Even in the midst of the recent economic downturn, credit unions have remained strong, secure financial institutions, dedicated to serving their members as well as their communities. A perfect example of this modern-day state of credit unions can be seen in the positive impact and success of CFE Federal Credit Union (Lake Mary, FL).
Over the years CFE has grown from a small financial cooperative into the thriving credit union it is today, with total assets of over $1.347 billion and approximately 121,000 members as of April 2012. The credit union is consistently recommended by BauerFinancial for its strength and security, and it is rated 5-Stars.
Offering a full array of financial services including savings, checking, loans, credit cards, mortgages, as well as investment and business services, CFE serves its members at 19 full service branches, 4 high school branches, and 41 ATM locations throughout Central Florida. Members also enjoy 24-hour Internet and mobile banking.
75 Years of Success Built on Education
Founded in 1937 as Orange County Teachers' Federal Credit Union to serve the financial needs of educators, CFE is proud to be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. As Laura Richard, Marketing Manager, explains, twenty-three dedicated teachers formed the credit union's charter members. In 1978 membership was opened to the Osceola School District and the credit union’s name was changed to Central Florida Educators’ Federal Credit Union. Fast-forward to 2006, CFE was approved for a community charter and began doing business as “CFE Federal Credit Union” to reflect the diversity of its membership. CFE’s community charter then expanded its membership to anyone who lives, works, attends school, volunteers, or worships in Orange, Osceola, Lake, or Seminole Counties. Businesses are also welcome.
In November 2011, CFE Federal Credit Union merged with UCF Federal Credit Union bringing together two credit unions who share a heritage of service to education in Central Florida. The UCF FCU brand continues, operating as a division of CFE Federal Credit Union under CFE FCU's charter.
“At CFE, our promise is to always be there with each step along the individual financial paths of our members -- our genuine commitment, steadfast protection and unending support can only come from the most trusted of friends,” contends Richard.
A Credit Union Dedicated to Community, Honored for Service
As an active leader involved in the Central Florida community, CFE supports local schools and charitable organizations through numerous sponsorships and donations. Additionally, CFE’s senior management team and employees donate thousands of hours each year through serving on foundations and committees, performing financial literacy presentations, participating in 5k runs, collecting food, clothing, books, school supplies for needy families, and much more.
For its efforts, CFE has been honored with many community awards. For the past four years the credit union has been a recipient of the Louise Herring CU Philosophy in Action Award presented by the League of Southeastern Credit Unions. CFE also received the Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award from the League of Southeastern Credit Unions in 2007, 2008 and 2011. And, in 2008, was honored with the Onyx Diversity Award for its commitment to diversity. “For CFE, however, the greatest reward is knowing that we have been instrumental in improving the lives of thousands of Central Florida residents and disaster victims around the globe,” says Richard.
Some of CFE’s award winning community involvement efforts include the following:
CFE has been the title sponsor for A Gift for Teaching’s (AGFT) back-to-school supply drive for over four years, and CFE’s President & CEO, Joseph A. Melbourne, Jr. served as the Board Chair from 2009-2011. AGFT is a free store for teachers to shop for supplies for their students in need. Each year CFE donates $15,000 and opens its branches as drop-off locations for donated school supplies. Credit union members and CFE employees have donated almost 250,000 supplies for local low-income students. Additionally, CFE partnered with AGFT to collect over 2,300 K-12 books for kids in need.
CFE also supports the American Diabetes Association. CFE’s President & CEO Joseph A. Melbourne, Jr. served as co-chair of the American Diabetes Association Step-Out Walk for 2010 and 2011. Through his leadership, and with support from members and employees, CFE raised $17,000 in 2010 and $21,000 in 2011 to help fight for the cure for millions of Americans with diabetes.
Every year around Thanksgiving, CFE conducts annual food drives to support the Central Florida Second Harvest Food Bank. Members and employees are encouraged to drop-off donated canned and non-perishable goods to any of CFE’s branch locations. For the past two years, CFE donated almost 1,500 pounds of food to the Central Florida Second Harvest Food Bank.
Central Florida has a large population of homeless students, and CFE conducted a clothing drive to benefit the Kids Closet and Families in Transition program. Over 1,870 articles of new and nearly new clothes were donated to help homeless students in the school districts of Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake Counties.
Each holiday season CFE conducts a gift drive to support Devereux, Florida’s largest non-profit provider of child welfare services. Members and employees are invited to bring in unwrapped gifts and place them in containers displayed in CFE’s branch lobbies.
For more than 10 years, CFE employees have been volunteering on a monthly basis to serve dinner at the Give Kids the World Village, a nonprofit resort in Kissimmee, Florida for children with life threatening illnesses and their families. Approximately 4 to 5 employees volunteer each month. In 2011 CFE raised $2,700 for Give Kids the World.
Every year, Orange, Osceola, and Seminole Counties have a program called Teach-In, where the community is invited to visit classrooms and talk about careers. CFE personnel participated in this program for over 10 years, using it as an opportunity to educate students about credit unions and discuss the importance of savings. In 2011, CFE staff presented to over 1,700 students.
In support of its local school districts hard hit by the economic crisis, CFE introduced an affinity debit card known as MyCFE4Schools. When CFE cardholders use their MyCFE4Schools debit card for signature-based transactions CFE donates $.05 to the school district of the member’s choice. As a result, in 2011 CFE donated a total of $90,000 to Orange, Seminole, and Osceola County School Boards, and since the program inception in August 2009, CFE has donated a total of $166,500. Each year as card usage has increased so has the donation amount.
CFE also conducts an annual scholarship program whereby six graduating seniors are selected at random from all of the applicants and is awarded $4,000 scholarships over a four-year period. Currently, CFE has 24 students in its college scholarship program and awards each $1,000 a year for a total scholarship donation of $24,000 annually.
CFE hosts free document shredding events at its branches periodically throughout the year, where members and residents are invited to bring their documents for secure shredding. Members value this service as a way to protect their sensitive information and prevent identity theft. On average CFE collects over 3 tons of paper.
CFE’s members are enthusiastic supporters of the credit union’s community involvement. “CFE could not support the many organizations it does, without its members’ generous donations -- for five years, our members have voted CFE Best Credit Union in the Orlando Business Journal’s Readers Choice Awards,” says Richard.
CFE is “People Helping People”
The philosophy of “people helping people” is at the heart of all of CFE’s efforts. In addition to individual community initiatives, CFE helps its members each and every day with practical financial advice and affordable products that improve their financial well-beings while financial education is also a primary focus. “We offer free financial webinars throughout the year, and we’ve enlisted the financial fitness provider, BALANCE, to provide members with comprehensive financial education and counseling as a no-cost benefit of membership,” says Richard. Additionally, CFE staff conducts financial literacy presentations in classrooms across Central Florida, educating youth on the importance of saving and using credit responsibly.
The credit union also remains focused on “serving the underserved” by offering a Community Service account for members who are financially challenged, repairing their credit, or rebuilding their finances. Richard explains how the member may open a savings account with an ATM card, which offers convenience and allows them to avoid costly check cashing services. “CFE’s Community Care Loan Program also offers members two different loans designed to help them establish or repair credit and avoid the hidden costs of ‘payday loans.’”
The credit union has also been serving as a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) preparation site for the sixth straight year. “We prepared over 755 tax returns and helped individuals recoup $1.2 million in refunds for 2011,” reports Richard. The IRS VITA program helps individuals across the country through community neighborhoods and organizations, and CFE is the only financial organization in the state of Florida that provides this service to the community, according to an IRS Report. “We are pleased to see that every year more and more people are taking advantage of the free VITA service offered by CFE,” says Joseph A. Melbourne, President & CEO of CFE. “This is just one of the many ways our credit union gives back to the community and exemplifies the credit union motto of people helping people.”
Get to know CFE Federal Credit Union by visiting their website.