A Lot to Offer: Firefighters Community Credit Union provides parking for NMCLE
by Rachel Hunt
In 1936, during the Great Depression, seven Cleveland firemen banded together to form what is known today as the Firefighters Community Credit Union. With such a rich history, originating in our city, the FFCCU stands as a testament these individuals’ strength during financially trying times.
Matthew Orehek has worked as the Digital Content Coordinator for FFCCU for almost a year, yet in that short amount of time has seen his employers undertake some amazing projects to continue the legacy of the community-based credit union. His background is in civic engagement, which he’s utilizing to help establish a brand new bike share program in conjunction with UH. The 250 red bicycles will be available to unbanked and under-banked individuals who may not have access to transportation due to their financial situation.
NMCLE: What types of services does FFCCU provide to the immediate community?
MO: Firefighters’ Community Credit Union offers all the services you would associate with a financial institution, but we offer them with little or no fees or additional charges. For example, we have a checking account that helps members earn 2.00% APR without an annual fee. We also offer financial planning and counseling free of charge to our members.
We’re not just for firefighters, though. Although we have branches in Cuyahoga, Lake, and Lorain counties, our community charter allows us to serve anyone that lives, works, or worships in Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain, Geauga, Medina, Portage, and Summit counties.
Anyone, whether they are a member or not, can stop into any of our branches and schedule an account review. One of our Financial Services Representatives will review accounts to see how individuals may be able to change their spending and savings habits, as well as introduce them to products that can help save them money and keep from paying high-interested debt. A credit union’s philosophy is “people helping people” and we always keep that in mind.
NMCLE: How is a credit union different from a normal bank?
MO: We differ from traditional banks in that we are not-for-profit financial cooperatives, democratically owned and operated by our members. Each of our 33,000+ members have an equal voting share in the credit union and are welcome to attend our annual meeting to cast their vote for our Board of Directors, regardless of how much money they have.
As a financial cooperative, members place their money in a variety of savings accounts, and that money is then loaned back out to other members. After operating expenses and reserve requirements are met, income is returned back to all members in the form of dividends and comprehensive financial services.
NMCLE: Tell us a little more about your St. Clair location. Do you work with any surrounding businesses in the area?
MO: Our St. Clair branch is special to us; it was our first branch. Expanding our reach in the surrounding business community is something we are working on right now! There are a lot of new businesses popping up in the neighborhood, and we want them to know that we offer business checking accounts and credit cards.
Neighborhoods, like the one in which our St. Clair branch is located, are delicate ecosystems where all the residents and businesses need to work together to make sure it survives and prospers. Because we are a cooperative, we reinvest money back into the credit union and our members themselves. Our cooperative is, in a sense, the financial equivalent of how a neighborhood should function in order to prosper.
NMCLE: Why did your business decide to sponsor Night Market Cleveland?
MO: We decided to sponsor Night Market Cleveland because it’s not every day that there are 20,000+ people right outside our back door. NMCLE is such an eclectic event and it is great to see the neighborhood come to life at night and showcase members of the community that are helping transform Cleveland.
We saw how successful NMCLE was in its first year and felt like we could help increase the capacity of the event, help it run a little smoother, and make the experience even better for attendees. For the first NMCLE of 2016, we offered the use of our parking lot for valet parking. Attendees seemed to really like it because of the ease of drop off, close proximity, and safe atmosphere. To us, this fit right into our philosophy of “people helping people”.
It gives us an opportunity to expand our reach in talking about who we are and what we do. We offer great competitive rates and services, including financial planning and financial counseling. We want the community know that there is an alternative to big banks that are not democratically governed by their membership and rely on charging high fees to their customers in order to make profits.