lender just across the street. Anybody who has ever gone to a payday lender knows that 30 percent of that paycheck they had is gone and that the interest rates on the payments are going to keep gobbling it up. You can’t underestimate the ripple effect of having an organization that’s devoted to neighborhood money management and how to manage money not as a secret, not as something to hold in power over somebody, but in a partnership.   A lot of what happened in our communities was economic, systematic disenfranchisement. It was about money pulling out of our neighborhoods or money distancing itself from the community, and that contributes to creating and perpetuating a cycle of poverty. The payday lender place was gone within months of the community credit union opening, and now there are actual investments made through member deposits at the credit union.

So, then, define poverty. Is this a poor neighborhood or a working neighborhood in which to invest? I can’t tell you how many times I met neighbors who are on foot, walking here on a Saturday, not to take money out but to make a deposit. It’s amazing when you step out of your biases about what poverty is or is not to understand the real complexities. And that’s where St. Louis Community Credit Union demystifies money, demystifies savings, and creates access for all people.”

For people who want to understand this campus, think about a mall. What are our flagship anchors? So, Affinia Healthcare is an anchor for us. St. Louis Community Credit Union is an anchor for us. Our Head Start program is an anchor for us. And those anchors are initially what attract people. Have you ever thought that somebody coming to make a deposit at the credit union would be the beginning of getting their grandchild enrolled in a preschool program or the beginning of getting their daughter back to school or back to work? We can’t underestimate what happens. Because the credit union is here, we touch, see and experience a group of neighbors who we otherwise would not connect to.”

- Laura Kozak, Former Executive Director, Grace Hill Settlement House


 

Suzanne Hough

 

Woman standing on lot holding arms together.“All banks have to comply with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) that requires them to provide credit services to low- and moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods and individuals. As a community bank for about 135 years, Carrollton Bank wants to do this in an impactful way. We had served our communities well, but we wanted to do more targeted outreach and needed to find a partner who could help us do the work.

We were introduced to St. Louis Community Credit Union through one of my bank colleagues.

So we asked, ‘How can we bring our resources to the table, combine them with yours and what you do best, and have a partnership that helps us with our community development goals while helping you do more for your members?’ And it all added up to what we were looking for because SLCCU is more than a credit union.

Their mission is about the total financial wellness of their members, communities, and neighborhoods. They place their branches in LMI neighborhoods. And by committing their branch locations there, that’s a huge statement which shows where their commitment lays. They have good terms on their deposit accounts and loans. They encourage savings and small dollar loans. Their largest loan category is used car loans because that’s what their members need.”

“From the outset of our partnership, we wanted to help SLCCU and Prosperity Connection provide financial education, and we started the effort at Kingdom House (LifeWise STL). Our team and I were new at this. We used their curriculum, and they coached us on how to present the material. They told me, ‘Be genuine. Just care about the participants and the class will go fine.’ My partner and I were pretty nervous the first time, so we practiced in front of a couple of our bank colleagues and they were brutally honest, like, ‘Yeah, you’re terrible. Try it over!’ They didn’t spare us.

We were anxious because we wanted to be regarded as legitimate, as opposed to people saying, ‘Who do you think you are coming in here telling us how to manage our money better? You look like you don’t have any money problems because you work at a bank. What do you know about my life?’ How were we going to relate to people so that they really believed that we were there because we cared? The first session we were jittery, and I think the five women who attended knew it, but there was just an instant connection. I learned that if you’re with the right partner – and we were with SLCCU through Kingdom House (LifeWise STL) and presenting as Carrollton Bank – it gave us the respect that we hadn’t yet earned and we were okay. We needed our partners to invite us in, give us the opportunity to work with their clients, and earn their trust and respect, too.”

“For us, it’s being out in the community and finding the right partners who can help us connect. We’ve woven CRA into our business strategy. We have a culture where it starts at the top and it’s valued. We aren’t so concerned with letting people know what we’re doing, we just want to do the work. If you do the work and you do it well, it will tell its own story for you.

We say that we’re the bank for success-minded people of any income level. You can be a success-minded person and be an individual of low-income, and you want to achieve more. You can be affluent and be success-minded, and that’s fine. We’re for people of all income levels, and SLCCU has helped us become that kind of a bank. They connected us to people that help us do that. And when we see the impact that we’ve had because of our partnership with SLCCU, we wouldn’t want it to be any other way.”

- Suzanne Hough, Vice President - Community Development, Carrollton Bank


 

Tom Pickel

 

Man leaning on brick wall while smiling.“DeSales Community Development owns about 280 multifamily units in Fox Park and Tower Grove East. Residents said they'd like to have a community garden where there was a notoriously bad six-family building nearby that had been a terror on the block for a long time and vacant for a couple of years. We were able to work with a local bank to persuade them to donate the property to us, and then we put it up to a vote in the neighborhood: ‘Would you like to see us rehab the property or tear it down?’ And everybody said, ‘Tear it down.’ So we tore the building down, worked with Gateway Greening to make a garden there, and it’s been a garden ever since. It's a great community building tool, too, because it gets lots of different people involved, outside, and interacting on a Saturday morning or trading tips or mistakes that they've all made.

Some people come to garden from across the street and others from nearby blocks or even from outside of the neighborhood because they don’t have a community garden in their neighborhood You get people from different walks of life coming together to do something that’s all about growing flowers, food, and other stuff. It’s gone through good times and bad times, more activity and less activity, more participants and fewer participants. A number of the neighbors there along with us have really energized the neighborhood. And with the help we’ve gotten from St. Louis Community Credit Union to make some improvements, it’s going better than ever.

Whereas we've got good banking friends as well, SLCCU is more than just a credit union. With the Wealth Accumulation Center they built on Gravois and the services they brought into the neighborhood with Prosperity Connection and Red Dough, those are really important and the types of things that a conventional bank probably would never do, like financial training and financial literacy services. Prosperity Connection as its own 501(c)3 is committed to that by mission and supported by the credit union. That's what makes it unique and that's what makes us proud to have a relationship with them.” 

- Tom Pickel, Executive Director, DeSales Community Development


 

Destini Goodwin

 

Woman leaning on a brick pillar holding her hands.“Having money and keeping it is difficult. But when you think about the long-term impact that it has on your children and your life – either not having enough of it, the mismanagement of it, or not saving it – it can lead to other situations. It seems impossible for some families to save when every cent has to go towards caring for their families. About two million working families, who work 40 hours per week, are still living in poverty. And one in four families is a $400 emergency away from a financial crisis. So the financial education classes at Fathers’ Support Center provide parents with insight on how to manage their money better, save with discipline, and get an opportunity or a second chance to establish a relationship with a banking institution. Living paycheck to paycheck is a struggle. Saving is difficult. But you can save. You just have to change the behavior of how you do it. The Prosperity Connection coaches teach the parents how they can build their credit and then assist them to do that. One father obtained employment, opened up a savings account with St. Louis Community Credit Union, and started saving. That was something he felt he couldn’t do before because he had so many other financial challenges and responsibilities. But he was able to save his money and purchase a home.”

“We do an exercise in class called ‘What’s the cost to take care of a child?’ and we help the fathers break down their children’s needs. ‘Housing? Your child needs a place to stay. Where are they going to live? How much does it cost to have a two-bedroom apartment in St. Louis? Pick where you want to live. Okay, so how much does clothing cost? Your child is growing up fast. They’re sprouting, and getting taller it seems monthly. So how much would you set aside for clothing? Utilities? You have to have lights. Kids have to stay warm during the winter and cool during the summer. How much does that cost?’ So they get to the end with a total cost of basic needs and realize, ‘Yeah, $150 a month doesn’t do too much.’ We teach them that it’s important to support the mom regardless of their relationship to ensure that their child has a safe place to stay, that their child has food on the table, and that they have lights and clothing. We also teach moms to encourage the fathers’ involvement with their children because co-parenting goes both ways. So it’s shocking when they think of doing a budget like this. I don’t think most people think about it. We just do it because we know what our kids need.”

“Fathers’ Support Center is in its 20th year, and I’ve been with them for 14. So I grew up there. Everything they teach applies to anyone and everyone. Even I had a moment where I stepped back, took a look at myself, and made changes and adjustments the same way that the fathers do. I was having a conversation with one of the financial coaches and he told me about how it only takes a dollar to open up a savings account. Eventually, I was like, ‘Let me open up a saving account because I’m not living up to what we teach. If I keep all of my money in my checking account, I’m not going to save because I don’t have that type of discipline.’ I opened up the account and decided to set an amount that would go into it. I wouldn’t see that money at all. I wouldn’t order checks for the account. I wouldn’t do anything with it. I would just send a set amount there, let it be, and let it do what it does. And by doing that I was able to meet a financial goal I didn’t think was possible.  I paid off two semesters of school. Then, I got married two years ago and was able to pay off the wedding. It wasn’t without sacrifice. I was very intentional in doing it. It meant being diligent and making sure that I didn’t touch it like it didn’t exist. But I was like, ‘Oh, snap! I did that!’”

- Destini Goodwin, Managing Director, Fathers’ Support Center


 

Patrick Adams

 

“If you stood in the lobby for a day and just asked people, ‘Tell me your story,’ everybody walks in here.. There’s a woman who came in and said, ‘I need some money. I need a withdrawal because I need to get diapers.’ It’s not high finance. It’s getting people through the day. It’s easy for us to judge, and I don’t like that. Wants don’t diminish because you don’t have means. That’s just human nature. That’s behavioral economics. I heard it said that the consumer as a superhero would not be Superman. They would look more like Homer Simpson. We make a lot of bad decisions every day whether we have money or not. If somebody gets a used car loan, what is the multiplier on that economic mobility? Now they have wider access to a job market. How narrow is the job market just based on public transportation? We give someone access to a used car, and holy cow! Now they can get a job and have a life to lead as opposed to spending all their downtime connecting buses. Little things like that make a big difference. So we take the risk to do it where others don’t, and we’re rewarded accordingly.”

“We’re up to 17 branches, and when I started here we had two. We had $30 million in assets and now we’re getting close to $300 million. We’re over 60,000 members. Last month, 896 people knocked on the door and we welcomed them in. And those who didn’t have a dollar to join, we gave them the dollar.”

“I can’t tell you how many loans I’ve made to people. Holy cow, there’s one member, and she was one of the first people that I met when I started here 31 years ago. She just loves the credit union. When we were building St. Louis Community Credit Union’s Gateway Branch at the corner of Union and Natural Bridge, I got a call from her saying, ‘I noticed that during construction a lot of trash was blowing up against the fence around the site. So I told a couple of guys in my neighborhood who regularly pander for money to clean it up and I’d give them five bucks for lunch.’ I thought, ‘That’s really cool.’ She was so happy that we were going to have a facility in the area and didn’t want the brand to be hurt by the trash from the construction. How good of a person is that? And that’s the kind of relationship that was established 31 years ago just by listening. Instead of, ‘Why?’ I ask, ‘Why not?’ We have a responsibility to lift up this community as much as we can. On any given day, that can be tough as we know from other situations that exist. But we’re going to do our part. It’s what we have to do.”

- Patrick A., St. Louis Community Credit Union