South Toledo resident Martha Padilla stopped by her neighborhood credit union Friday afternoon to cash her check and make a deposit to her savings account.
She had a quick conversation in Spanish with the teller, Natalia Garcia, who just a few minutes prior was speaking English with another customer, Madeline Stewart.
It’s crucial for employees to be fluent in both Spanish and English because Nueva Esperanza Community Credit Union is a Latino credit union — the first of its kind in Ohio. The organization was chartered in 2010 but has finally found a permanent home at the former Carnegie Library on Broadway Street.
The Nueva Esperanza Community Credit Union is Ohio's first Latino credit union.
“It’s really good that there’s a Latino credit union to help and support the Latino community,” Ms. Padilla said in Spanish. “We’ve very happy with it being here for us.”
Sue Cuevas helped translate between Ms. Padilla and a Blade reporter. Her business card gives her title as president and chief executive officer, but she often serves as a teller, loan officer, and even maintenance worker for Nueva Esperanza, which translates to New Hope in English.
No matter what her role is on any given day, she has the trust of the credit union’s membership because she walks them through the savings and loan processes in the language they’re most comfortable with.
“We’re a not-for-profit. The purpose of being here is not to make money,” the former corporate banker said. “The purpose here is to help so that our members can have the same rights, have the same ability as anybody else that goes into another financial institution.”
Ms. Cuevas has been with the credit union since its inception, working out of her car in the early months, and has helped the organization grow from just 25 accounts to close to 800 accounts and about $2 million in assets today.
“There were so many underserved, so many unbanked people in this community,” she said. “The main thing was the language barrier.”
Her budget covers pay for her and a part-time teller, and for years they operated out of a small storefront across from the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center in the Old South End. But Ms. Cuevas wanted a larger, more professional office space to better serve her customers and help promote membership in the community.
She enlisted the help of the Historic South Initiative, an organization working to revitalize the neighborhood. They were able to secure a $350,000 capital grant from the General Assembly with the help of state Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), said Chris Amato, the organization’s president.
“Every bank has left the neighborhood, except KeyBank,” Mr. Amato said. “The Hispanic community is underserved, and they’re here to stay.”
The state funding was used to renovate the former library’s lower level, and Nueva Esperanza moved into its new space in January. ProMedica owns the building, which it obtained from the Lucas County Land Bank, and Compassion Health Toledo operates a clinic on the main level.
“It’s one more part of the renaissance of the Old South End,” said Arthur Hills, a Sylvania resident and Historic South Initiative board member. “I think it’s very valuable and important that people have this credit union available to them.”
Ms. Cuevas said the credit union provides more than just banking needs. She spends time educating new members on financial best practices, and she has helped many build credit. The credit union has a loan portfolio of about $1.5 million with a delinquency ratio of 2 percent or less, she said.
In certain cases, Ms. Cuevas will offer a $500 personal loan to be paid off over 12 months to help people without any credit get established.
“Our membership in this area, they’re hard-working people who probably live paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “They’re so grateful that someone is going to give them a chance. We have a lot of heartwarming stories.”
Ms. Cuevas said the credit union isn’t only for Latino customers. Anyone in Lucas, Wood, and Fulton counties can become a member.
The organization offers saving accounts, personal loans, auto loans, and reloadable Visa cards similar to debit cards, and Ms. Cuevas is working toward offering home equity loans, checking accounts, and ATM services in the future.
“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long road ahead of us,” she said.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.