To promote the financial well-being of our diverse community by providing affordable services and expanding the availability of alternative financial resources.
North Side Community Federal Credit Union will develop the capacity, products and systems to meet the transaction and lending needs of members while increasing profitability by reducing losses and developing new sources of income.
North Side Community Federal Credit Union began 42 years ago with a woman who believed financial equity and economic justice was a moral responsibility. Our mission statement is to “promote the well-being of our diverse community by providing affordable alternative financial resources.” Forty-two years and many challenges later, North Side is still fulfilling its mission. North Side has been ahead of its time in many over its history. The credit union introduced a payday alternative loan in 1994 and a citizenship loan in the early 2000s. Bill Clinton introduced the Reigle Act in 1994, creating what is now known as community development financial institutions today. We became a CDFI in the early years, and the NCUA is just now recognizing what important work CDFIs do, recently signing a partnership agreement with the CDFI fund to certify many more low-income designated credit unions over the next several years. North Side is still one of a very small handful places in the city where a person can come take out an emergency loan, get a small personal loan, or receive free financial counseling. We are still here today because of the commitment of a handful of board members and employees who have been dedicated to the continuation of an institution that believes in access for everyone, regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation or any other protected class. Over the years, this organization has attracted employees, volunteers, partners and members who have believe that financial access is a justice issue. Our work is too important for us to go away. The Opportunity Finance Network is the trade association for CDFIs across the country, and to quote its CEO, Mark Pinsky, “Credit is a financial transaction with a moral lineage. Only an irresponsible lenders would lend to people they don’t believe in.” Our job as a credit union is to exist as a cooperative that helps people help people. We believe people with subprime credit can be a good borrower. We believe that a credit challenge due to a medical issue, a job loss, or a life circumstance is not insurmountable and should not be the only factor that defines someone’s ability to get a loan. We believe access to affordable housing stabilizes communities. We believe a small business with a good plan can be a good credit risk, even if they are just starting out. We don’t believe an overdrawn account should prevent someone from forever getting a checking account. It’s why we do what we do.
What have we done to demonstrate that? In 2015, we wrote over 1100 loans to individuals. Almost 900 of those loans were less than $1000, and provided an alternative to payday lenders for people. We provided financial counseling to over 500 people. We refinanced people into lower interest rate car loans. We provided first time homebuyers counseling that enabled almost 50 families to purchase their first home. We opened Second Chance checking accounts for 40 individuals. These are usually just numbers on paper, but they make a real difference to the people behind these numbers. Many times when we make a transaction, we don’t always remember these stories, but dollars add up to access. When you make a deposit or borrow money from the credit union, you are giving back to your community. We are a small institution, and live with limited resources, so we know we have a way to go. But we want to address that and will continue to work to address that. In 2015, we joined the CO-OP Shared Branching Network because we realized that access doesn’t just mean credit access. It means making it easier for our members to use our services. The Shared Branching Network allows our members to make deposits, loans payments, and withdrawals at participating credit union locations, with over 5300 locations across the country. We realized that many members live outside of our immediate geographic region, and needed to address that in order to make our services feasible over the long term. The staff also recognized a need to put ‘community’ back in community development and has been proactively hosting events in both the community and at the credit union to give back. In support of that, North Side now hosts a Little Free Library book exchange and mini food pantry in its lobby.
For many years, the credit union has been limited by its geographic boundaries to the communities of Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park and Lakeview. We receive requests from people across the city for our services, and we know there is a need for our products and services outside of the immediate community. Leadership has envisioned serving neighborhoods west of us, and we are beginning the process of applying to the NCUA for a geographic expansion. We expect the application will be well received, and when we are approved we are going to move forward with providing access to a larger region. In order to remain sustainable and relevant over the next decades, the credit union must understand its core mission and where it can best meet needs. Although the institution is run on a daily basis by a handful of individuals, North Side is an organization of its members. It was founded to provide access to people who believe that affordable credit should be available to everyone, and it exists today because of the many members who find its products and services relevant and important. We thank you for your support.
Sarah Marshall, MBA, CCUE
Chief Executive Officer