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Esau Jenkins - C.O. Federal Credit Union Reaches Out To Blacks
4/22/2015 4:46:49 PM

Rev. Ed McClain
Staff Reports

The C.O. Federal Credit Union in Charleston is the region’s only financial institution established and operated by Blacks. Retired AME Church pastor Rev. Ed McClain says if Black churches in the region support it as they do others, the Black community would have an institution that could address its financial needs.

For security reasons, the credit union located at 117 Spring St. in downtown Charleston doesn’t keep a lot of cash on hand, so they don’t cash a lot of checks. But for a small membership fee of $5 the credit union provides just about every other financial service. It’s slogan is “Not for profit, not for charity, but for service”.

After 42 years despite relatively low interest rates and a willingness to take risks on loans many other lending institutions won’t, the credit union remains an untapped resource the Black community can ill afford to waste. McClain said the Black community has been given the answer to many of its financial issues. C.O. Federal Credit Union represents an opportunity to create an avenue to address those issues, he said. There literally are thousands of Black churches in the metropolitan Charleston area. If only more would become members of the credit union it could be unmatched as a financial resource, he said.

“On Monday mornings we invest our money in institutions that won’t lend us our own money. Black restaurants are a parallel. We patronize everybody else’s restaurants, but they don’t patronize ours. On Sundays, you can’t get into Golden Corral or Ryan’s because of us. And although we are the most patrons of Chinese restaurants, we can’t even get a job at one,” McClain said. “We don’t carve out niches. We become followers of the norm.”

C.O. Federal Credit Union Board of Directors President Robert Smalls said getting Blacks to join the credit union has been a challenge since its establishment in 1970. The late civil rights activist Esau Jenkins founded the credit union to make low interest loans available to African Americans who often were denied service at major financial institutions. Because many blacks lack financial education its membership isn’t reflective of the local African American population.

But that’s not because the credit union doesn’t represent a viable financial alternative, he said. With over $2 million in assets, the credit union offers competitive resources to the Black community and its churches, Smalls said.

In addition to providing savings accounts, personal loans of up to $5,000 and auto loans of up to $30,000, the credit union’s most valuable service is information. For $10 the credit union can pull a credit report and help people find out what’s on their report or how they can clean up their credit. The credit union also conducts financial workshops. It has upgraded its technology systems, but without strong support from the community, Black churches and businesses especially, growth will continue to be slow.

Echoing McClain Smalls said, “Our churches deposit their money into banks on Monday which are used for commercial loans, but their members can’t borrow their own money. Through our secured loan program members can make personal loans at an eight percent interest rate that is secured by their church’s deposits.

“We serve people many other financial institutions don’t want to serve,” said Smalls. “Our loan policies are less stringent than most banks or those of finance companies and our interest rates are lower,” he noted.

For information about the credit union’s services call Claudette Smith at 722-7656 or visit the credit union’s office at 117 Spring St. at the corner of Rutledge Avenue. The credit union is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Visitor Comments

Submitted By: Latashia Submitted: 4/27/2015
I never knew this CU existed, and I'm born and raised in Charleston. I'm thinking about bring my business to this CU, although I didn't see any references to home loans in this article or when I research it online. I do hope there are plans to establish a user friendly website in the near future.

Submitted By: Aisha Submitted: 4/28/2015
I never knew about this but I will def take a look.

Submitted By: Hasani Ali Submitted: 5/4/2015
What's the area code in SC? I'm going to give them a call ASAP!

Submitted By: Submitted: 5/5/2015
After reading this article I called them immediately. The area code is 843. Too bad you have to live in Charleston to be a member.

Submitted By: CharlestonGOOD Submitted: 8/18/2015
We will be promoting this community institution, for sure. Thanks to the Chron for the great info.

Submitted By: Lover of Africans Submitted: 8/18/2015
Despite the positives this institution has to offer most of our people will remain closed minded and continue to support businesses that will never support them! Unfortunately they're still enslaved mentally. I certainly will become a member as well as pass the information on.

Submitted By: thayion Submitted: 8/18/2015
I always back my people

Submitted By: Maukia Submitted: 8/18/2015
I never knew this bank existed. Thank you fir this information.

Submitted By: Scott's Grand Submitted: 8/19/2015
Will share and support this company.

Submitted By: Shatika Submitted: 8/19/2015
I'm definitely going to look more into them...I love banks like this

Submitted By: Nathaniel Doyle Submitted: 8/19/2015
Is this a lending institute? Just trying to figure out how I can establish relation's.

Submitted By: Jennifer Gadsden Submitted: 8/19/2015
Will definitely look into this CU

Submitted By: Benjamin Ward, Jr Submitted: 8/19/2015
I've never heard about this.. but I will find it and join

Submitted By: Monique Submitted: 8/19/2015
The area code is 843.. I never knew about this

Submitted By: Tanya Brown Submitted: 8/20/2015
I have lived here since 1998 and my parents were born and raised in Mount Pleasant this is the first time I have ever heard of this credit union. Great article and I am sure with the sharing of this knowledge more people will be giving you a call.

Submitted By: Charlene Sanders Watson Submitted: 8/20/2015
I never knew anything about this Credit Union, but I will look into it.

Submitted By: Arnetha Drayton Submitted: 9/6/2015
Thank you for information. Will certainly check out..

Submitted By: Tammy murphy Submitted: 5/3/2016
Never knew about this bank . I will be stopping in

Submitted By: Ernestine bowens Submitted: 5/4/2016
I've lived here forty-eight years and didn't know this establishment even exist.Glad to know your there will definitely look into it.

Submitted By: Tonya parker Submitted: 5/4/2016
Thank you for sharing this information I will be looking to open an account and spread this information

Submitted By: Shawn Submitted: 5/4/2016
Never knew this existed

Submitted By: Sophie Williams Submitted: 5/4/2016
I didn't know about this bank, Thanks in will check it out.

Submitted By: Gelise Submitted: 5/4/2016
I was not aware they existed. Especially when I was looking for a bank to help assist during the time , Ive gotten my second loan on another vehicle . But to God be the glory, We will definitely consider and check out this bank! & tell family and friends! #Supportourownbusinesses

Submitted By: Ivan campbell Submitted: 5/4/2016
Very interesting information!

Submitted By: Nadine Submitted: 5/4/2016
I never heard of this bank before!

Submitted By: Jalietta Davis Submitted: 5/4/2016
Never knew about this as well. What marketing strategies have been used or executed? We need to let the community know for those such as us that were not aware. Also, reconnect to those that did know but have not taken advantage. Rebranding in terms of "reminding many" is a good thing.

Submitted By: Jacqueline Ulmer Submitted: 5/4/2016
It is 2016 and this is the first I am hearing of this. I will look into it.

Submitted By: Harolyn A Submitted: 5/4/2016
I will be moving back to the SC area at the end of this month and will defiantly open an account. We need to start patronizing our own and growing up AME makes it even better!!! Thank you Rev. McClain

Submitted By: Shawnta Drayton Submitted: 5/4/2016
How are they gonna grow if they limit membership to Charleston?

Submitted By: John Evans Submitted: 5/4/2016
Never knew this place existed. They definitely need a web presence and should have a booth at Black Expo, as well as giving fliers to area churches to hand out after services. Too bad Emanuel AME hasn't deposited the millions in donations they received there.

Submitted By: linda smith Submitted: 5/4/2016
Why isn't jyst restricted to Charleston

Submitted By: Darryl Green Submitted: 5/5/2016
I will definitely be using this service and letting all of my family and friends know of Its existence !

Submitted By: Robert Brown Jr Submitted: 5/5/2016
Greetings in Christ Jesus my fellow AME. I am also the son of The now Retired AME minister Rev. Robert A. Brown Jr. The concept is great and I am in New York and would like to join your Credit Union .

Submitted By: Cindy Hunt Submitted: 5/5/2016
Never knew this bank exsisted. I will be looking further into it.

Submitted By: Sharon Davis Submitted: 5/5/2016
How wonderful, I'm a member of a credit union

Submitted By: Sharon Davis Submitted: 5/5/2016
How wonderful, I'm a member of a credit union

Submitted By: Sharon Davis Submitted: 5/5/2016
I'm a credit union member, this is OWESOME

Submitted By: Janice Hearn Submitted: 5/5/2016
Never knew about this credit union I can use some financial advice in becoming a home owner and cleaning up my credit

Submitted By: Blades Barbershop Submitted: 5/5/2016
I am definitely on it!!!

Submitted By: Wanda Submitted: 5/7/2016
I've lived in dtn chas since 1980 n never ever heard of this credit union will be looking into it thanks for the information

Submitted By: Wanda Submitted: 5/7/2016
I've lived in dtn chas since 1980 n never ever heard of this credit union will be looking into it thanks for the information

Submitted By: Wanda Submitted: 5/7/2016
I've lived in dtn chas since 1980 n never ever heard of this credit union will be looking into it thanks for the information

Submitted By: Mary jordan Submitted: 5/15/2016
I am retiree. I would like to buy the house I am living in. The only problem is that my credit is poor. Can I get someone from the bank to walk me through repairing my credit so I can buy this house with no money down. Please send me info.

Submitted By: Mary Snyder Submitted: 5/15/2016
Listening to him preach on the radio and just knowin him from family members....i never knew this bank existed but I'll be glad to go by and open an account soon.

Submitted By: Lakeshia rivers Submitted: 7/7/2016
Just learn of this bank ,I will be opening up an account here .

Submitted By: Ashley Wright Submitted: 7/8/2016
I never knew this Credit Union existed, but I will be coming in to open a savings account

Submitted By: Shanelle Submitted: 7/8/2016
I've been living in Charleston since 1998, and I knew it was located on spring street, I think at the corner of Rutledge ave. in the brown brick building, but I thought it was closed. Good to know their not. Will definitely check it out.

Submitted By: Shanelle Submitted: 7/8/2016
I've been living in Charleston since 1998, and I knew it was located on spring street, I think at the corner of Rutledge ave. in the brown brick building, but I thought it was closed. Good to know their not. Will definitely check it out.

Submitted By: Artina Sheppard Submitted: 7/8/2016
I need to rebuild my credit after losing a business. How can I do it with this bank

Submitted By: J. Denise Cromwell Submitted: 7/8/2016
After reading through some of the comments I noticed that and number of people expressing this Bank's existing, that's an easy fix if everyone would share and repost this information and secondly the bank need to send a letter to each and every black church in and around the state of South Carolina soliciting their business perhaps Call a town hall meeting on the topic.

Submitted By: Linda Submitted: 7/8/2016
Thank you I will most definitely look into this, this is a very informative article .

Submitted By: S. Griffin Submitted: 7/9/2016
Do you help with refinancing?

Submitted By: Veronica Hoard Submitted: 7/9/2016
I had absolutely no idea this bank even exist! I will be there on Monday morning! They're offering everything I need! I'm soo glad I read this!

Submitted By: Ashley H Submitted: 7/9/2016
I will most definitely be opening and account I need more info

Submitted By: Cheryl Swinton Weston Submitted: 7/9/2016
I never knew that this ever existed! I am a small writing coach and publishing business. I would love to join your credit union. I am a native of Mt. Pleasant SC.

Submitted By: Ruby J. Stevenson Submitted: 7/9/2016
This is great. I would love to join, are there any branches in New York,.

Submitted By: Jennifer Weldon Submitted: 7/9/2016
Hello, I have never heard of your institution and I am a native of the lowcountry. I am definitely going to contact you.

Submitted By: willette Submitted: 7/9/2016
awesome Share. Please Contact me if you need help in speaking with our Church leaders for support. African Americans Banks "Black wall St." Can happen again. We did it Before. We will do it again. Almighty God bless us

Submitted By: Donia Cook Submitted: 7/9/2016
Do you have to be a resident to join?

Submitted By: Donia Cook Submitted: 7/9/2016
Do you have to be a resident to join?

Submitted By: Donia Cook Submitted: 7/9/2016
Do you have to be a resident to join?

Submitted By: Khalil S. Submitted: 7/10/2016
I have the solution for this. Contact Me by email.

Submitted By: Rose Parson Submitted: 7/10/2016
Will be calling this week

Submitted By: Janice Samples Submitted: 7/11/2016
I just called the credit union and I'm from Cali the members must be from the county the bank is i,, so all Charleston natives contact the credit union and do business.

Submitted By: robert m. pipkin Submitted: 7/12/2016
i will be looking into joining this bank. I am going through alot with my credit and i truly would like to get it fix

Submitted By: Eva knowlin Submitted: 7/12/2016
Is there a branch in Georgetown if so where is it.

Submitted By: Mary Murray Submitted: 7/14/2016
Is the credit union opened to customers outside of Charleston?

Submitted By: Belinda Submitted: 7/14/2016
It seems that businesses in our community will not open or close during hours necessary for everyone to be able to use their services. One day opening earlier will help & my current bank stays open 2 Friday's a month. 10-5 doesn't allow me to ever come into the bank to even open an account.

Submitted By: Patricia Palmer Submitted: 7/15/2016
I will be coming there soon. Don't know a lot about down town

Submitted By: Trina Submitted: 8/31/2016
A Good credit union to join. I've been a member since 2002 and they financed both of my cars. Love Mrs Claudette and Latashia.

Submitted By: Janie Banks Johnson Submitted: 9/24/2016
I have an account to both credit unions. Heritage Trust/ South Carolina. Give me a good reason to join your bank other than being Black Owned. Why are there only certain days the bank is open. That is one inconvenience which open doors to your competitors. If this bank was around for all of these years why is not well know to its Black Community. What is downtown Charleston becoming more and more Gentrify. Low income apts are about to be condemned. Instead of Bi-Lo coming in buying Piggly Wiggly, That could have been a Black Owned Grocery store. Now the hotel brought. I'm Nothing Further.

Submitted By: Rhonda H. Submitted: 1/6/2017
I will definitely start doing business with the Credit Union. I never knew about this business until recent but will refer all my friends and family going forward.

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