Guadalupe Centers Helps Members Thrive through Integrated Partnerships


Guadalupe Centers Helps Members Thrive through Integrated Partnerships

Juntos Avanzamos network members pride themselves on their community engagement and the partnerships they develop with nonprofit organizations and agencies for the benefit of their communities. One of the most effective partnerships we have encountered within our network is that of Guadalupe Centers Federal Credit Union.

Guadalupe Centers' story began at the start of the 20th century. Many Mexican nationals started to leave their homeland in pursuit of a better life. These immigrants followed jobs to the north in areas of migrant farming, railroad, and livestock management. As a response to the needs of this population, a Catholic women's club in Kansas City decided to establish a volunteer clinic for underprivileged Mexican immigrants. The clinic was named after the patron saint of Mexico—and so, Guadalupe Centers was born.

As the organization grew, services expanded to include workforce development, a food pantry, youth development, a charter school, and a financial opportunity center. One of the needs that Guadalupe

Centers identified was access to relevant and affordable financial services. Many community members were unbanked due to a lack of trust in traditional financial institutions.

In 1998, an opportunity to address the problem materialized. The KC Terminal Employee Credit Union was looking for a merger partner to bolster their growth, and Guadalupe Centers was looking to expand financial access to the Hispanic community in Kansas City. That was how Guadalupe Centers FCU came into being. Today, the credit union has a membership of over 1,700 and holds assets of more than $5 million.

This merger resulted in an integrated community partnership between the credit union and the social agency. For Salvador López, Board Member at the credit union, partnerships with community organizations are vital to develop trust and growth.

“Guadalupe is a one-stop shop to meet community needs," says López. "It is so important to partner up with local community organizations. Members that come in are going to need some resources that are typically not available to them at traditional financial institutions. Partnering with an agency will help you expand your membership and get members access to additional resources and support.”

This model was successfully tested during the worst of the pandemic. The credit union offered loan forbearances and waived late fees and penalties. When children were sent home from school, Guadalupe Centers helped to get computers, tablets, and internet access in partnership with local service providers. Their food pantry also saw a significant increase in demand, particularly for seniors.

“Our Seniors Center served over 100 seniors daily for homecooked meals. We had to expanded our Meals on Wheels program," explained López. As well, Guadalupe Centers is a VITA site, and requests for help with taxes went through the roof, as did job placement and development services.

“Our members were amongst the hardest by the pandemic, but thanks to our CDFI designation and partnership with Inclusiv, we were able to get funding to provide relief for our members during this hardship. We look forward to working with Inclusiv as we continue to grow our membership and services,” said Ismael Gallegos, President/CEO at Guadalupe Centers FCU.

As Guadalupe Centers looks to the future, CDFI certification is critical for the expansion of their services and sustained growth. Recently, Guadalupe Centers FCU applied for the CDFI Rapid Response Program (RRP). If they receive the grant, they will develop a homeownership initiative for the Hispanic community.

“We would not be able to grow as quickly as we've been, without the designation and accompanying resources. We were able to create a small dollar loan fund that receives graduates from our financial education program. We would have not even thought about expanding affordable housing. For our future, I see expansion and growth, especially because of RRP and Technical Assistance, to make the dream of affordable housing for our Hispanic community here in Kansas City a reality," concluded López.

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