MOUNT CARMEL — Members Choice Financial Credit Union is invested in the region. Speaking at the second annual Members Choice Anthracite Economic Summit, CEO Jim Barbarich announced that Members Choice exceeded their $7.3 million loan commitment targeted for the region. This commitment was announced at the first summit hosted at the AOAA. The summit was part of a vision that was created by Barbarich in partnership with the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber who facilitates the event.
Members Choice opened its branch in Atlas in May 2016 to act as a hub serving the anthracite region. Barbarich noted that we have all seen the economic impact as industries have left the region. Financial services (banking) were not immune to this trend. In the past two years we have seen that five banks have shut down their operations and exited the area. The difference as defined by Barbarich centers on structure. Many of the exiting banks were headquartered outside of our area and have accepted deposits from our area and put them to work in geographic areas outside our region. Barbarich noted that capital is a key component of economic growth and security. Members Choice is not only physically here to stay, but they are invested in the success of the region. Specifically the Mount Carmel Branch put out 92 cents in loans for every $1 of deposits that were deposited at the branch.
Members Choice is a member owned financial cooperative. Their volunteer board of directors is focused on the communities we serve and the people who live within. This is clearly evident when you look at the key metrics.
For every member dollar deposited, 87 cents is invested in loans to members in our communities. The cost of funds (dividends paid to members) for Members Choice is twice the peer average resulting in returning more dividend dollars back to members. This is our purpose to promote thrift and make available prudent lending. ”People helping people” has been a staple of credit unions since their inception. Chartered in 1954 Members Choice has served its members for over 65 years.
Barbarich continued his focus on structure as it drives the fundamental difference between his credit union and the banks they compete against. “We don’t have customers’’ he said. “We have members; and that’s important. As member owners we focus on returning value to members but also making the communities we live in and serve better.”
Members Choice has received a number of awards recognizing their commitment to community. The region has many great organizations that need support. Last year Members Choice partnered with over 50 well deserving organizations to financially assist them in their missions in local communities.
This year Members Choice employees have several fundraisers scheduled including its first golf outing on May 31 at Knoebels Three Ponds and they invite you to save the date. ThinkBig, an organization that helps families battle pediatric cancer and American Legion Post 40’s “Veterans Emergency Relief Fund” are the two great organizations that will benefit from this event. In addition, a lottery calendar fundraiser is being sold for additional support.
Financial literacy is an important investment that Members Choice champions. They applied and have been awarded a matching grant from the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association Foundation to assist in expanding their outreach. Classes will begin shortly in the Mount Carmel and Lewisburg areas. Teaching young people about financial responsibility and how to manage a budget, balance their checking account and managing credit are three focuses of the program.
Members Choice offers help with budget development and debt counseling, all free of charge with help through a partner, Greenpath Financial. It is always great to hear about the success stories, commented Barbarich. Unfortunately not all stories end well. Members Choice has shifted its approach to more of an offensive strategy inviting new members to use the service to prevent them from getting into trouble financially. This is a new approach and they are optimistic about the impact it can have on members.
The last and most important element Barbarich referenced was the commitment of his staff in everything they do. “I am blessed to work with such a committed and caring group of people”. Barbarich said. “Whether helping a member to navigate through a life event, enrolling a new member account or supporting an event for one of the great charitable organizations we partner with they do so with the upmost respect and purpose.”
They invite you to stop by and see for yourself. Members Choice is a full service financial institution with people helping people, located at 11218 State Route 61 in Atlas or by phone at 800-834- 0082. Deposits are insured by NCUA.