In January 2003, the Bradley Initiative Credit Union opened its doors as one of two community development credit unions in the state of Tennessee.
Community development credit unions focus their efforts in low-income neighborhoods, but offer services across all income and asset levels. The grand opening was the culmination of two years of work by a cross section of more than 50 Cleveland and Bradley County residents.
The group was organized by the Bradley Initiative for Church and Community to answer an identified need in the community; that is, providing the opportunity for all to have a relationship with a financial institution, according to Brenda Hughes, BICC executive director. She has served as a credit union board member since its opening.
“The past 10 years have seen the credit union overcome many obstacles including the recent Great Recession that challenged so many financial institutions,” Hughes said. “Because of a committed board, strong community support and God’s grace, BICU has not only survived, but prospered.”
Part of the work from 2001 to 2003 was to raise capital that would ensure long-term viability. More than 100 individuals and businesses contributed to that effort, bolstered by lead gifts of $150,000 from the George R. Johnson Family Foundation and $100,000 from Alan Jones/Check into Cash. A total of $330,000 was raised.
The credit union opened its doors on Jan. 18, 2003. The credit union located in the Family Resource Center (former Blythe Avenue Elementary School) in a converted classroom.
Many community members donated time and expertise to the conversion project, Hughes explained. Prior to opening, the initial BICU board identified Denis Collins as the person to manage the credit union. Collins brought more than 30 years of experience in the banking and financial services industry, including work with a similar credit union in Chattanooga. Under his direction and guidance, the credit union has grown to more than 1,200 members with an asset size of approximately $2 million and total loans of more than $1.4 million.
Collins continues to lead the credit union today. He describes his work as “serving the underserved.”
Assisting Collins in the credit union’s first seven years of operation was Jean Malone. Diane Nabors now serves as principal teller. Margaret Gilbert has served as both teller and financial literacy director.
“Their exceptional attitudes and willingness to serve others has been a key ingredient to the success of BICU,” Hughes cited.
Ed McIntire has served as board chairman since the credit union began operations and chaired the original steering committee that formed BICU.
“The experience of helping start and grow this unique financial institution has been a wonderful adventure,” McIntire said. “We have been so fortunate to have benefited from so many in our community. Our original steering committee worked diligently for two years to make this dream a reality.”
He added, “Our capital campaign allowed us to have long-term security and to start out on the right foot. The banking and credit union community helped create a viable business plan and projections that have been amazingly accurate. Denis (Collins) has juggled innumerable responsibilities and his loyal customer base has been a huge blessing. Jean, Margaret and Diane have developed the trust of our membership through their kindness and expertise and we have had an enthusiastic, engaged board. We look forward to many more years of serving Cleveland and Bradley County.”
The official mission of the credit union is to provide small loans at reasonable rates, encourage regular savings and promote financial literacy, Hughes explained.
The credit union can be reached at 559-1181.
The annual meeting is set for Thursday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m. at the Family Resource Center located at 1075 Blythe Ave. S.E. All members are encouraged to attend.
A community appreciation picnic to celebrate the 10-year anniversary is set for Saturday, June 1, at the playground outside the credit union. All are welcome, Hughes said.