PARKERSBURG - Credit unions have been part of the financial landscape of West Virginia for many years, and the West Virginia Credit Union League has been serving its members for almost three-quarters of a century.
The West Virginia Credit Union League held its 75th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration Tuesday at its Cedar Grove Road location. Representatives from many credit unions around the state as well as some who helped found a number of credit unions gathered to remember their history as well as look towards the future of the industry.
There are more than 107 credit unions in West Virginia serving more than 400,000 customers, said Ken Watts, president of the West Virginia Credit Union League.
The West Virginia Credit Union League held its 75th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration Tuesday.
Collectively, credit unions hold $2.7 billion in assets, which are federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration, an agency of the federal government.
A credit union is a nonprofit financial cooperative owned and operated by its members and provides financial services to the membership, Watts said. Credit unions are chartered by groups of people usually through occupation, association and/or residence, he added.
''There are more now done through residence; people who live and work within a certain area,'' Watts said.
Photo by Brett Dunlap
Tom Walker, chairman of the board for the West Virginia Credit Union League, unveiled a series of posters detailing the history of credit unions around the state as well as the people and events responsible for the growth and development of credit unions through a collective effort in West Virginia.
The first organizational meeting of the West Virginia Credit Union League was held in Huntington on April 5, 1937. Credit Union supporters felt that following the passage of the Federal Credit Union Act in 1934 by Congress, a more permanent organization should be established to further develop and support the growing credit union movement, officials said.
The League is governed by a 9-member volunteer board of directors elected from across the state. The League's headquarters has been in Parkersburg since 1974.
Many of the people who have been in the business for many years said automation and computers have really changed how they were able to conduct business. Officials announced Tuesday the e-WV Online Encyclopedia now has a listing regarding the history and presence of credit unions in the state.
The League's leadership unveiled a number of posters they will be hanging around their building, detailing the history of credit unions around the state as well as the the people and events responsible for the growth and development of credit unions through a collective effort in West Virginia.
One of those early innovators was Jose A. Alonzo who spent most of his life working in the credit union movement, serving as the past president of the League for 20 years from 1968 to 1988.
''(Credit unions) are so much like a bank nowadays, you can't really tell them apart,'' Alonzo said. ''The banks are acting like credit unions and the credit unions are acting like banks, but they are providing a lot of good services to people, particularly the lower income and working class people get a better start and a better foundation with their lending and savings habits.''
Gene Stump, who helped found the Blennerhassett Credit Union and others around the state, met his wife, Cathy, at the 25th annual meeting for the West Virginia Credit Union League. They have been married for almost 50 years and they will be going to 75th annual meeting soon having never missed one in the time they have been involved.
Stump said credit unions are now able to do more for their memberships, but the basic idea still remains the same.
''The simple way of putting it is a credit union is people helping people,'' he said.
A Pin Oak tree was planted on the grounds to commemorate the event. Pin Oaks were prevalent in the area around where the League building was built. Officials though it would be fitting to plant another tree to commemorate all the work credit unions have done to build up the industry over years.
The industry itself is continually changing.
''The changes I have seen over the years is there are fewer credit unions, but the ones still here are larger and they are providing more sophisticated services,'' Watts said. ''Some of the challenges are in compliance with regulations.
''Credit Unions have to comply with all the same consumer regulations any financial institution does.''
Since many credit unions are still run by volunteers, part of the League's role is educate the credit unions' leadership about all the new programs out there.
''(The League) is not a credit union as such, but we represent all of them in the state,'' Watts said. ''The reason we are still in existence is that credit unions have been successfully been serving its members over the years.
''It is not the organization, but the credit unions themselves believing they can do a lot more together than they could individually. It is a celebration of credit unions willing to cooperate.''