Paul Quinn Federal Credit Union:
Driven by Passion, Energetic for the Future
Paul Quinn Federal Credit Union
Paul Quinn Federal Credit Union board members and volunteers have a passion and energy absent in the big banking industry. They have a passion for helping the unbanked and underbanked people in their community. They have an energy for pushing forward and expanding their reach.
Paul Quinn was born out of the desire to further racial equity in the community and it continues to be at the forefront of its mission and strategic plan moving forward. The credit union was founded over 40 years ago to provide opportunities for financial independence in the Black community where previously none existed. While Paul Quinn continues this mission every day with its current members, they have a deep interest in doing more. The desire to improve the lives of individuals and families throughout the community is why expanding membership is at the top of Paul Quinn’s to-do list.
Affiliated with Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal Church in Jamaica, New York, Paul Quinn has a predominantly African American membership. The Paul Quinn team is small in size but eager to expand their work to help congregants at their sister churches who may be experiencing unmet financial needs or challenges.
“Over the last several years I have tried to push the credit union to start thinking outside the box,” explains Reverend Dr. Richard McEachern. “Our vision now is to do things we haven’t been able to do in the past. We want to be very inclusive, very strategic. We want to meet the needs of the whole community—not only the people we serve today.”
Paul Quinn was hit hard during COVID-19. Members of its leadership team were hospitalized, they had no remote working capabilities in place, and they lost access to their computer system because their office was closed. Inclusiv gave the credit union the green light to use an existing $5,000 strategic growth grant to purchase supplies and pay for technology enhancements to establish a remote office.
Given these circumstances, the unprecedented times, and the downturn in the economy, members of the credit union staff made a bold decision that you would only find with the intimacy and personal relationships of a small credit union: They operated on good faith.
Knowing their members were facing uncertainty and needed access to funds, Paul Quinn had to get creative in terms of providing financial services. Using paper checks from their national bank and home visits, Paul Quinn went above and beyond in order to help their members make payments and pay bills in a timely manner.
Pegi Brown, manager for Paul Quinn, explains that members use the credit union to stash extra money for emergencies, holidays, vacations, and to save for their children and grandchildren’s college education.
“Each time they stop by to make a deposit they share these stories with us,” she says. “If during the pandemic their financial needs were so great that they had to dip into these funds, we had no choice but to find a way to make their money available to them.” She goes on to explain, “Our members are not customers or clients—it is a much more personal relationship. Our members are like family.”
The credit union’s passionate and energetic environment is so contagious that you can also feel it when speaking with their members. Buddy Williams, a musician with a long career playing and performing throughout New York City and around the world, is extremely enthusiastic when talking about his experience with Paul Quinn.
“I have money in banks, but I’m old-school and I appreciate the old-school, mom-and-pop feel of the credit union,” Williams explains. “You walk in, they know you, they have time for you. They care about what’s going on, your family—they are eager to help.”
Shortly after joining the credit union, Williams went through a period of time others would consider being down on his luck. Williams, however, speaks about it optimistically—grateful that he is still here, doing what he loves, and that he received the help he needed when he needed it.
During this challenging time, Williams was juggling the need to pay for medical expenses resulting from fighting stage three colon cancer, addressing a large unexpected electrical issue in his family’s older brownstone home, and repairing damage to expensive electronic equipment. And then COVID hit.
He tried getting a loan through his regular bank, but he was told he would need a co-signer to help cover these expenses. Williams was originally not optimistic about getting a loan at Paul Quinn, but the credit union was optimistic about Williams.
“One of the first things they said to me was, ‘Why didn’t you come to us first?’” Williams recalls. “They looked at me, listened to me and said ‘Brother, we got you.’ Just like that. I really couldn’t believe it.”
He had the money he needed within 48 hours.
“The big banks aren’t going to do that for you,” he says. “Paul Quinn welcomed me with open arms. They don’t only care about the big guys with a lot of money. They wanted to help me.”
As a musician, his financial situation fluctuates depending on pay-outs for jobs. As soon as he had a pay-out come through, Williams paid off his loan at Paul Quinn ahead of schedule. But he says he will always continue to do business with Paul Quinn. “The folks at Paul Quinn have a passion for helping you can’t find anywhere else,” he says. “These smaller credit unions are more essential now than ever.”
Paul Quinn’s passion and energy are not only contagious—they are just what the credit union needs to propel into a new year and a bright future.
With the establishment of a strategic planning committee, the credit union is excited about what lies ahead. Next steps include establishing partnerships with five other churches to expand its field of membership and its impact. This work to help their sister churches is important because “as they grow, we grow, and the community grows,” explains Brown.
Brown attributes much of the credit union’s success and ability to serve members so effectively to its close relationship with Inclusiv. She explains that Inclusiv has been invaluable with resources, trainings, and quick answers to questions that they would not be able to find anywhere else. “Inclusiv has been the light leading us through the dark tunnels,” Brown says. “Really, Inclusiv has been everything to us.”
Reflecting on the 40 years since its establishment, the Paul Quinn team is proud of its work and the difference it is making in the lives of so many. But given their energy and passion, they are not content to stop there. “Although much financial progress has been made over the years, the need still exists today,” Brown explains. “Our community as a whole still has such a great need for accessible financial services. That is why there is still so much work for us to do.”