Bringing New Hope to South Toledo: Nueva Esperanza first Latino Credit Union in Ohio, third in nation
The best thing about neighborhoods is the “community” they create among their residents. There is a sense of belonging, of security, to know that people like you are around. The businesses in a neighborhood are critical to building and growing that sense of community.
“My job is to provide trust, information and support to our customers to make them feel comfortable here,” said Sue Cuevas, President and CEO of Nueva Esperanza Community Credit Union.
So if residents of Toledo’s Old South End want to create an account, buy a new device, or save up for a citizenship loan, they have a neighborhood shop. The credit union opened in 2011 as the first chartered Latino credit union in Ohio and the third in the United States. Today it maintains a $ 2 million loan portfolio with nearly 850 members and 1,200 accounts.
Establish neighborly contacts
“I was the only full-time employee and starting a credit union was a new experience for me,” said Cuevas, who has over 25 years of banking and finance management experience. She attended Latino festivals, organizations and churches, neighborhood shops and people on the street and talked to them about joining the credit union.
“I literally did my business from my car with a photocopier in my back seat,” she recalls.
Many of the credit union’s customers have little experience of banking. “Many of my customers have been financially abused by their home countries in the past,” explains Cuevas. They were reluctant to deposit their money with an outside facility, let alone apply for a loan.
“We had to adapt our business processes to the needs of our customers,” she said. “We explained how the credit unions experience worked – in their own language – and built trust in our community.”
Building a reputation in the community
Nueva Esperanza offers loans to ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) customers who are legally resident in the US but cannot obtain a Social Security number. “Often times we are the first organization willing to give them a loan,” she said.
As a traditional credit union, membership is open to anyone who works, lives, goes to school, church, or does volunteer work in Lucas County. Having gained prominence among Latinos, the credit union now includes members living in Lucas, Defiance, Wood, Fulton, Henry, and Williams Counties of Ohio and Lenawee Counties of Michigan.
They also received collaborative awards with state and national Louise Herring Philosophy in Action Awards, the 2019 Hispanic Government Ohioan’s Nuestra Familia Award, and the 2018 local Cesar Chavez Award for community service.
In 2018, they moved to their new facility on the lower level of the ProMedica Compassion Health facility at 1638 Broadway St. and took on a part-time worker.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge for the credit union in 2020. “We saw a decline in deposits over the course of the year of the pandemic,” Cuevas said. “Many of our members lost their jobs during this time. We’ve helped several neighborhood food trucks start up and 2020 has been tough for many of them. ”However, she noted that deposits have improved recently as neighborhood stores reopen and job prospects improve .
“For many of our customers, the biggest challenge in life was getting to the United States,” said Cuevas. “We named the credit union Nueva Esperanza – New Hope – for a reason. Everyone has the right to access banking services in their own neighborhood. Founding this credit union was the most rewarding experience of my life. “