Attracted to the credit union movement by its motto—”not for profit, not for charity, but for service”—Rita L. Haynes began volunteering for the Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Credit Union (BCCU) in 1958, just six years after it was chartered, where she served as an unpaid volunteer for more than three decades. She shepherded the institution from a tiny office in a church basement to a free-standing credit union occupying a former bank branch office on Cleveland’s east side-a financially disadvantaged community marginalized by mainstream institutions. Under the direction of Haynes, the credit union provided not only much-needed financial services for church members, but also the guidance and financial education to help members build assets. Today, it serves some 6,000 members and counts $12 million in assets.
From 1982 to 1992, Haynes served as chairman of the Inner City Association of Minority Credit Unions, comprised of 28 church credit unions in Cleveland. During those years, Mt. Sinai BCCU and Antioch BCCU signed an agreement with the City of Cleveland’s Minority Business Development Department to establish a $200,000 revolving loan fund to provide small business loans to minority contractors. This cooperative effort was a first in Cleveland and assisted many small business owners to obtain contracts with the city.
With the abandonment of Cleveland’s inner city by banks and savings and loans in 1989, Haynes decided that Mt. Sinai BCCU’s future lay in providing needed financial services to the entire community. So she worked with a community cooperative organization comprised of businesses and religious organizations to obtain a charter for Cuyahoga County, which includes inner city Cleveland. In the process, Mt. Sinai BCCU changed its name to Faith Community United Credit Union in 1990 and opened its membership to anyone living, working or worshipping in Cuyahoga County. A year later, Faith Community United CU became self-supporting and doubled its membership. Under Haynes leadership, the credit union applied for and received the U.S. Treasury Department’s certification as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in 1997. In 1999, Faith Community United CU became an approved SBA lender.
Haynes direction transformed the credit union industry. In the late 1980s and early 1990s before society recognized the dangers of predatory lending, Faith Community United CU’s innovative “Grace,” “Greater Grace” and “Mercy” loan programs provided community members with a trustworthy and affordable alternative to payday lending, while simultaneously offering a stable financial relationship with a reputable community-based financial institution. Under Haynes’ direction, Faith Community also established a “Wheels” program that helped people pay for car repairs so they could get back to work. Because Haynes was at the forefront of the movement against predatory lending, she testified at numerous congressional hearings.
In 2005, Haynes received the Pete Crear Lifetime Achievement Award of the African-American Credit Union Coalition. In 2009, she received the highest award within the credit union movement-the Herb Wegner Award for Individual Achievement. She served as chair of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions Board of Directors for six terms. Her leadership was instrumental in keeping the Federation together and expanding its influence. In 2012, the Ohio Credit Union League named their network for small credit unions ($35 million and under) the Haynes Circle to honor Rita. Her commitment to the cooperative principles and deep faith in economic justice are legendary.
The Cooperative Hall of Fame is administered by the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation headquartered in Washington, D.C. promoting community, economic and social development through cooperative enterprises. The Cooperative Hall of Fame gallery is on display at NCBA CLUSA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and can also be viewed online at www.heroes.coop.