For immediate release: Monday, March 18, 2013
Tacoma, WA — The evening of February 26, 2013, proved to be a big night for Shreveport Federal Credit Union ($87 million; 20,477 members; Shreveport, LA) President and CEO Helen Godfrey-Smith, who was honored by the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) and won the Credit Union Times 2013 Trailblazer Award for her consistent efforts to help financially underserved individuals throughout Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta. CU Strategic Planning’s founder Jamie Chase nominated Godfrey-Smith (a CU Strategic Planning client), who received her Trailblazer Award at the publication’s awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., which followed a day at the credit union industry’s largest conference, the 2013 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference.
Watch a video from the NCBA CLUSA reception.
Prior to receiving her Trailblazer Award, Godfrey-Smith was also honored earlier in the evening by NCBA CLUSA President and CEO Michael Beall for her credit union’s exemplary collaboration with other cooperatives, as part of a reception to launch NCBA CLUSA’s Community Development Initiative. Shreveport FCU is using CU Strategic Planning’s Community Development Certified Financial Counseling in its work to serve the underserved.
“When you take a look at the cross-sector work that Helen is doing, it is the example of what platform NCBA CLUSA wants to be – which is making sure that all kinds of cross-sector initiatives are working,” Beall said. “Helen is an amazing person and we are honored to toast her and her credit union’s continued work to help the underserved build better lives and better communities.”
At the Credit Union Times Trailblazer Awards ceremony, Godfrey-Smith won the “Outstanding Service to the Underserved” award for the numerous innovative low-income, member development programs her credit union provides and that accomplish far more than most financial institutions ever dream of doing. A couple of the Shreveport FCU’s many initiatives exemplify its generosity include:
1. Shreveport FCU assists soon-to-be-released, local prison inmates to ensure their integration and access to financial services for a positive re-start.
2. Shreveport FCU boasts a loan portfolio that is predominately low-income D and E borrowers – and some with no credit score at all.
One of the many reasons the credit union lends to predominantly low-income individuals is the make-up of its membership. Approximately 86% of Shreveport FCU’s membership receiving products and services are considered low-income. Of this 86%, 4% are considered low-income, 38% are considered very low-income and 44% are extremely low-income. From these numbers, it’s easy to see why Shreveport FCU goes above and beyond to lend to people in Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta when no one else will.
“I am completely honored and humbled to receive this award, as we don’t embark on programs like this for accolades,” Godfrey-Smith said. “We have a huge responsibility in our community to serve those who really need help. It is truly an honor to lift up our members in need and help them gain a firm financial footing so our communities will ultimately thrive. Working for Shreveport Federal Credit Union, it is our obligation to help and we are proud to offer it everyday to anyone.”
Shreveport FCU’s unique prison inmate financial induction program started three years ago when the Parish/County Corrections Department worked with the State of Louisiana to decrease the high percentage of inmates consistently returning to prison. Shreveport FCU’s strong image within the community as a financial institution that would provide people with a second chance made it a perfect candidate to approach.
The inmate financial induction program, aptly named the Inmate Re-Entry Program (“…back to society, not back to jail,” Godfrey-Smith clarifies), is available to all inmates who are within 90 days of release. Shreveport’s part in the program is targeted toward imparting a healthier attitude about money, as many of the inmates are incarcerated because of an unhealthy attitude toward money and its negative role in their lives.
“The idea to do this particular project required a good deal of thought and quite frankly, prayer,” Godfrey-Smith explained. “The thought of introducing every inmate exiting the corrections system to our institution was daunting. But I simply changed my thoughts from fear to faith.”
“I can’t think of a more deserving credit union leader to receive these honors,” CU Strategic Planning’s Jamie Chase said. “When we first heard about this award opportunity from Credit Union Times, Helen Godfrey-Smith was immediately at the top of our list to nominate – and we knew she would win. We also thought her work coincided perfectly with NCBA CLUSA’s work in the cooperative movement, so we believed a toast in her honor was highly appropriate from the organization’s leader. Congratulations to her and all those who work so hard at Shreveport Federal Credit to help others obtain a better life through the credit union’s bold and generous efforts.”