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A Unique Way to Give Back During the Holidays

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Banking with Community Development Financial Institutions can help underprivileged communities. (Syda Productions/Adobe Stock)
Banking with Community Development Financial Institutions can help underprivileged communities. (Syda Productions/Adobe Stock)
December 23, 2020

CHICAGO -- Many people make charitable donations during the holiday season, but there's another way they can help their communities. Folks can make a difference by choosing where they put their money.

Community Development Financial Institutions provide affordable financial services for communities that often are overlooked by traditional banks and lenders.

"If you care about your community, or if you care about the environment, or if you care about supporting entrepreneurs of color or women entrepreneurs, making a deposit in a CDFI is one to do that, to align with your own values," said Kimberly Jones, manager of investor relations at the Chicago branch of Self-Help Credit Union.

Jones said the money people deposit into places such as Self-Help circulates through these communities, doing most of the work CDFIs are known for. She added that her credit union makes home and consumer loans in areas other financial institutions tend to avoid, focusing on rural and low-income populations and communities of color.

Alia Bilal, deputy director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network in Chicago, said her organization helps local neighborhoods in a number of ways, including through a health center, arts and culture and community organizing. The network's newest project is a fresh-produce market and community space on Chicago's South Side.

"The fresh market is what Self Help has provided some of the seed funding for us, to be able to acquire the building," she said. "And in spring of 2021, when it's opened, it's going to be the cornerstone of 'Go Green on Racine.'"

Bilal said she thinks it's important to choose institutions that are rooted in the same communities they serve.

Almost 3 million Illinoisans are credit-union members. Ebony Perkins, national resource manager for investor and community relations at Self-Help Federal Credit Union, said there's power in where you put your money, especially in the COVID-19 crisis.

"Placing your money with financial institutions that are making a difference in communities that are specifically hurting right now," she said. "That's also a form of giving, and that should not be overlooked."

She noted that credit unions also give federally backed Paycheck Protection Loans. Self-Help has tailored theirs to nonprofits during the pandemic.

Disclosure: Self-Help Credit Union contributes to our fund for reporting on Environment, Health Issues, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - IL