Miracle Maker Carrie Ostrem

CarrieOstremOne of the miracle makers here at CU Strategic Planning is Carrie Ostrem, our Director of Certification Services.

She brings a real talent for helping our client credit unions leap over hurdles in their way as they work to get certified. She can help them to identify issues and work through them to a successful outcome.

Carrie says that she appreciates how CU Strategic Planning can empower credit unions to help the underserved in their community. She told us, “Community development is essential to the prosperity and well being of communities throughout the nation.”

We asked Carrie if she could have a super-power, which super power would she choose (in addition to making miracles for clients, that is) and she told us she’d like the power to fly. “I’d like to be able to easily travel to see those I don’t see often and connect with people I’d love to be in more contact with.”

That’s about the nicest use of a super power we’ve heard.

Thanks for all you do, Carrie!

Trendwatch: More and More Credit Unions Are Certifying Their Staff as Community Development Certified Financial Counselors

There’s a growing trend among credit unions to certify their staff as Community Development Certified Financial Counselors.

One of the emerging credit unions is JetStream Federal Credit Union, which has seven branches in the Miami region and Puerto Rico.

They recently announced that their entire collections team has earned the designation of Community Development Certified Financial Counselor.

jetstreamfcuA spokesperson for JetStream FCU said of the program, “This designation is certified by the National Cooperative Business Association through its Community Development Initiative. It’s an essential tool for organizations serving moderate and low income populations, and an effective way for financial institutions to better serve their members when they face difficult times.”

With more than 75 percent of its members classified as low income, building a community development program to serve distressed members has been a priority for JetStream Federal Credit Union. The credit union was granted the designation of CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) in 2013 by the Treasury department.

The Collections team at JetStream Federal Credit Union

The Collections team at JetStream Federal Credit Union

“The skills we have acquired by earning this certification has provided my team with valuable knowledge that we can use every day to help us better understand and advise members who may be facing financial hardships,” explained Collections Manager, Maria Morales.

Interested credit unions can learn more about Community Development Certified Financial Counselors at HEROCounseling.org.

More About JetStream FCU

JetStream Federal Credit Union is a full-service financial cooperative with $157 million in assets, serving over 20,000 members. The 66-year-old credit union has 7 branches located in Miami, Miami Lakes, Doral and Hialeah, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Miracle Maker Profile of Wendi Gephart!

Wendi #1We’re continuing to feature some of the amazing miracle makers with CU Strategic Planning. Today, we visit with Wendi Gephart, our Director of Research and Grant Writing.

Wendi’s been with us since July of last year, and is passionate about helping our client credit unions assist people who are trying to climb out of poverty.

Over her nearly 20 years in the grants field, Wendi has earned an amazing 98% funding success rate, with almost $120 million funded. She has worked with dozens of nonprofit organizations, colleges, local, state, tribal, and regional governments, advocating for the arts, education, the environment and social justice.

Wendi says that she feels like nearly her entire career was in preparation to join the CU Strategic Planning team. As a leader of the most successful credit union CDFI grant writing team, she’s earned the title of miracle maker.

In addition to writing and managing grants, Wendi pays it forward by sharing her expertise as a teacher of grant writing and business plan development at Seattle Central Community College.

It’s an honor to work with you, Wendi!

An Interview with Helen Godfrey-Smith, Shreveport FCU

CDFI Connect has a great interview with one of our dear friends, CEO Helen Godfrey-Smith, at Shreveport FCU. Read on to see what a leader in the credit union movement is doing to build the financial capacity and credit-worthiness of her members, and the community at large:

Under the leadership of CEO Helen Godfrey-Smith, it specializes in reaching out today to what it calls the “unbanked and underbanked.”

As a CDFI and a Member of OFN, it is also an aggressive proponent of consumer education, promoting in its literature the importance of “thrift, savings and the wise use of credit” and advocating programs that help their members “manage and control their financial well-being, thus moving them to financial sustainability.”

Read more.

New features for HERO!


Hear ye, hear ye HERO subscribers!

We’ve added what we call a “practicum” to each of HERO’s training modules. The practicum helps users better understand and put what they’ve learned into practice. Whether it’s counseling a consumer, or providing advice to a family friend, the practicum—which comes just before the learning assessment in each module—helps lock in important concepts and helps make you (and your staff) more effective!

Consider it a nice little “birthday treat” for our one-year celebration.

And if you haven’t checked out HERO yet, this is just one more reason!

Get in touch to learn more.



This Month, We Are Celebrating One Year of HERO Counseling

Candle Cup Cake

One year ago this month, CU Strategic Planning, in partnership with the NCBA, launched HERO Counseling.

We want to take this opportunity to thank all our partners who are using HERO in credit unions and community banks. You are helping your members and customers by identifying their need, intervening, and coaching them. Not only are you improving their daily lives, you are making them more credit-worthy and better long-term customers.

What a deal!

So, truly: thank you to all our partners who joined us on the this journey!


The Miracle Makers at CU Strategic Planning

Our HERO Contest Winner: Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union!

Congratulations to our HERO Contest Winner, Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union!

Cooperative Federal recognizes that homeownership is a powerful tool for building assets and breaking the cycle of poverty. Cooperative Federal is able to help families of modest means by offering affordable mortgages, credit building, HUD-approved housing counseling, and down payment matching grants through their Matched Savings Program.

We found this story inspirational:

Two of their great employees are Kira Crawford (Matched Savings Coordinator) and Susan Hamilton (Mortgage Officer). Each of them collaborate to support first-time homebuyers, and one homebuyer they were able to help was Mary Mayom. A former refugee from Sudan, Mary had lived and rented a place in Syracuse for seven years but was finally feeling ready to lay down permanent roots in the city. However, as a part-time housekeeper who had fastidiously avoided debt, she had little savings and virtually no credit. But that all changed when Mary started working with Kira and Susan. Together, they opened an account for Mary, created a savings plan, and worked together to get Mary’s finances in shape so she would be able to qualify for a mortgage. Mary was able to qualify for a great, low interest rate and is now a homeowner (with a mortgage that is even less than what she was paying in rent!).

Stories like this helped Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union receive complimentary licenses to HERO Counseling: Community Development Certified Financial Counseling. This award will help them continue their tradition of service to the community.