Greater Cleveland Community Credit Union
One of the oldest credit unions in Ohio, Greater Cleveland Community Credit Union (GCCCU) was established in November of 1936 with 39 owner-members, and exclusively served City of Cleveland workers for over 75 years. In 2017, the credit union began a new chapter by opening its membership to every person, business or organization that lives, works, worships, or attends school in Cuyahoga County.
Providing a personal touch in an impersonal industry
An important component of the credit union concept is to offer a more personal alternative in an industry known for its focus on the bottom line. In the “people helping people” segment of the financial industry, it’s common for credit union employees to know their members. And Greater Cleveland Community Credit Union—a nonprofit, member-owned financial cooperative—truly values its members and adds a personal touch to its interactions through an emphasis on respect and customer satisfaction.
“Our hope is that our members will get the best possible service they can get out of a financial institution,” says Greater Cleveland Community Credit Union CEO Gloria McClendon. “We are sticklers in terms of working for the membership and not for ourselves.”
McClendon says that their first duty is to make sure their members are satisfied with the products and services.
“And if they aren’t, or they have a question about something, I always make sure they know they can walk through that door and say ‘Gloria, I don’t understand this or that’ and we will take them to whatever level they need to be at in order to have the best experience. That’s our top priority.”
A community heavily impacted by the pandemic
When the pandemic struck, and the community was hit hard, GCCCU never stopped helping their people.
Many of GCCCU’s members were employed in areas—especially the food industry—that were forced to close once COVID hit. Some members ended up having to leave their jobs because child care centers were closing, restricting numbers, or increasing fees. And some employees were just too concerned about exposure to the virus to keep working.
“Our community was impacted in a big way,” McClendon says. “It was hard on everyone but especially single moms and our older members. There were so many obstacles. I know many who are still not working today.”
Luckily, GCCCU is part of a shared branch network. They quickly created messaging for their members to update them on days and times branches were open and assured them they wouldn’t have any interruption in service.
McClendon says that it was “by the grace of God” that they had—just before the pandemic—opened a new, smaller branch. In doing so, they had invested in laptops for the first time. This allowed several staff members to work safely from home for about six months at the start of COVID before reopening their offices.
“We were still in touch with our members—usually over the phone,” she says. “They needed us, and our services didn’t stop during that time.”
Fortunately, the credit union had become CDFI certified in 2020 and was awarded $1.8 million in Rapid Response funds in 2021. GCCCU put this grant money toward helping its members with mortgage, rent and utility payments.
The credit union sent out over 4,000 postcards—to both current and potential members—advertising this relief money and ways it can help community members get back on track.
“Some people even brought in eviction notices,” McClendon recalls. “We couldn’t help everyone of course. But anyone we could help, we did.”
Looking toward the future
McClendon explains that, without the option to conduct face-to-face open enrollment, membership numbers have dipped slightly since the pandemic. But, with new grants come new opportunities for marketing and ways to spread their message.
One of the messages that needs improving, McClendon says, is regarding a common misconception about credit unions and who they serve. She explains that people often assume they have to be part of a certain segment to become a member of all credit unions.
“It’s important to be out there trying to market the credit union in ways that people can understand that, not only do we have the best products and services, but that you are also part owner of the credit union once you join,” she says. “We try hard to cater to the membership because they are part owner.”
Along those lines, members have communicated to GCCCU that they would benefit from having ATMs installed in their offices. That’s one of the first orders of business for the credit union this year, along with updating their website to allow members online access to things like account opening.
Another big win for the credit union is that they now offer car loans and, in a partnership with myCU Mortgage, help provide mortgages to their membership.
“We are talking to new people every day and are starting to see our numbers climb back up,” McClendon says. “These new offerings help us accomplish our mission to help people. That’s why the credit union was created in the first place.”
Supporting an underserved population
Another reason why GCCCU was initially created was to help the local un-or-under banked community—mostly comprised of African American and Hispanic individuals and families—receive access to quality financial services.
Being in the financial industry for so long, McClendon says she has consistently watched as Black and Hispanic people were turned down for loans and financial assistance.
“Even compared to their White counterparts who maybe didn’t have as good of credit but were still getting approved,” she explains. “It’s true that things have gotten better for people of color, but there are still many barriers for us.”
“When we follow the intended credit union mission of people helping people—when we really focus on that—we can help eliminate racism in the community,” she explains. “We all have to be on the same page. When we are, we can really make a difference together.”