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Published: Wednesday, 10/6/2004

Toledo: Urban Federal Credit Union bursting at seams

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Four years after turning around losses and warding off federal regulators, the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union is bursting at the seams, literally.

Its nearly 5,000 members and $3 million in assets has it looking for more room as it plans to add new branches as well, said executive officer Suzette Cowell.

Some 400 people will gather tomorrow at the SeaGate Center for the credit union's annual banquet at a time when it's on the verge of changes that will redefine itself.

"If you look at our [crowded] lobby, you would shake your head," said Ms. Cowell of the credit union's growth, which has come as a welcomed challenge. "We've run out of lobby space, so we're looking to expand."

The Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union is a community development credit union, which means 51 percent of its clientele must be low to moderate-income residents.

Ms. Cowell said Toledo Urban is the last in Ohio to be designated a community development credit union."We've given about $11 million in loans in this community," Ms. Cowell said. "That may not sound like a lot, but you have to remember who we serve."

Much has been made about the credit union's anticipated expansion into South Toledo, but Ms. Cowell said the institution is planning to open a branch in an unspecified location in East Toledo soon as well.

Ms. Cowell said the branches are ways Toledo Urban is trying to reach more low and moderate-income customers and provide them with banking services where other banking institutions have left.She said the credit union, which started in 1996 at Friendship Baptist Church in West Toledo, wants to become part of the community.

To fulfill that part of the mission, it will be sponsoring an African-American Festival. Ms. Cowell said she sees the festival developing along the lines of the current Polish International Festival sponsored by the Lagrange Development Corp., and the Greek Festival, held every September near downtown Toledo.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will be the keynote speaker at the credit union's annual banquet tomorrow.

Ms. Cowell said many of the customers will be able to make a connection with the Mr. Kilpatrick, 34.

"He's a young man whose done a lot of things and we need to see role models like that," Ms. Cowell said. "His age group is part of the makeup of our membership. He's an example of what can be achieved with education and hard work."

Paula Saunders, president of the Northwest chapter of the Ohio Credit Union League, said she has been impressed with the rise of the Toledo Urban Credit Union, it's growth and stability over the years.

"I know that they are doing a fantastic job in that community," said Ms. Saunders, a vice president at Sun Federal Credit Union. "I've been to one of their annual meetings and there's nothing like it. You walk away saying 'wow.' They have been very ambitious in providing services there and I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the credit union there."

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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