For Greenville Federal Credit Union, much has changed since its creation in 1968 and only a $45 deposit to savings. But not everything has changed.
Over the past 50 years, GFCU’s commitment to providing low fees and quality service to its members has remained the focus. In honor of its Golden Anniversary, GFCU will celebrate with a year of special events, their continued service to the community, and thanks and giving.
“It came out of nine schoolteachers getting together and saying, ‘Well, we need something to help our teachers,’” says board member Jessie Bowens. “Schoolteachers had difficulty getting loans from a regular bank or any other institution.”
The original purpose of the credit union was to provide affordable credit and banking services at a low cost to its employees.
The group agreed to create Greenville Educators Federal Credit Union and held its first official meeting at the Greenville High School library. The credit union was officially launched on Nov. 22, 1968, when the Bureau of Federal Credit Unions granted it with its official Charter and Organization Certificate. Credit union membership was open to employees of the Greenville County School District.
“It came at a time when it was really needed,” charter member Allan Clark says. “Some folks who had money put it in, and others like me needed it and borrowed it. In fact, I was the first person to borrow at the credit union.”
The credit union’s first location was 209 Choice St., now the location of the Greenville County School District office, and it relocated several times. Branches were eventually added and moved, and now the credit union has four full-service branches in Greenville, Greer, and Mauldin.
“It makes it very easy for teachers or members of the credit union to get credit,” charter member Kenneth Childs says. “And it grew very rapidly.”
Beginning with only educators as members, the credit union continued to grow, which led to expanding its services to colleges.
Through the years, the charter was amended to include employees of Shannon Forest Christian School, North Greenville University, Furman University, the Greenville County Library, Central Wesleyan College, Mitchell Road Christian Academy, and Washington Avenue Christian School.
Changing its name to Greenville Federal Credit Union in 1983, the credit union was on its way to broadening their services to more members of the community. In 2001, the credit union opened membership to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Greenville County.
“We serve our members; our members are the credit union,” Bowens says.
In 2007, the credit union added commercial services and a contact center for full-service phone support to better meet Greenville’s needs. And 10 years later, a multiyear building and renovation project update was completed to enhance the four credit union locations.
Compared to traditional banks, the credit union offers lower fees and more personalized service to its members. “Each member has equal ownership and one vote, regardless of how much money they save or have with the credit union,” says Matthew Tebbetts, vice president of marketing and communications.
“Consumers that use their credit union as their primary financial institution save more than $300 a year in fees, service charges, and better rates with deposits and loans,” Tebbetts says, explaining the many benefits of a not-for-profit credit union.
Despite astounding growth in the past 50 years and their field of membership surpassing 28,000 members, GFCU sticks to its mission of being a “community-responsible financial institution providing the highest quality of service and financial education to all our member-owners.”
Since the beginning, GFCU has emphasized giving to, rather than taking from, the community. Supporting children and educators in the area through outreach initiatives, GFCU members and employees dedicate time and resources to partner with various local organizations.
Some of those organizations include Children’s Miracle Network/Greenville Health System Children’s Hospital, Communities in Schools of Greenville, Compass of Carolina, Generation Group Homes, Goodwill Industries, Greer Relief, Junior Achievement of Upstate SC, Kiwanis Club, Rotary International, SHARE, and Victory Junction Gang Camp.
“Our credit union has helped raise money for the Children’s Hospital totaling more than $400,000. We are close to completing a $150,000 Children’s Hospital project with other credit unions,” Tebbetts says. “We are very proud of our involvement with our community.”
The credit union also invested in the implementation of a student-run branch at Greenville High School in 2016.
“This unique partnership between our credit union, Greenville County Schools, and Greenville High was created to help provide financial literacy and personal financial management for students in the high school,” Tebbetts says. “These important life skills will benefit these students well into their futures.”
GFCU plans to continue serving Greenville. As a big part of its Golden Anniversary celebration, the credit union has established Thanks and Giving Grants (T&GG) to provide funding for community programs located in Greenville.
“The Thanks and Giving Grants program allows us to celebrate our history by making a significant and lasting investment back into the community where we have called home for 50 years,” President Paul Hughes says.
GFCU will select five recipients to each be awarded the $10,000 grants to directly benefit and support education, improve child welfare, and increase community and economic assistance or relief in the local community. More information can be found at http://www.greenvillefcu.com/thanksandgivinggrant.
“As the credit union grows, we continue to look for better ways to provide the highest quality service and financial education to all our member-owners,” Tebbetts says. “We are now focused on delivering a much more member-focused delivery system within our branches after significant investment and improvement in our electronic services.”
In most ways, the future of GFCU will look the same — continued commitment to helping members live more rewarding lives.
“It’s just hard to believe that we have come from that one classroom to where we are now,” Bowens says.
“And I think it’s just starting,” Clark adds.