Community Service

A Champion of Change

‘Every day you’re changing people’s lives.’

December 27, 2013
/ PRINT / ShareShare / Text Size +

If he could be a rock star, John Herrera would be Elvis, “because he had good looks and good moves.”

Herrera has made good moves since he co-founded Latino Community Credit Union, Durham, N.C., in 2000. The credit union has grown to a $100 million asset institution today with more than 55,000 members (a 30% increase in the past five years).

A senior vice president at Self-Help Credit Union, Durham, N.C., since 1999, he was recognized earlier this year in the White House’s “Champions of Change” ceremony, which honored 11 foreign-born entrepreneurs.

North Carolina has several rural, underserved areas, where prospective members live on farms with little access to the financial services found in large cities, says Herrera. He sees a network of local farm bureaus, churches, mobile branches, and mobile communications providing financial products and education to meet their needs.

“Once folks know the benefits of the credit union, they’ll use it,” says Herrera, who has seen his credit union help members buy their first homes and first cars, open businesses, and send their children to college. Helping members in their financial quests is what Herrera finds most rewarding about his job. “Every day you’re changing people’s lives by helping them grow financially and realize their dreams.”

“People helping people” is the primary theme of Latino Community and other credit unions, Herrera says. “We work for our members. We want to promote the idea of volunteerism and the shared benefits of community development. We work together better than we do individually.”

The White House announcement said Latino Community Credit Union “has become the fastest growing community development credit union in the nation and a banking model for new immigrants.”

“I remember when we started, people saw immigrants as too expensive to serve,” Herrera recalls. “But we were created to serve the underserved.”

The previously underserved individuals and businesses have rewarded Latino Community’s faith in them by not only keeping the credit union strong, but also by helping it grow during the recent financial crisis, adds Herrera, a naturalized American from Costa Rica, who cites his faith and his family as the driving forces in his life.

Herrera sees Vietnamese communities in several areas as needing the same financial services that Latino communities need. And, he adds, these services are the same as what northern European immigrants needed only a few generations ago.

"The sooner we embrace them, the sooner we’ll have stronger communities,” says Herrera.

Post a comment to this story

heroes

What's Popular

Popular Stories

Recent Discussion

Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

Your Say: Who should be Credit Union Magazine's 2014 CU Hero of the Year?

View Results Poll Archive