Serving Underserved Communities: A Key to Rockford's Success
By Ana Montoya, Community Outreach Director
There’s a key to unlocking the Rockford region’s untapped potential and creating a pathway to success.
That key is for businesses, organizations, and financial leaders to meet the needs of underserved communities in ways that reach them effectively, guide them meaningfully, and help fulfill their promise.
Historically across the country, underserved communities have not had equal access to education, information, and technology. As a result of systemic inequities, communities – especially those of color – have struggled with health disparities, barriers to attending college, limited opportunities in the workforce, or difficulties entering the housing markets.
As these populations grow, there is a way for businesses and organizations to intercept and prevent potential hardships. As Rock Valley Credit Union (RVCU) team members, we don’t consider ourselves credit union employees. We’re people helping our neighbors and friends navigate their financial landscape. We may put dreams within reach by assisting in loan conditions, deferring payments when appropriate, and even waiving fees to ensure members are financially fit.
Knowledge is power. We educate and promote financial literacy and have made a concerted effort to do so in our underserved communities.
The economic influence and potential of underserved communities is already there, and the next generation is ready to make its impact. For example, in 2020 at the height of the worst economic crisis of this generation, young Latino homebuyers made up half of the Latino homebuying market in the U.S. Today, nearly one in three Latinos is currently in the prime home buying years, according to U.S. Census Bureau data cited by CNBC.
Right here at home, we have seen a significant increase in the Hispanic and Latino population. So, we must ask ourselves: How can we reach these young people? How can we help more of them become first-time homeowners? The answer is outreach and effective lending efforts, which will result in economically stronger communities, stronger workforces, more informed and capable businesses, a more sound and more inclusive economy, and a thriving population with access to safer and improved housing.
Our society is better and more secure when we’re reaching out to – and connecting with – all contributing members. We want people to feel welcome, safe, and comfortable in their investments. Like many credit unions, we do that through education, relationships, and advocacy. If we do our job well, we get to watch our neighborhoods grow.
RVCU believes in efforts that help improve members’ financial health in the face of the very real challenges facing our economy. We educate and advocate; we prioritize intentional outreach; we help build up our community.
In August, we partnered with 13 WREX and Midwest Family Broadcasting for their annual Stuff the Bus campaign to collect school supplies for children in need. The credit union supports Alignment Rockford’s Academy Expo every year, helping to showcase to young students the career opportunities available to them upon graduation. We have helped provide financial education to 1,900 students within the Harlem, Rockford and Rochelle public schools through Banzai, an award-winning financial literacy program. RVCU knows its sponsorship and community outreach efforts will pay off in the long run for our region, and that we benefit from these early investments in people.
As a business leader in the Rockford region, I encourage you to join us as we pledge to do our part to level the playing field for all, educate our community so they can see the value of giving back, and support our children so they can grow up safely and confidently. The key to Rockford’s success is in our hands. We just must help unlock the potential of our young people so they can grow up to become happy, successful, and productive members of the community.
About the author: Ana Montoya is the community outreach director at Rock Valley Credit Union. She is responsible for RVCU’s public relations initiatives including brand promotion, community financial education and organizational philanthropy.