Ashley Swearengin signs a check signifying a $2.6 million deposit with Self-Help Federal Credit Union. From left, Gerald Lyles, Gretchen Moore, Elliott Balch and Joe Duran look on. Photo by Gabriel Dillard
Written by Gabriel Dillard
With her signing of a check (albeit of the fake, oversized variety), Ashley Swearengin today helped pave the way for 19 Southeast Fresno families to purchase their very own home.
Swearengin, former Fresno mayor and current president and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation, was at the Self-Help Federal Credit Union branch at Kings Canyon Road and Peach Avenue Tuesday to make a big deposit — $2.6 million dollars the credit union will use for various loan products.
Based on the credit unions average loan sizes, that money could fund the equivalent of 19 affordable mortgages, 1,300 personal loans, 217 auto loans or 3,642 credit-builder loans to a membership that includes minorities, women, rural residents, poor residents and others who haven’t traditionally had access to mainstream banking services.
Self-Help Federal Credit Union, which was chartered in 2008, has 30 branches in California, Illinois, Florida and Wisconsin. In addition to the Fresno branch, there’s also a location in Porterville.
“We are very excited for this partnership, and we know this will create new economic opportunities for residents in Fresno and Porterville,” Swearengin said.
The funding, made available in part by the Lyles Foundation, will be invested into yield-bearing money market accounts.
“Otherwise it would be sitting in a bank not making much interest,” Swearengin said.
Joe Duran, executive vice president with Self-Help Federal Credit Union, said the Fresno branch has built a membership of 1,277 members with more than $8 million in deposits since opening two years ago. The branch has financed nearly 1,000 consumer and home loans totaling nearly $32 million. About 70 percent of those loans were made to low-income individuals, and 90 percent supported minority borrowers.
In Porterville, nearly 2,000 loans have been made totaling $33 million. The branch has 3,476 members with more than $13 million in deposits. About 78 percent of those loans went to low-income borrowers, and 91 percent to minority borrowers.
“We’re not a payday lender,” Duran said. “We have great rates, great services.”
Luis Chavez, Fresno councilmember for District 5 in Southeast Fresno, alluded to a financial institution that used to be located in the same shopping center as Self-Help Federal Credit Union that loaned money with annual percentage rates of 100-200 percent.
“They are not here, and you are,” he said to credit union officials.