By: David Williams
July 25, 2017
Not-for-profit financial cooperatives Mendo Lake Credit Union and Community First Credit Union merged on July 1. The newly combined credit union boasts –– through June 30 –– a loan portfolio of $312.5 million, deposits of $414.2 million, and assets of $457.7 million.
The ongoing name will be Community First. There are 10 branch offices spread among Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties. The cooperative is owned by its 50,777 members, who are served by 126 employees. Community First CEO, Todd Sheffield, will remain in his post at headquarters in Santa Rosa.
“For the members and employees of the two credit unions, this is a match made in heaven,” said Sheffield. “We took the ‘best of’ approach to loan products, services, rates and fees. If it was better at Mendo Lake, we added it. If it was better at Community First, we kept it. Members should really like what they get,” he continued.
Some of those “gets” for members of the former Mendo Lake include a new checking account that earns them money when they swipe their debit card, a 0% loan for local AG students, second mortgages, in-house technology for remote deposits, and deposit rates that nearly double. For members of Community First they now get access to a suite of credit cards, manufactured home loans, checking and savings accounts for those re-entering banking, and an advantageous rate bump on share certificates.
Although the merger was officially completed on July 1, members won’t see much of a difference until Monday, July 31. That’s when the core technologies of the two credit unions will be joined to offer the same full menu of products, programs and pricing.
While the merger brings immediate benefits to its members, it also makes for a stronger, more financially sustainable credit union with the wherewithal “to implement better and broader technological conveniences for our membership,” said Sheffield.
No layoffs occurred, and the credit union is currently looking to hire 10 additional employees, mostly in its mortgage lending unit.
Both credit unions were founded by local teachers: Mendo Lake in 1958; Community First in 1961. Back then it was difficult for teachers to obtain mortgage loans. Banks didn’t trust teachers to make payments during summer months when they weren’t paid. To buy homes, some teachers started credit unions. To this day the combined credit union stays particularly involved with local schools: special loans for intern-teachers and agriculture students, special saving rates for students, financial literacy presentations, computer donations, scholarships, teacher-of-the-year prizes, and more.