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Self-Help Credit Union

Milestones, 1980-2020

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40 years of services with members and partners

Feb 1980

Center for Community Self-Help Incorporated

Self-Help starts as an effort by Martin Eakes, Bonnie Wright and others to help displaced workers develop worker-owned businesses.

Dec 1981

New Bern Bakery opens as worker-owned business

Self-Help provides technical assistance to the New Bern Bakery, owned and operated in eastern NC by three African American men who were displaced textile workers. We raise our first capital infusion -- $77 -- through a bake sale organized by the bakery. 


Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation makes first grant of $27,120 

We receive our first operating grant to provide management assistance to worker-owned businesses.


NC charters Self-Help Credit Union

Our vision of financial empowerment requires community focused, affordable loans that a credit union can provide. Pictured: one of Self-Help's earliest borrowers, the Worker-Owned Sewing Company in Windsor, NC.

Feb 1984

Self-Help Ventures Fund incorporated 

This nonprofit corporation is created to allow Self-Help to make larger loans to finance larger-scale community development projects.


Self-Help Credit Union officially opens for business 

By the end of 1984, the credit union has more than $1 million in deposits. 


Self-Help starts making home loans to low-wealth families in NC 

Our first major venture into mortgage lending occurs in Charlotte, NC, where we participate in a federal program to help low-wealth families buy their first home.


We launch a lending program for child-care centers 

Recognizing that quality child care is essential for strong communities, we begin targeted child care lending. Since then, our loans have helped create or maintain 25,000 child care spaces, focusing on quality services to children from low- and moderate-income families.


We begin revitalizing downtown areas and neighborhoods 

Self-Help takes a major step in real estate development, acquiring and renovating an historic building in Asheville, NC as a center for nonprofits and small businesses. Today we have developed over a million square feet with a focus on spaces that serve people in under-resourced downtowns and neighborhoods.  

May 1993

Self-Help Ventures Fund begins participating in SBA 504 Program 

By offering business loans backed by the Small Business Administration, Self-Help is able to expand affordable lending to small- and medium-sized businesses. Since 1993, Self-Help has lent $403 million to small businesses through the SBA 504 Program. 


Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) gather in Durham, NC 

In 1994 we host the first meeting of the CDFI Institute, a gathering of community development financial institutions. Congress established the CDFI Fund to boost affordable lending in low-wealth communities. In 1996, Self-Help Ventures Fund received $3 million in the first round of CDFI funding ever made. 


We join partners to revitalize the Walltown neighborhood 

Over 13 years, we work with partners to build or renovate 80 houses in the historic neighborhood of Walltown in Durham, NC. Partners included the City of Durham, Duke University and Habitat for Humanity. Since then, Self-Help has developed affordable housing in many locations across the state. 


We purchase our headquarters building in Durham, NC (301 W. Main St.) 

At that time, we operated only in North Carolina. Today Self-Help CU provides services in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Virginia; Self-Help Federal CU serves in California, Chicago and Milwaukee.


We help ensure benefits for NC residents when NC BC/BS converts to a for-profit company

As a leader in the Coalition for Public Trust, Self-Help helped ensure that the Blue Cross Blue Shield conversion resulted in the creation of a health care foundation.


Self-Help and partners join forces to expand affordable mortgages 

We partner with Fannie Mae to create the Community Advantage Program, a secondary market program that ultimately provided $4.5 billion in mortgages to more than 50,000 low- to moderate-income homeowners. Follow-up research shows that this loan program, funded by the Ford Foundation, built significant wealth for these borrowers. Today we continue to fuel fair, affordable home loans by purchasing affordable mortgages from a variety of lending partners. 


We support quality education for ALL children 

We began lending to public charter schools to support social entrepreneurs working to provide strong educational choices in low-income communities. Since then, we have created or maintained 54,000 school spaces, the majority in schools serving low-wealth communities.


NC passes landmark law to curb predatory lending 

We help form a diverse coalition that includes state banking leaders to urge North Carolina lawmakers to stop common lending abuses. The resulting law saves NC consumers $100 million in the first year alone. The law becomes a model for many other states that passed similar reforms.   

May 2002

Center for Responsible Lending incorporated 

CRL emerges out of a strong NC coalition dedicated to fighting the growing problem of predatory lending.  As a research and policy advocacy organization, CRL has played a major role in supporting successful consumer protections nationwide and in the states, saving consumers billions of dollars annually. 


By year-end, 16 states have passed anti-predatory lending laws

By 2003, 16 states have used North Carolina's 1999 law as a model to pass strong laws to curtail predatory lending, saving lower-income families from paying millions of dollars on abusive loans.


Self-Help CU completes its first merger and expands services in NC

When Firestone Credit Union (Wilson, NC) joins Self-Help, it marks the beginning of Self-Help’s full-service credit union services. In the years that followed, Self-Help merged with other credit unions around the state. More information on mergers here.


We move west: CRL and Self-Help open an office in Oakland, CA

Self-Help and the Center for Responsible Lending open a joint office in Oakland. This brings our work directly to the West coast, where predatory lending and housing affordability presented major challenges.

Dec 2006

CRL publishes "Losing Ground," predicting the subprime mortgage crisis 

CRL publishes a groundbreaking analysis that forecasts high rates of default for subprime mortgages. CRL and civil rights allies are invited to testify before Congress on multiple occasions, advocating for strong consumer protections. Mortgage industry leaders dismiss CRL's findings and Congress fails to enact reforms before the housing crash. The result: a crippling Great Recession that hits Black and Latino families disproportionately hard, wiping out hard-earned home equity and worsening the wealth gap. 


Self-Help Federal Credit Union launches and merges with People’s in Oakland 

In 2008, Self-Help Federal Credit Union is chartered by the NCUA. Its first merger was with People’s Community Partnership Credit Union, which continues to be the only depository financial institution serving West Oakland.

2008 - 2012

Self-Help Federal CU helps preserve 9 mission-focused credit unions 

During the financial crisis, Self-Help Federal CU merges with nine credit unions that were serving under-resourced communities. Today Self-Help Federal has completed a total of 12 mergers, including two historic banks based in the Chicago area. More information on mergers here.


Dodd-Frank brings new reforms and consumer protections 

CRL and partners fight hard for many of the financial reforms and consumer protections included in the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Pictured above: In 2020, we celebrate the 10-year anniversary with allies. 


We increase our focus on green investments 

In 2011, Self-Help hires its first Sustainability Director and strengthens its focus on lending to nonprofits and businesses dedicated to creating a cleaner, greener environment. Since then, we have lent more than $374 million to support sustainability.


We begin serving the Greater Chicago area 

Self-Help Federal merges with Second Federal Savings & Loan, which had served immigrants on Chicago’s South Side for more than a century. In 2017, we merge with another bank, Seaway, that had been one of the largest African American-owned banks in the nation. This merger spreads our reach throughout the Chicago area and into Wisconsin.


We focus on stronger food systems 

Self-Help has a long history of lending to food co-ops, and beginning around 2013 we ramp up our focus on building healthier and more sustainable food systems. Our food system work addresses health, economic and social disparities through targeted lending. To date, we have lent over $33.6 million to support this sector.


We organize with allies to fight housing discrimination 

CRL and allies formed the Defend Civil Rights Coalition to stand up for "disparate impact," a key principle in the Fair Housing Act that had helped curb housing discrimination for 40 years. In 2015, the Supreme Court upheld disparate impact and affirmed the FHA's "continuing role in moving the Nation toward a more integrated society."


We begin serving Florida 

We merge with Community Trust Federal Credit Union, started by Catholic nuns on a mission to serve migrant farm workers in Apopka, Florida. We further expand in Florida by merging with Jax Metro in Jacksonville.


We begin serving South Carolina

We expand our presence into South Carolina by merging with Palmetto Trust Federal Credit Union in Columbia and CommunityWorks Federal CU in Greenville.


Self-Help Federal CU celebrates its 10th anniversary

By its tenth anniversary, Self-Help Federal CU had grown quickly, and now serves over 78,000 members in 30 branches located in California, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Feb 2020

Self-Help celebrates its 40th anniversary

We kick off our 40th anniversary celebration with a Member Appreciation Day. In our 40 years Self-Help has delivered $9.3 billion in financing to help over 175,000 individuals, families and organizations.


We focus on COVID relief and recovery 

In 2020 Self-Help lends $183 million in mission-focused Paycheck Protection Program loans to 1,700+ small businesses and nonprofits, helping to maintain 20,000 jobs. At the same time, we are providing relief to current borrowers and continuing to make loans to strengthen the communities we serve.

We move forward together

Today and beyond we are continuing our mission with the help of our members, partners and friends. If you're a member, we deeply appreciate your support. If you're not, please consider joining us today.