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Credit unions are not-for-profit, financial service cooperatives, owned and controlled by their members, and operating in a democratic way. As co-ops, credit unions operate solely for their members’ benefit, rather than to make a profit.
Credit unions were founded on the principle of people helping people. When you join a credit union, you become part of a community. A community that exists to help its members grow and prosper financially. You become something bigger than just an account number. You become a member-owner with the power to shape the future of the credit union through your voice and your vote. You become part of a movement that exists solely for the purpose of meeting the financial needs of their member-owners by following seven cooperative principles.
All co-op businesses run in accordance with seven basic principles.
It’s important that members voluntarily choose to become members. Cooperatives are “open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership…”
Members ultimately control their cooperatives. When you attend your credit union’s annual meeting or vote for the board of directors, you’re exercising your member control.
“Cooperatives operate so that capital is the servant, not the master, of the organization.”
While governments determine the legislative framework within which co-ops function, this principle asserts that co-ops also have an “essential need to be autonomous in the same way that enterprises controlled by capital are…”
This principle says members can play their role in the cooperative only when they understand that role and the co-op. That’s one reason, for example, that your credit union provides you with this information and other educational tools.
Those managing a cooperative believe that co-ops have a unique opportunity to protect and expand the interests of ordinary people. This kind of one-for-all and all-for-one idea is unique. Even in areas where they compete, it’s common for credit unions to cooperate on activities.
Cooperatives exist primarily for the benefit of their members. Because of this strong association with members, they also are often closely and actively tied to their communities.
Edward Filene, founder of the first credit union in the United States.
A recognized visionary and innovator, Don W. Lewis has been a leader in the credit union movement for more than 40 years.
If there is one thing two years of a pandemic have demonstrated, it is the strength and power of people. Throughout the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19, each and every one of us has been tested and challenged. It’s not possible to go through something like this without being changed. Together, we have remained resilient and, in the end, have grown stronger.
We are grateful for the tremendous patience you showed as we worked to serve your needs while we put measures in place to keep you and our staff safe. At peak times during the pandemic, we had to make some tough decisions. Understandably, this caused inconvenience, such as needing an appointment to visit one of our branch lobbies. At times, there were longer wait times on the phone and in our drive-thru lanes. Yet, you remained loyal to us, as demonstrated in the strong share and loan growth we experienced in 2021. At year-end 2021, shares totaled more than $1.8 billion and loans totaled nearly $1.4 billion. We sincerely thank you for your understanding and for your trust in us.
Our cooperative remains strong because we are centered on people, not on profits. That’s the key principle that differentiates us from for-profit competitors. Acting in the best interest of our member owners is what drives our decisions. It’s why we take a conservative and measured approach in all that we do. It’s why we’re committed to delivering financial education in schools and to adults, because by imparting knowledge and providing tools, we can help guide our members and the community to a financially sound future. It’s why we have programs like Credit Builder, which is designed to help those who are working to get their finances back on track to re-establish credit. Credit Builder loans totaled $28.7 million at year end. It's also why we strive to offer you the best products at favorable rates, so you can achieve your financial goals.
There is tremendous potential in a cooperative organization like a credit union, which is built upon the concept of people helping people. Through this model, we have helped to bring hope to those at risk of social and economic exclusion, including helping people break the cycle of poverty in their families. We have helped countless members realize their financial dreams, such as owning a home, financing a college education and building a nest egg for rainy days and retirement.
Going forward, there are new and exciting things in our future. Just recently, we were approved by our federal regulator, the National Credit Union Administration, to extend eligibility for membership in our credit union beyond Harford and Cecil counties. Now, those who live, work, worship, attend school, volunteer or do business in Baltimore County and Baltimore City can also become members of APGFCU. This will enable us to bring our message of financial empowerment to potentially another 1.4 million people, improving more lives, and ensuring a solid base of future growth for generations to come.
We will approach our new field of membership as we approach everything: conservatively. We remain committed to our military roots and to Harford and Cecil counties. They will always be at the core of our credit union. In fact today, more than 50% of the households in Harford and Cecil counties are members of APGFCU. As our cooperative welcomes new members from Baltimore County and Baltimore City, it will grow even stronger.
As we prepare for a new era of growth, we will be investing in upgrading our infrastructure, including our core processing system. This will result in greater efficiencies over the coming years, such as processing transactions, improved functionality in online/mobile banking and enhancements to our online lending and account opening platforms. These technology upgrades will position us to better serve you and to offer new features to meet your evolving needs.
Our success would not be possible without the commitment of our member-owners, which have grown to over 147,000. Thank you for choosing APGFCU for your financial needs. I would also like to thank our board and volunteers for their service to the credit union and their belief in its mission. Finally, thank you to our professional staff for their dedication in serving our members through challenging times. I am extremely proud of all we have accomplished together and look forward to the opportunities ahead of us.
Don W. Lewis President/CEO