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Community News: Southwest

CRENSHAW : Doors Finally Open at Credit Union

September 05, 1993|ERIN J. AUBRY

Crenshaw resident Patrick Bernard said it was the best time he had ever had filling out an application.

Bernard, a longtime supporter of efforts to start a community credit union in Central Los Angeles, was one of the first customers to open an account last week at the tiny office that houses the new South Central Federal People's Credit Union.

"It's a dream come true," said Bernard, smiling as he turned in the pink card and $35 for a savings account at the teller window. "It was such a fight to get it started, I can't believe it's really here."

Bernard was not the only one expressing a mix of satisfaction and relief at the opening of the credit union Wednesday. After more than five years in the making and a year of searching for a place to call home, the credit union quietly began operations in the headquarters of the Black Employees' Assn. at 5462 Crenshaw Blvd.

There was no hoopla or fanfare to mark the occasion--there will be a party next month, said manager Diana Mullins--but the small office was clearly up and running, registering 14 new accounts by noon. Mullins, one of the credit union's two staffers, processed applications while overseeing the final stages of the computer setup. Seven employees are in training and are scheduled to come on board Sept. 20.

Mullins said that after a long search for a suitable location, the credit union's board of directors settled on their initial choice, the Black Employees' Assn. Clyde Johnson, the board's chairman, is longtime president of the association. Johnson was ill last week and not available for comment.

Johnson had previously said that strict federal security regulations eliminated several potential credit union locations in South and Central Los Angeles. The decision to open the credit union headquarters at the Black Employees' Assn. was longstanding, Mullins said, but the decision to also start a branch there was made only six weeks ago. Sites must be protected from robberies and embezzlement, said Dan Murphy, a National Credit Union Administration official.

"It was the only space that was readily available and fit the security requirements," said Mullins, a former employee of the California Credit Union League who began working with South Central in February. "We'll probably be here temporarily until we can find space for permanent branches."

For now, the headquarters and branch will operate out of one space, an unused office that was recently outfitted with a counter, computers, desk space and a reception area. Though the quarters are modest, credit union board member Adwoa Nyamekye said she is happy to see the venture finally up and running.

"Considering all the setbacks we've had, this is a giant step forward for us as a community," she said. "The most important thing is that we stood fast and didn't give up. This credit union will give a real foundation in terms of economic development."

More than $5 million in pledges and donations amassed over the past year from private foundations, corporations and individuals will be available for loans and other special programs starting next month, Mullins said. The credit union is currently accepting deposits only for savings accounts. Applicants must deposit at least $25 and pay a $10 lifetime membership fee.

Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays will be indefinitely reserved for staffers to go out into the community and spread the word about the credit union, said Mullins.

Information: (213) 296-1727.

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