Neighborhood Group Brings Banking Services Back To Creston

April 18, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS – There’s strength in numbers – and where there’s a collective will there’s a way.

After more than two years of going without, the Creston Neighborhood Association has succeeded in bringing full service banking back to residents of this near Northeast Side neighborhood through an agreement with Grand Rapids-based Multi-Products Credit Union.

MPCU will open a credit union Feb. 1 in a former Bank One facility at 1327 Plainfield Ave. NE. The bank shut down full service operations in the Creston area in 1998, offering only drive-through and ATM service at that location until November of last year, when those services also were cut.

Banks just don’t make money in economically disadvantaged areas, said Jim Courey, executive director of the neighborhood association. The association originally toyed with the idea of opening its own credit union, but decided to seek other alternatives. The Dyer-Ives Foundation kick-started the process with a donation of $22,800, a grant that was key to the effort in that it paid for a full-time person to coordinate meetings and handle correspondence, Courey said.

A couple living in the Creston area loaned the association money to buy the former Bank One branch, which the association promptly sold to Multi-Products Credit Union.

The Creston area is home to some 15,000 people, more than half of whom are longtime residents, Courey said. CNA’s coverage area is generally bounded by Three Mile Road on the north, Leonard Street on the south, Fuller Avenue on the east and Monroe Avenue on the west. It includes two business districts, the Creston Business Association on the south end and the Cheshire Village business district on the north end.

The Plainfield Avenue facility is “perfect’ for the neighborhood because of its central location, Courey said. The nearest full-service bank branch is in the Cheshire area, at Eleanor Street and Plainfield Avenue, which many seniors in the Creston area can’t patronize because they don’t have cars or other means to get there. Senior citizens get their Social Security checks and have nowhere to go to cash them, he said.

Daniel Baines, president and CEO of Multi-Product Credit Union, said the credit union will offer all the standard banking services, including savings and checking accounts, mortgages and loans. The walk-in facility will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and will initially have a staff of four.

“It was an opportunity for us to expand and offer people services they weren’t getting,” Baines said. Since MPCU already has members in the Creston area, it will now be able to offer those members more localized service and pick up new members at the same time, he said, noting that this is the first time MPCU has worked with a neighborhood association on such a venture.

Under the agreement between CNA and MPCU, anyone who joins the neighborhood association for a membership fee of $10 per year also can become a member of MPCU. For senior citizens, the membership fee is $5. As Courey noted, credit unions offer more no-fee services, such as free checking, than do for-profit banks. The CNA has about 600 members currently, but he anticipates membership will rise when the credit union opens.

The CNA was founded 23 years ago by group of neighbors who wanted to improve and preserve their neighborhood. The credit union project is the latest of CNA’s initiatives, which have included constructing a new swimming pool at Briggs Park, obtaining a building that will house the new Creston branch library and establishing a neighborhood health center, Catherine’s Care Center, in cooperation with St. Alphonsus Church and St. Mary’s Health Services.

Courey said one of the association’s primary objectives for the coming years is to revitalize the Creston Business Association commercial district and attract new businesses, and having the credit union will help achieve that goal.

The Creston area credit union is the fourth branch in West Michigan for MPCU, which has more than 15,000 members and some $61 million in assets. MPCU was founded in 1951 to serve employees of the former General Motors Corp. plant on Burlingame Avenue in Wyoming. Its other branches are in Wyoming, Cascade Township and Coopersville.           

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