PAINESVILLE – Painesville Credit Union, which began as a small financial institution for city employees, recently celebrated its 75th anniversary with members throughout Lake County.
The credit union held its annual meeting, which about 225 members attended, in early February. The board members were elected and the annual financial report was presented.
“I think it’s really exciting when you have a local business that has been in the same area, and served the same community, for 75 years,” said CEO Lori Guzzi. “It seems like the big banks are always changing names or merging together, or buying each other out.”
Besides maintaining the same name and a location in Painesville City for three-quarters of a century, PCU is also staffed by people who live in the area, many of whom have held their positions for years. Guzzi said that helps PCU maintain a better connection with the community.
The staff also know the names of the members who come in to do their banking.
Guzzi said some families have three and four generations who belong to PCU.
In keeping with a more neighborly atmosphere, Guzzi said she put together two gift baskets for Valentine’s Day. She had hearts on which members were asked to write why they liked their credit union for a chance to win one of the baskets. About 130 hearts were filled out with comments like “the staff is awesome” and “the cookies and juice.” One customer wrote about how they helped her when no one else would.
While a credit union is a financial institution, there are some differences between them and commercial banks.
“When you’re a credit union member, you’re a part owner of that credit union,” Guzzi said. “It’s a volunteer board of directors, but every member, come election time, can vote for their board.
“And credit unions, one of their mottos is ‘Not for profit but for service.’”
She said credit unions do not have to worry about making money for stockholders for that reason, only enough to cover expenses and maintain services for members.
PCU does provide most of the same services as banks. Accounts are insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration, a U.S. government agency.
There is no minimum amount required for checking accounts, but there is a $5 monthly fee if there is no automatic deposit. Savings accounts must have a minimum of $5 in the account and there are no fees, so they are easy to maintain for those who can only save a little at a time.
PCU does not have Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) or Health Savings Accounts (HSA) at this time. What it offers, which banks do not, are club accounts which people can open to save for a specific purpose like Christmas, a vacation or new furniture.
“We’re able to help them manage their finances that way,” Guzzi said.
However, it also provides financial counseling for its members, at no charge. For example, if a member comes in for a loan for an expensive purchase, they will sit down and review the member’s financial status to help determine if the member can really afford such a purchase.
Guzzi said, for example, a young man came in to get a loan for an expensive car. After reviewing his financial status and the hefty payments required with a PCU staff member, he decided to make a more moderate purchase. Two years later, he thanked them since he had since married and purchased a home, which would not have been possible had he bought the expensive car.
“We also help people repair their credit,” Guzzi said.
If a member comes in with poor credit, but needs to buy a car, a PCU staff member will review their credit report with them and make recommendations on how they can fix their credit. She noted it can sometimes take a year or so, depending on the person’s credit issues.
Painesville Credit Union has 4,100 members currently.
“It’s fun to be here,” Guzzi said. “It’s fun to work with the people and see them reach their goals, or help them out of a mess.”
History of Painesville Credit Union
On Jan. 8, 1942, at the Painesville City Garage, a small group of employees saw the need to organize the credit union for city employees. The nine charter members were joined by other city employees to increase membership to 78 members before the end of the first year.
The Credit Union’s growth over the years created a need for a number of different office locations. It moved into the Plain Dealer Building on South St. Clair until 1970. The first building purchased was at 177 East High St. and used until 1985 when a building was purchased at 66 N. State St. The credit union was located there until the current building at 280 N. St. Clair St. was built in 2010.
Over the years the Painesville City Schools and city businesses were added to the membership rolls. In 2012 they expanded their field of membership to include all who live, work, worship, or attend school in Lake County.