Vashon’s credit union slated to open March 1

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The Vashon branch of the Bellevue-based Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union is set to open Tuesday, March 1, next to Frame of Mind.

Frequently called by its initials, PSCCU has planned to open a branch on Vashon since last fall, after developing a collaborative relationship with a group of Islanders working to create a credit union on the Island. Now, a little more than a year after that group first came together, the credit union is ready to serve Island individuals, families and businesses.

Last week, Shannon Ellis-Brock, a PSCCU vice president, expressed enthusiasm about the opening, with more than 100 Islanders already members, some innovative programs in place and more ideas in the wings.

“I am excited about finding out about the needs of the community and how the credit union can meet those needs,” she said.

PSCCU will offer a variety of financial services, including savings accounts, interest-earning checking accounts with VISA debit cards, low-volume business and checking accounts, certificates of deposit — known as “share certificates” in credit union parlance — a variety of loans and access to surcharge-free ATM machines nationwide.

In addition to the expected services of a credit union, PSCCU is offering low-interest energy efficiency loans in a partnership with WisEnergy, a Vashon-based nonprofit working to reduce the Island’s energy consumption. These loans are not for people who are purchasing a large item such as a furnace and thus have it to use as collateral, but for people who do not have the available cash to make smaller energy efficiency improvements, such as insulating and air sealing their homes. With this new program, according to Ellis-Brock, people can borrow up to $4,000.

Another way PSCCU may be able to serve the community, she noted, is through the establishment of revolving loan funds.

Any group or individual can raise funds, she said, and make those funds available to other people. PSCCU will hold the money, but the group or individual would administer the fund and determine who could borrow from it.

The possibilities this kind of fund creates is particularly exciting to Bill Moyer, one of the primary forces behind bringing a credit union to the Island. For example, Moyer said, the Vashon Island Growers Association could create a fund for farmers to draw from to make small improvements. Or a church group could open an account and make those funds available for education or micro-lending.

Ellis-Brock noted that it is important to PSCCU that its branches serve its communities in a variety of ways. Toward that end, the agency has hired three long-time Islanders to work at the credit union. And during the renovation, PSCCU relied on as many local businesses as possible. Islander Greg Kruse served as the contractor and hired local subcontractors as well. Robinson Furniture provided the new carpeting, and Bob Powell made the sign — a work of art in copper, and steel — above the ATM machine.

Taking a break from preparing the new office last Friday, Ellis-Brock noted the absence of teller windows — each staff member sits at a desk in the open office. Also missing will be deposit and withdrawal slips.

“They are a waste of paper,” she said.

With the opening of the credit union days way, Moyer said he is feeling victorious.

“Our initiative and hardwork was rewarded with the manifestation of the very thing we hoped for,” he said.

Moyer noted that members of the credit union working group are still playing a role, now serving as a bridge between the new branch and various sectors of the community, such as farmers, those working on energy efficiency and church communities.

What’s more, Moyer and John Staczek, another member of the working group, have been appointed to the PSCCU board, where they will serve along with 13 other members and provide guidance and direction for the credit union’s operations.

On the eve PSCCU’s opening, some of the Island’s bank managers expressed support for the new financial institution.

“We welcome the addition of a credit union and believe it will be an asset to our community,” said Bank of America manager Barbara Rice in a recent e-mail. “There are many depositors on the Island, and the credit union will provide specific services to a select population. Vashon Island has always thrived on diversity, and the support shown toward establishing a credit union reflects that.”

“We always welcome new business to the island because it’s a true sign of the continued strength of our community,” said Cheryl Hunt, branch manager at U.S. Bank.

At Chase, long-time manager Patte Wagner is set to retire after 30 years at the bank and is focusing on what comes next for her outside of the banking world. Still, she said,” I am going to wish everybody the best of luck.”

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