GLOVERSVILLE -The Fulton County Federal Credit Union began 40 years ago with a collective $25 investment and a dream.
Now, the nonprofit financial services organization funnels $30 million worth of loans into the local community - keeping the cashflow in the area - and holds assets worth $68 million.
"What we try to do here is make the decisions locally," said President and Chief Executive Officer Timothy Myers. "We all live here. We all obviously work here, so we know the community. Some people were born and raised here, other people have come from the outside, so we have different perspectives, but our philosophy is all about engaging the community and trying to help out."
From left, Brenda Coon, senior vice president of human resources and member services; Deborah Shepard, vice president of marketing and business development; Vince LaPorta, charter member of the Credit Union and member of the Board of Trustees; and Timothy Myers, president and chief executive officer, meet at the Fulton County Federal Credit Union on Wednesday.
The Leader-Herald/Amanda Whistle
The financial cooperative began on June 9, 1972, when 10 charter members agreed to invest $2.50 each. Now it has grown to more than 10,000 people who use their memberships to get credit cards, take out loans, or grow their savings accounts.
Credit unions are owned and controlled by their members who elect volunteer directors and supervisory personnel.
If a credit union turns a profit, its members reap the benefits in the form of dividends or lower loan rates, for example.
Initially open only to educators, the credit union is now open to anyone who lives, worships or does business in Fulton and Montgomery counties, or several towns in Hamilton County, after obtaining a community charter from the National Credit Union Administration in 2003.
Before, it operated under a common bond charter.
The Credit Union, drawing on its teaching roots, continues to educate the community offering seminars at no cost.
"It's about making sure the community has the right information to make good financial decisions," Myers said.
In the beginning, the credit union operated with volunteers out of a classroom at FMCC. It now provides 26 jobs in the region.
Vince LaPorta, a charter member, recalled the venture fondly, remembering when the membership blossomed to more than 200 in the first year.
"It grew pretty fast," LaPorta said. "They came to us, they got their loans, and they got the money right away. It grew by leaps and bounds the first year."
In fact it grew so much, the group had to trade in their classroom at FMCC for two rooms in a motel on Fifth Avenue Extension in the town of Johnstown.
Eventually they built a building there. In its place now is a dentist's office, LaPorta said.
A Johnstown office was added in the mall on Route 30A in the early 1990s. In 2001 the credit union had grown so large it built its current building at 355 Hales Mills Road, which is located adjacent to the new Super Walmart site.
"Everything was done by hand back then," LaPorta said remembering the first personal loan -$200- was hand delivered in cash to the home of the recipient during the Christmas season of 1972. "There was no payroll deduction back then."
He remembered when Current County Historian Peter Betz pitched the idea to the teachers.
"I had no idea what a credit union was," LaPorta said. "We got in touch with the league, and the league came and educated us. We made our charter and we started from there."
Now the Board of Directors are still volunteers. There are eight of them - plus Myers.
Annually, the Credit Union hosts a Member Appreciation Day. On June 22 the Credit Union welcomed about 200 people to a mini carnival outside the offices complete with a cookout, ice cream, cotton candy, and more.
"We want to thank [our members] for their loyalty," said Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Deborah Shepard.
"We have members who stay all day and all afternoon," she said.
News Editor Amanda Whistle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org