Greylock Federal Credit Union (Greylock) makes no secret of its commitments to supporting the local community. But it’s not until you see them laid out on the page — or 16 pages, to be more precise — that the full scope of the 88-year-old institution’s contributions become apparent.
In its 2022 Impact Report, published this month, Greylock outlines its many community-centric initiatives from the past year, ranging from monetary donations to special loans, educational programs and research projects.
“We want people to see what they’re contributing to by being a part of Greylock,” explained JamieEllen Moncecchi, Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer. “Membership empowers us to do these amazing things — as a Member, you own part of this success.”
Justice and opportunity
All of the Credit Union’s efforts are guided by a core set of four principles, under the acronym IDEA: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility.
To better understand — and address — economic injustice in the Berkshires, Greylock turned a critical eye to the past, commissioning an intensive study on the effects of redlining in the city of Pittsfield. The report, supported by several other community partners , delved into the history of housing discrimination, focusing specifically on Pittsfield’s Westside neighborhood.
Professor Frances Jones-Sneed and a team of researchers combed through decades worth of historical documents, property records and U.S. Census data to reveal a clear pattern of discriminatory housing practices whose effects are still felt today. A 1930s map issued by the Homeowners Loan Corp., part of a New Deal housing program, lays out the story in black lines and bright colors: Pittsfield’s many neighborhoods, divided and color-coded by their creditworthiness. As in other cities across the country, the areas deemed too high risk for investment were overwhelmingly those with Black populations.
The study was presented to the public at a meeting hosted by the NAACP’s Berkshire County Branch in April, 2022. In addition to detailing the city’s history of redlining and its long-reaching impact on residents of the Westside neighborhood, the report laid out potential ways forward for community leaders, policymakers and financial institutions to decrease historical housing discrimination.
“Homeownership is a primary pathway to financial wealth,” Greylock CEO John Bissell told the Eagle last April. “We’re going to be at work on this for decades to come.”
For their part, Greylock invested over $130 million in homeownership during 2022, partnering with 529 Members to purchase housing and establish a base of building generational wealth. In addition, they worked with 216 Members to refinance over $40 million worth of mortgages and lower monthly payments at a time when household budgets are more strained than ever. Overall, Greylock represents 30% of housing-related loans issued in the region last year, the largest share of any financial institution.
This year’s Impact Report features a story from Jose Larios, an agent with Berkshire Dream Home. One of his clients was about to close on a home when the out of town lender suddenly switched their interest rate to a much higher APY, solely because the client didn’t have a social security number. Greylock Vice President Chris Moon was able to quickly come up with a much more favorable rate, allowing the client to close on their home just a few weeks later than originally planned. Larios now recommends Greylock for all of his buyers in the immigrant community.
Educating the community
Through its Community Empowerment Center (CEC), Greylock sought to address another common hurdle to financial wellness: a lack of access to education in managing money and using banking services to their fullest potential.
The staff of 31 certified financial coaches, representing the many departments within the Credit Union, provided everything from free seminars and individual advising to translation services, classroom curricula for school-aged children, and specialized assistance for immigrants.
In addition, the CEC offered specialized borrowing opportunities tailored specifically for financially vulnerable communities. The Credit Union issued approximately $4.8 million in New Roads loans, which allowed members to obtain transportation — a necessity for employment in so much of Berkshire County — without turning to national sub-prime loan providers. Another $9 million was issued to Members under the guidance of CEC coaches to handle emergencies, build credit, and otherwise avoid the trap of payday loans and other predatory lending practices.
Greylock proudly supports small, family-owned businesses, providing in-depth advising services and helping owners access grants, specialty loans and other forms of financial assistance.
Elegant Stitches, a Pittsfield-based embroidery and screen printing business, was founded in 1997 by Ghanaian immigrant Alfred Enchill, who continues to run the business alongside his family. In 2022, Greylock worked with Elegant Stitches to secure 8(a) certification through the Small Business Administration (SBA), which helped the company land a large government contract. Greylock then aided the business in securing an SBA line of credit and additional funding from the Boston Foundation to expand their production capabilities, opening the door for more large-scale projects.
The Credit Union has made a point of intentionally sourcing its own purchasing needs with a focus on expanding supplier opportunities for local, small and/or minority/women owned businesses. Also in 2022, Greylock announced a unique contractual agreement with Elegant Stitches: rather than the typical minimum quantity, the contract guarantees Elegant Stitches a minimum spend. If the Credit Union doesn’t reach the agreed upon spending amount, the difference will be converted to a grant, providing Elegant Stitches with stable income to further develop and expand the business.
Greylock’s financial support within the greater Berkshire region is well-known; the full list of events and organizations that benefited from Greylock’s contributions in 2022 is too long for this one article. The Credit Union issued $950,000 in grants to worthy causes last year, all with the goal of improving the community as a whole.
In seeking projects to support, Greylock looks for opportunities to make a substantial impact. “It’s not about Greylock solving the problem,” Moncecchi said. “It’s about empowering the community to find a solution.”
As an example, the Credit Union partnered with Berkshire Agricultural Ventures to match EBT spending at local farmers markets. Not only were shoppers able to purchase more fresh, locally grown produce, but farmers themselves saw the benefits of increased sales.
Other beneficiaries featured in the Impact Report include the Berkshire Family YMCA, which used Greylock grants to expand its programs to a more diverse audience, and the Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, a Hudson, N.Y., based program that was able to increase its enrollment of underserved school-aged children with the additional funding from Greylock. The goal of the grant was that no one is denied access because of their inability to pay.
The main takeaway from this year’s Impact Report, Moncecchi hopes, is that everything Greylock does is ultimately made possible by its Members. In using Greylock’s services, Members enable the Credit Union to support causes and segments of the community that may have been passed over by larger, less Member-driven financial institutions.
It’s a contribution that shouldn’t be understated, Moncecchi said. “Members made this happen.”
The complete 2022 Impact Report can be read at www.greylock.org/ImpactReport