Greylock Federal Credit Union unveils $4.5M branch renovation with community empowerment center

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PITTSFIELD When Greylock Federal Credit Union first moved out of General Electric's complex of buildings on Kellogg Street 48 years ago, it opened its first branch office right across the street.

Today, all that remains of that former GE complex is a concrete building foundation, but Greylock's initial branch office is now the credit union's newest and most modern structure.

On Monday, Greylock officially opened its $4.5 million renovated branch on 75 Kellogg St., a structure that includes the credit union's first community empowerment center. Located in Pittsfield's Morningside neighborhood, one of the city's poorest areas, the center combines all of the financial literacy activities that Greylock has been conducting at all of its branches in one location for the first time.

Those activities include financial coaching; member education classes; community meeting space for the financial institution's nonprofit partners; high-impact product development and administration; and financial literacy in schools.

"We have had community development services sprinkled throughout our credit union for many, many years," said Greylock President and CEO John Bissell, following the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "We've been investing more the past few years in growing those services. This gives us a headquarters for that. Up until now they have not been centered in any one spot."

Currently, 66 percent of the Berkshire's largest credit union's almost 90,000 members meet the federal criteria for low-income targeted population, which means they lack adequate access to financial products or services in a financial institution's target market.

"What we know about the lives of low-income people is that their lives can be somewhat unpredictable," Bissell said. "So this really helps them and it helps us if we're able to be responsive to what they're looking for and when they're looking for it.

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"We feel like it's exactly the right place at exactly the right time."

The community empowerment center will share space with a regular credit union branch office in the 5,000-square-foot, single-story structure.

"It's not to say this isn't the only place we will have one of these community empowerment offices, but we wanted to make it the first one," he said.

Greylock was originally founded in 1935 as the Pittsfield General Electric Employees Union; the credit union didn't change its name to Greylock until 1995. But locating the center on the site of Greylock's first branch office was more than symbolic.

"I frankly wouldn't spend $4.5 million on something that was just symbolic," Bissell said. "It's going to be highly, highly functional."

Renovating the new facility began last September. The project was originally expected to take about six months.

"As you would expect it was an older building, so there were definitely complications and issues with the weather," Bissell said. "But even though it took longer than anticipated it allowed us to keep refining the idea and growing the capacity for the people who will be here."

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.


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