Friendship-West offers credit union services and financial literacy to members in hopes of expanding

Dr. Frederick Haynes, senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church. Screenshot by Selena Seabrooks/The Dallas Examiner

 

By SELENA SEABROOKS

The Dallas Examiner

 

In 2014, Friendship-West Baptist Church acquired Faith Cooperative Credit Union to offer members of the community an alternative to payday and car title loans. Recently, Dr. Frederick Haynes, senior pastor of Friendship-West, took time to discuss plans for the future of the credit union.

The inspiration to acquire a credit union was sparked when he decided to take on the payday loan industry, according to Haynes.

He said when he returned from vacation in either 2009 or 2010, he saw that a plant nursery on the corner of Hampton Road and Wheatland Road had been replaced by a payday loan store.  Haynes said that at the time he was ignorant of what a payday loan was, so he did some research. He found that payday loans “basically exploit, in a legal fashion, those who are desperate.”

Haynes explained that he and others organized a response, which included a march and a protest, and eventually the payday loan store closed. Also, through his research, he found that within the circumference of five mega churches – Friendship-West, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Antioch Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, Concord Church and IBOC – there were 25 payday and car title loan stores.

“That meant that the community that we claimed to be serving was being exploited by legalized loan sharks. These predators… these pimps… economic pimps. So, for me, that was unacceptable,” Haynes stated.

He started preaching about payday loans in church and said church members began to approach him with their stories about loans they had taken out and the interest rates on those loans.  He recalled one loan having an interest rate of more than 900%. Members of the community also voiced concerns that banks were also leaving the community.

Haynes stated that residents began to ask, “What options do we have?”  The community voiced, “We are underbanked, underserved, under-resourced, and you just took up and declared war against the only entity we have for getting a loan.”  Because of this, Haynes said he began looking for a solution. Later that same year, the Nobel Prize was awarded to Muhammad Yunus who developed a “microloan fund,” which allowed for the lending of small-dollar loans at acceptable interest rates. Haynes took the concept of a microloan fund and brought it to Friendship-West.

“Because we want to help people and not hurt them like the payday loan industry has done,” he said.

Haynes said members of the church believed in the microloan concept and began giving to the fund. It was later discovered that a credit union was necessary to have the microloan fund legally work. As a result, Haynes began the process of establishing a credit union. His cousin, Byron Lattimore, informed him that St. John Missionary Baptist Church had a federal credit union that was struggling. Friendship-West had the money and the members, and St. John had the federal credit union charter, so the two merged.

Haynes stated that when he was a student at Bishop College, he joined St. John and opened a savings account with the credit union that he had forgotten about for 20 years.

“It was really for me, an act of God because on one level, God saw my heart, we wanted to do this microloan fund but we didn’t have the vehicle to fully do it,” he said. “So then, my own hook up with the church I was a member of while I was in college and then my cousin, who was serving as chairman of the board, and we just came together and said let’s do this.”

The credit union currently offers basic banking services such as checking and savings accounts.  It also offers club accounts to save for future or special events, certificates of deposit, personal loans and GAP protection.

What is unique, according to Haynes, is that it is the only credit union to his knowledge that offers microloans, which he referred to as Liberty Loans for those with less than perfect credit. He stated that it has future plans to offer home loans as well as business loans.

 

The financial literacy program

Haynes stated that they offer members a financial literacy program in a class format.

“One of the things that we discovered is that a lot of us are first- or second-generation when it comes to having money. It’s not a lot of old money in Oak Cliff. It’s not a lot of old money in South Dallas. That’s Highland Park, so, that means that a lot of us are just learning how to handle money,” Haynes said.

He stated that when he graduated from college and started pastoring at Friendship-West, he was “horrific” with handling money. He thought money was what you were supposed to spend.

“That’s what I did. I got it, spent it,” he recalled. “I did not save it.  I did not have a savings plan because I was financially illiterate … My dollars made no sense. One of the things we’ve determined to do is teach people how to handle their money and in a responsible fashion so that they not only save, but they develop a plan for their financial future. They develop financial goals. They develop an ability to invest and become financially literate.

“We’re in a capitalist society, so how are you going to be successful in a capitalistic country if you are not familiar and fluent with the language of capitalism. That’s what we’re trying to do … to ensure that those who are a part of our credit union family, that they become financially fluent with the language of capital and capitalism; therefore, setting themselves up to live in a way in the future that is economically healthy.

“For me, economic development is not just a lot of businesses growing up around us. Economic development has to start with individuals, who themselves become financially fluent, literate and start to grow and they can discern what businesses to either support or develop themselves,” Haynes stated.

 

Importance of financial security South of downtown

Haynes recalled a meeting with City Manager T.C. Broadnax last year. He said Broadnax told him that South of Downtown represented more than 50% of the city’s landmass, but less than 15% of the land value.

“When you look at that big picture, it’s almost as if we’re on a side of town that is financially set up for failure,” Haynes reflected. “We’re on a side of town where years ago, and I’m sure it’s much more now, they were saying every year $2 billion goes from south to north – because where do we shop? North. Where do we have the best restaurants and services? Out north.  So, you have those of us on the southside of town, traveling north to get services because we don’t have them on the southside of town.

“A part of financial literacy, for me, grows us to understand that we have to start doing for ourselves, building our own community and not setting ourselves up for gentrifiers to come in and colonize our community. And before you know it, they develop what really is, let’s be frank, the most beautiful side of town is south.  When you talk about trees and topography, it’s on our side of town.  You see all of the freeway expansion and all of these notices in our mailboxes about I want to buy your property. That’s not accidental, it’s that there are those who recognize that this is a valuable side of town that the city has intentionally neglected, devalued, and if we’re not careful, they’ll come in and swoop in like vultures, take it from us and then we’ll be gone.

“But when we become financially literate and we start thinking in terms of 1. ‘How can I become financially stable,’ set up for myself a financial future for me and my family, but then 2. then I start thinking as the Africans say, ‘Ubuntu,’ with a consciousness that is about the community, ‘I am because we are. We are therefore I am,’ so as a consequence, I’m not just saving for myself, I’m thinking about buying Black. I’m thinking about investing in Black businesses. I’m thinking about doing my part to ensure that we have an economically healthy community…we have the talent, we got the culture.

“Everybody loves Black culture, can’t stand Black people, but they love our culture. So, they love to pimp our culture, make money off our culture and my thing is, it’s because we’re not always financially literate. We’ve got to be financial literate. We’ve got to have an economic consciousness, because when we put all of that together, then we start building our community.”

He said he recently had an opportunity to testify before the Senate House Financial Services Committee. “I said these payday loans, not only are they immoral and unethical because they engage in what the Bible calls usury, but it’s not even good sensible business because, when you are putting people in deeper financial holes, then that hurts the whole community invariably.  And yet, when you meet an emergency need with a loan percentage rate that is not exploiting but saying, ‘Hey, we still have to be able to service the loan, but we’re not going to exploit you in the process,’ it’s still good business. We haven’t gone out of business doing that,” he stated.  Haynes said that in the five years that the credit union offered the Liberty loan, the credit union has only had one default.

Currently, the credit union is only open to members and family members of St. John and Friendship-West.

“We’re trying to expand this right now. Of course, we’re having to abide by federal charter guidelines,” Haynes said.

He explained that they are currently looking at other churches to bring into and under the umbrella of the credit union. They are also trying to add additional members geographically but are still limited to the guidelines of a federally chartered credit union.

“Right now, we’re trying to see if they can give us, for example, like a radius of five miles from those churches of Friendship-West and St. John. We exploring as many ways as possible, because again, in all honesty, my goal is, if you live in our community, I want you to be able to have access to this credit union,” Haynes explained.

The credit union is onsite at Friendship-West, located at 2020 West Wheatland Road. More information can be found at https://www.faithcfcu.com or by calling 972-228-5222.

“It’s a real important thing that’s happening and unfortunately our community gets pimped too often,” Haynes said.

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