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Freedom First Credit Union


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Stay Up to Date With Freedom First News

March 17, 2023

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Message to Freedom First Members

Dear Members and Friends of Freedom First Credit Union,

I am writing to you today because of a recent highly publicized bank failure, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and the resulting turmoil in the banking industry. I suspect some of you may have questions and I want to assure you Freedom First remains safe and strong.

So, what happened? The answer is pretty simple: the bank ran out of money. SVB customers, many impacted by changes in the economy and crypto markets, began withdrawing money - lots of money. The bank sold its investment portfolio to increase its available cash, but had to recognize a large loss because the investments were long-term and lost value due to the rising rate environment. Word quickly spread in the hyper-connected tech sector, and soon more customers began withdrawing their funds. Regulators quickly stepped in and closed the bank, soon after agreeing to pay out all deposits regardless of the amount to quiet the markets.

Freedom First differs from SVB in several important ways, which is why I am confident in saying that your Credit Union remains safe and strong.

  • Unlike SVB, Freedom First has a very diverse member base. Since our founding in 1956 by seven GE employees in Salem, we have expanded and merged in credit unions serving higher education, manufacturing, healthcare, and local governments - and today we serve businesses and consumers located all throughout Central and South-Central Virginia.

  • Unlike SVB, where 90% of their depositors had balances in excess of $250,000, at Freedom First that ratio drops to 18%. Instead, our deposits are spread across 66,000 members representing many different employers and coming from many different communities.

  • Unlike SVB, Freedom First’s investment portfolio is short-term, and IF it was sold the resulting impact on our equity would be less one-half of one-percent.

  • Unlike SVB, Freedom First makes loans on hard assets, like homes and commercial real estate located in our communities. These loans are then pledged to the Federal Home Loan Bank in exchange for a credit line that exceeds $200 million and is available whenever additional funds are needed.
At Freedom First we pride ourselves in serving a diverse group of members responsibly, ensuring we continue to meet your banking needs today and long into the future. As a member of Freedom First, please know that we are here to answer any questions you may have and I encourage you to reach out at any time. If you have questions concerning Federal Deposit Insurance through the National Credit Administration or would like more information concerning our safety and soundness, please feel free to call one of leaders.
  • Paul Phillips, Chief Executive Officer, 540-378-8949
  • Shon Aguero, Chief Banking Officer, 540-427-7644
  • Linda Johnson, Chief Financial Officer, 540-378-8960
  • David Lowen, Treasurer and Board Member, 540-353-9246
Finally, I want to express my gratitude for your continued partnership and confidence in Freedom First. Over the course of this past week your faith in us has been evident as I’ve seen no meaningful withdrawal activity and instead seen a few large deposits. We have been serving our community for nearly 70 years, and we are committed to continuing our mission of Helping People Prosper and Helping Communities Thrive.
Paul Phillips
Chief Executive Officer
Freedom First Federal Credit Union

March 29, 2022

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Freedom First Annual Business Meeting

The Freedom First Annual Business Meeting will be on Thursday, May 12 at 3 pm. The Annual Business Meeting will be virtual this year.

For 2022, the Nominating Committee returned three nominations for the three vacancies on the Board. The Governance Committee has selected three candidates for the three open positions to be filled on the Volunteer Board of Directors. The candidates are Wayne Strickland, Melinda Payne, and David Lowen.

Updated 5/11/2022

The link for the 2022 Freedom First Annual Business Meeting is: 

Meeting ID: 830 4369 6401
Passcode: 758320
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Meeting ID: 830 4369 6401
Passcode: 758320

2021 Annual Business Meeting Minutes are located here.

December 8, 2021

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Freedom First Adds Deanna Dickerson and Steven Bowman as Mortgage Loan Originators

Freedom First Credit Union is excited to announce the addition of Deanna Dickerson and Steven Bowman to the Freedom First Mortgage Team. “Deanna and Steven bring over two decades of experience to the New River Valley and we are thrilled to have their commitment and work ethic on our team,” says Mortgage Market Leader Ryan Stenger.

Deanna Dickerson has worked in the credit union industry for 15 years, with the last 4 years in mortgage. “I am excited to be part of an organization that shares the same values and passion in investing in communities as I do,” says Dickerson. “In a fast paced, low rate market like we are in, it is important to me to ensure our members are educated on the home buying process and feel comfortable in their purchase or refinance.” Dickerson is a native of Christiansburg and is an active member of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. “I love working and giving back in my hometown. I have a great desire to help people in my community find their first home or their forever home.”
Steven Bowman has worked in the mortgage industry for almost 10 years. “Being a part of Freedom First will allow me to support the New River Valley community by helping our members reach their goals and dreams,” says Bowman. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech and currently lives in Elliston with his wife and two daughters. They have their own family farm and enjoy showing their livestock at shows locally and across the country. “Freedom First is a very special place to work and we are not just another financial institution in the New River Valley. I look forward to spreading the word about what Freedom First does for our communities.”

November 18, 2021

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Freedom First Announces 2021 Grant Recipients

Freedom First Credit Union is proud to announce the award of $70,000 in community grants to thirteen local nonprofits in the Roanoke and New River Valleys. “This is the most we’ve been able to give to our nonprofit partners through the Community Investment Grants,” says Dave Prosser, SVP Community Development. “We are pleased to continue our support of our community nonprofits and are proud to fund their new initiatives.”

The following are the 2021 grant recipients:

Kid’s Soar- $6,000: Funds will be used for multi-generational afterschool and summer programming including teaching children about saving, spending, budgeting, and making smart purchasing decisions. There will also be financial literacy workshops for parents that will raise awareness of available financial resources and demonstrate how they can be used.

Blue Ridge Literacy- $6,000: Funds will support in-person and online Citizenship Preparation Services. BRL offers beginner-level English and Civics classes for lawful permanent residents at the earlier stages of their immigration journey as well as high intermediate/advanced level citizenship preparation classes and citizenship study groups for foreign-born adults who have started their naturalization process.

Mill Mountain Theatre- $5,000: With this grant funding, Mill Mountain Theatre will provide two or three special student performances of its production In the Heights in April 2022. These events encourage discussion in schools about race, cultural differences, and inclusive communities. The performances, post-show talk-backs, and classroom materials are designed to raise issues about diversity in communities where there has been significant growth of Hispanic populations over the past decade.

Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center- $6,000: Grant funding will go towards supporting the Finance Education Program, which provides a series of interactive workshops geared to helping entrepreneurs strengthen their personal finances, manage their business finances, plan for taxes, and prepare for lending opportunities.

Restoring Hope Roanoke- $5,000: Grant funding will be used to fund the Individual Development Grant offered to graduates of Faith & Finances classes. The ID Grant will be awarded within one year of completing the class in November 2021 (no more than $1,000). Applicants for the ID Grant must set a long-term savings goal that will improve their net worth and they will meet with a case manager or ally regularly to show their progress.

Roanoke Valley Speech and Hearing Center- $5,000: The funds will be used to provide low-cost/free speech and hearing screenings, as well as therapy, to low-income children in the Roanoke Valley. The objective is to support effective communication for young children in the Roanoke Valley so they can enter Kindergarten with the skills needed to learn and thrive.

NRV CARES- $6,000: Grant funding will support NRV CARES Parenting Young Children, an eight-week course which leads participants through a series of concepts to improve knowledge of child development and behaviors, coping and problem-solving skills, and communication skills, with the goal of strengthening a family’s resiliency against adversity.

Opera Roanoke- $2,000: Grant funding will support Cycles of My Being, a performance series in which a contemporary classical music piece is created and performed by internationally acclaimed Black artists. The project specifically explores the challenges, struggles, aspirations, and dreams of the Black man in this country and provides avenues for discussion by a diverse audience.

Family Service of Roanoke Valley- $6,000: Funding will support mental health services provided on-site in at least two Roanoke Redevelopment Housing Authority sites. By embedding mental health services in these sites, Family Service will address both the high level of need for mental health services and the barriers to accessing these critical services in the neighborhoods most likely to be underserved. The residents of these neighborhoods face increased COVID-19 impacts due to the risks of front line employment, food and housing insecurity, the shutting down of many community and natural supports, and financial stressors, leading to high rates of mental health issues.

New Freedom Farm- $6,000: Funding will be used to construct a new storage room to store the Farm's Color Guard gear and basic supplies for veterans. This will expand the existing facility and services in order to serve additional veterans, first responders, and their families.

Commonwealth Catholic Charities- $5,000: Grant funding will be used to positively impact the lives of five refugee families who have recently arrived to Roanoke. CCC will direct these funds towards affordable housing, transportation to and from work, utilities, and items such as furniture and basic necessity items. The goal is to ensure these families are set up for success and are integrated successfully into our community.

A Tree Planted Counseling- $6,000: Funds will be used to begin a new program specific to Spanish-speaking community members, and specifically, to hire a native Spanish speaker with a background in mental health to run much needed groups for processing sexual trauma and domestic violence situations.

Salem Ministers Conference Community Food Pantry- $6,000: Funds will be used for the Snack Buddies Program. The program is designed to provide nutritional snacks for school children that might have to go without due to family financial situations. They supply all 21 preschool programs in Roanoke County and all 20 elementary schools in Salem and Roanoke County with at least one bag of 100 snacks each month, a total of 7,100 snacks each month.

November 9, 2021

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Freedom First Expands Commercial Lending into Lynchburg Region

Freedom First has expanded its Commercial Lending efforts into the Lynchburg Region, with Brent Jenkins serving as the Market Executive for the Lynchburg Region and Nickolas Gillan as Vice President Commercial Lending. “The Commercial Lending team in Lynchburg has seen a great amount of growth in just a short amount of time,” says Freedom First Chief Banking Officer Shon Aguero. “Brent and Nickolas are extremely experienced in fostering and managing commercial relationships and we are excited to see what develops from their hard work.”

Brent Jenkins has been with Freedom First since 2015 and is ready for new opportunities in Lynchburg. “My focus is on building the commercial lending team and portfolio from the ground up,” says Jenkins. “Right now, we’re working on relationship building and showing people our community impact. It has been very rewarding to see tangible changes in local businesses through the projects we’ve financed in the Roanoke Valley and I’m ready to see the same type of improvements in the Lynchburg Region.”

Nickolas Gillan has been working in the Lynchburg banking industry for 11 years. “Freedom First values community give back and reinvestment and I cannot wait to bring that to Lynchburg,” says Gillan. “Through my role as Vice President Commercial Lending, I would like to provide superior banking service to the businesses of Lynchburg while upholding Freedom First’s community values.”

“There is so much rapid growth happening all over Lynchburg,” says Jenkins. “There is a need for affordable multifamily developments for students and community members and a great deal of historic rehabilitation projects that preserve the charm of Downtown Lynchburg. We are working with many businesses that haven’t been getting all they need from their banking relationship. At Freedom First, we are able to take the time to look closely at their business to figure out how we can help them grow responsibly so they can get bigger projects, make more profit, and hire more people.”

Brent and Nickolas have an office located at 105 Hexham Drive and can be contacted by phone at (540) 339-3479.

September 9, 2021

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Freedom First Commercial Lending Expanding into the New River Valley

Freedom First is expanding its Commercial Lending Department deeper into the New River Valley by hiring Carie Kingery, Market Executive for the New River Valley, and Spencer Lowry, Vice President of Commercial Lending.

“The future is bright for Freedom First and the opportunity to build a dynamic team in the New River Valley is exciting,” says Kingery. “Customer service is the most important part of banking and that will remain a top priority as we move forward. We are looking forward to growing the commercial lending landscape across our footprint by providing local bankers, local decisions, and a program that allows us to put your money back to work in your local community.”

Carie Kingery was born and raised in the New River Valley and has 19 years of experience in the banking industry. Of her 19 years in banking, 17 of those were spent with Atlantic Union Bank, where she held numerous positions throughout the years as a manager for Retail Banking and as a Business Banker for the NRV. Her most recent role was Vice President-Commercial Relationship Manager with American National Bank.

Spencer Lowry’s banking career has spanned several years, all of which have been spent serving the communities of the New River Valley. Most recently, Spencer was the Assistant Vice President, Financial Center Manager at American National Bank. As AVP, Spencer was a top performer who supported the consumer lending and relationship needs of his clients.

“We have a local commercial team committed to meeting the known as well as unknown needs of our members,” says Lowry. “This commitment is backed by the history and support of a 65-year-old credit union that places a significant amount of emphasis on reinvesting in our local communities. We are poised to provide a banking option in the commercial field where existing and prospective members can bank for good."

This news is on the heels of the recent announcement that Freedom First is expanding its footprint further into the surrounding region. “Adding a Commercial Lending team focused on the New River Valley is an important step in our plan to better serve the needs of businesses in that community,” says Freedom First Chief Banking Officer Shon Aguero. “Carie and Spencer are extremely experienced in fostering and managing commercial relationships and we are excited to see the growth that comes from their hard work.”

For more information about Freedom First’s expansion, visit

September 2, 2021

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Freedom First Welcomes Eric Van Buskirk as Vice President of Private Banking and Treasury Services

Freedom First Credit Union is excited to announce the addition of Eric Van Buskirk as Vice President of Private Banking and Treasury Services.

Van Buskirk has spent more than half a decade in banking and strives to help individuals, families, and businesses plan for their futures. Before joining Freedom First, he specialized in relationship management and helping others navigate holistic financial planning. He is devoted to serving others and making a positive impact on the local community through his work at Freedom First.

“For me, I was really looking to be a part of an institution that was local and truly wanted to make a positive impact on the community,” says Van Buskirk. “I can say that Freedom First and I share the same goal of creating an environment where people bank for good and care about our neighbors.”

Freedom First Private Banking offers a suite of tailored products and services across planning, investing, borrowing, banking, and helps members achieve their own unique ambitions. “Eric is eager to help people reach their financial goals and we are excited to have him join the Private Banking team,” says Freedom First Chief Banking Officer Shon Aguero. “Eric’s years of experience will allow Freedom First to continue to grow and better serve our members financial interests.”

August 31, 2021

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Freedom First Purchases Building in Downtown Roanoke to Serve as its Future Headquarters

Freedom First has purchased the Elmwood Building located at 207 Bullitt Ave SE in Roanoke’s downtown historic district to serve as its future corporate headquarters.

"Our continued growth has made it possible to purchase this terrific property where we will one day consolidate many of our business units into one location,” said President and CEO Paul Phillips about the purchase. “One of our focus areas is providing loan capital to commercial developers who transform old buildings into community assets. So, it seems only fitting that our headquarters would be located in just such a building, with its timber framing, exposed brick, original floors and a blend of modern amenities, it’s a truly beautiful building that our team members will enjoy.”

Built in 1919, the Elmwood Building has been used by a hardware store, furniture warehouse, Meridium, Inc., and most recently GE Digital. Consisting of four floors and approximately 46,500 square feet, the building will continue to house GE Digital on three floors with Freedom First’s administrative offices occupying the fourth floor. As more space becomes available in the building, Freedom First will move employees into those areas.

Freedom First is excited to invest even more capital and economic activity into Downtown Roanoke with the relocation of the headquarters to an Enterprise Zone. It also brings the credit union closer to the active community partners, local businesses, and members that have helped us grow over the past 65 years.

August 17, 2021

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Freedom First Welcomes Keith Perry and David Lowen to Board of Directors

Freedom First recently appointed two new members to its volunteer Board of Directors—Keith Perry and David Lowen.

Keith Perry currently serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Carilion Clinic, where he leads the alignment of information and technology services with the overall strategic objectives of the organization. Prior to joining Carilion Clinic, Mr. Perry served as Administrator of Technology Services for the University of Virginia Health System.

David Lowen is a retired tax partner from Foti, Flynn, Lowen & Co. with over 40 years of experience in public accounting with extensive experience in preparation and review of corporate, partnership, individual, estate and fiduciary tax returns in a variety of industries. For the past four decades, he has been building a repertoire of expertise in individual, trust, and estate tax as well as partnership, corporate, and multi-state tax returns.

Freedom First is led by a diverse volunteer Board of Directors from different backgrounds, personally and professionally, all with the same purpose of investing in our community through strong products, services, and Impact Banking programs. “There are organizations I have longed admired for their benevolence and commitment to the community--Freedom First was one of them,” says Board Secretary Melinda Payne. “When I became a member of the Board, I was ecstatic because now I was part of an organization that strives and succeeds at being a strong corporate asset for the total community providing resources in so many ways.”

“It's an honor to serve on the Freedom First Board of Directors and to have a say in community directed funding efforts and development work,” says Board Treasurer Michelle Davis.

“Our entire Board of Directors embody the spirit of community and bring talent, expertise and energy to help guide the Credit Union,” says Paul Phillips, Freedom First CEO/President. “We are grateful to have a talented and dedicated Board of Directors that volunteer their time to the growth of Freedom First by always keeping the Roanoke & New River Valley community and members in mind.”

Click here for more information about Freedom First Credit Union’s board of directors and the positions they hold.
July 13, 2021

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Freedom First Welcomes Shatenita Horton as Senior Vice President Retail Banking

Freedom First Credit Union is excited to announce the addition of Shatenita Horton as Senior Vice President Retail Banking. Horton has been a leader in the financial services industry for over 25 years and is ready to take on this new position at Freedom First.

Horton recently moved to Roanoke from Columbia, Missouri and is eager to get to know her new community where she now lives, learns, works, and plays. She has an extensive background in the banking industry, working as a call center director, a security officer and banking center manager, and most recently as Vice President of Bank Security and Fraud Investigative Officer. “Shatenita brings a fresh perspective, passion, and leadership that will benefit Freedom First as an organization and our members,” says Freedom First Chief Banking Officer Shon Aguero. “Her passion bleeds into her volunteerism and I know she will have a huge impact in the Roanoke and New River Valleys outside of her work at Freedom First.”

In her new position at Freedom First, Horton will direct the sales and service efforts through creation, coordination, and management of company-wide retail and business banking programs. “I am excited to be a team member at Freedom First and I look forward to continuing the mission of helping people prosper – helping communities thrive,” says Horton.

Horton holds a Bachelor of Science from Columbia College and an MBA from Stephens College. While in Columbia, Missouri, Horton was involved with many organizations including the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, True North of Columbia, Voluntary Action Center, Columbia Metro Rotary, and Columbia Public Schools Foundation. Horton currently resides in Roanoke County with her husband and daughter.

June 19, 2021

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Freedom First Recognizes Juneteenth National Independence Day

Today Freedom First celebrates Juneteenth, the oldest known commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. It is an acknowledgment of grief, a call for equality, and a celebration of the rich and diverse cultures of Black and African-American communities throughout the nation. Earlier this week, President Biden signed legislation officially declaring June 19th to be a federal holiday.

We'd like to recognize Juneteenth as a day to celebrate, further educate ourselves, and connect with our communities as we work together to build more equitable futures. Stay tuned to learn more about how Freedom First is supporting local initiatives to uplift and celebrate the Black and African-American communities we serve.

June 18, 2021

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Freedom First Awarded $1.8M from US Treasury's CDFI Rapid Response Program

The US Treasury awarded $1.25 billion to 863 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) nationwide on June 15, 2021 via the CDFI Rapid Response Program (CDFI RRP). This funding was made available to support CDFIs like Freedom First to increase access to capital in communities hit hardest by the pandemic. Freedom First was pleased to announce an award of $1.8M in funding from this program, which will help further our mission of Helping People Prosper - Helping Communities Thrive.

"These funds will allow Freedom First to further amplify our programs and ensure that more people and businesses that have been impacted by COVID get the support they need as they navigate through the aftermath of the pandemic," said Paul Phillips, President & CEO of Freedom First. "The more we can open access to vital economic resources to our neighbors, the better the outcomes for the region as a whole."

Freedom First would also like to specially thank and recognize Senator Mark Warner, who was a champion in drafting the legislation and advocating for this funding from the US Treasury. Upon announcing that over $21M of the overall funding would benefit Virginia's community lending institutions, Senator Warner had this to say: "This funding will provide critical resources to Virginia’s CDFIs, which specialize in supporting underserved communities. I’m thrilled to know that these dollars are now headed directly to Virginia to support key priorities including small businesses, affordable housing, and access to consumer financial services. This funding marks a successful first step towards ensuring the recovery is felt by all communities."
May 13, 2021

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2021 Annual Business Meeting

The Freedom First Annual Business Meeting will be held by Zoom and phone on Thursday, May 13 at 3pm. The meeting began promptly at 3pm.
For 2021, the Nominating Committee returned three nominations for the three vacancies on the Board. As a result, there will be no election held and no nominations will be taken from the floor at the 2021 Annual Business Meeting. Please welcome our two Board incumbents, Brent Cochran and Andrea Garland, and one new Board member, Keith Perry.
May 4, 2021

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Meet Ryan Applegate, Vice President Retail 

Ryan started at Freedom First in April 2021 as Vice President Retail. In his new role, he manages the Downtown branch, with a focus on Small Business members.

Ryan is originally from the Roanoke Valley and has been working in the banking industry for over 10 years. “During my banking career, I always enjoyed giving back and providing financial education to our community. I feel that Freedom First is the right place for me to continue this because they already have successful programs and resources in place that help a lot of families and businesses get to where they want to be personally and financially.”

Ryan is excited to begin creating new relationships with Freedom First members. “I believe that Freedom First truly has something that can help any individual or business, no matter what their financial background is. Whether you need help planning for retirement, starting a new business, or rebuilding your credit to buy your first home, Freedom First has the people and resources in place to help you achieve your goal!”

Ryan and his wife Tori enjoy playing outside with their three girls and two dachshunds, Pickle and Pete. He also enjoys playing a round of golf and watching the New York Yankees and Miami Dolphins. 

March 15, 2021

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2021 Annual Business Meeting

The Freedom First Annual Business Meeting will be held by Zoom and phone on Thursday, May 13 at 3pm. For 2021, the Nominating Committee returned three nominations for the three vacancies on the Board. As a result, there will be no election held and no nominations will be taken from the floor at the 2021 Annual Business Meeting. Please welcome our two Board incumbents, Brent Cochran and Andrea Garland, and one new Board member, Keith Perry.
January 21, 2021

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Meet Darion Boisseau, Financial Empowerment Center Counselor

Darion Boisseau joined Freedom First in April 2020 as one of the new counselors at the Roanoke Financial Empowerment Center (FEC). Before Freedom First, Darion worked with the community doing outreach, educational assistance, and community growth at the Roanoke Housing Authority and TAP, as well as working as a Motherhood Facilitator for the Health Department. She loves being able to help provide healthy resource connections to families and is now excited to help empower others in their financial journey.

As a financial counselor, Darion enjoys being able to help individuals and families reach their financial goals. These goals can range from credit building, home ownership, budgeting, savings plans, and retirement. She also connects her clients with other resources in the community that aid in overall financial support and education. “It’s very rewarding to be able to work with the community and help towards overall growth. I also enjoy being part of a cohesive team with so much unity and effective communication.”

Darion enjoys writing music and poetry, playing the piano, volunteering in the community, working out, and spending time with family. “All of my hobbies help create balance in my life and gives me a feeling of peace.”

To find out more about the Roanoke FEC, please visit
January 13, 2021

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Freedom First Welcomes Jeremiah Clarke as Vice President of Private Banking and Treasury Services

Freedom First Credit Union is excited to announce the addition of Jeremiah Clarke as Vice President of Private Banking and Treasury Services. After nearly a decade in banking and financial services, Clarke most enjoys helping individuals and families establish and achieve their financial goals.

An Indiana native, Clarke has lived in the Roanoke Valley for 25 years, currently residing in Botetourt County. He worked in the insurance industry for more than a decade before moving into banking and investment services. “I am thrilled to join Freedom First,” says Clarke. “I appreciate being a part of an organization that not only puts a premium on serving their members, but serving the community as well.”

Clarke joins Private Banker Kayla Adams at the helm of Freedom First’s newest product suite, Freedom First Private Banking. Private Banking will offer tailored products and services across planning, investing, borrowing, banking, and will help members achieve their own unique ambitions. “Jeremiah is well versed in helping people reach their financial goals and we are excited to have him join this new venture,” says Freedom First Chief Banking Officer Shon Aguero. “Jeremiah’s expertise will allow Freedom First to grow and better serve our members best interests.”

Clarke enjoys traveling and spending time with his family, along with serving as an assistant coach for his kids’ sports teams. He has been married to his high school sweetheart for 21 years and they have 6 children. In their spare time, he and his wife enjoy raising awareness about the impact of foster care and adoption.
December 15, 2020

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Freedom First Partners with City of Roanoke to Bring CDBG-CV Grants to Local Microbusinesses

ln response to the economic hardships experienced by microbusinesses resulting from the COVlD-19 pandemic, the City of Roanoke, in partnership with Freedom First, is launching a small business relief grant program utilizing Community Development Block Grant - Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) federal funding.

This is a grant program created in response to businesses that are at-risk of closing or laying off employees due to COVID-19, and its goal is to keep businesses open and retain or create jobs in the City of Roanoke.

To be eligible to receive a CDBG-CV Small Business Relief Grant, the business must be a for-profit small business in the City of Roanoke that will create and/or retain jobs for low-to-moderate income people in our region. CDBG-CV Small Business Relief Grants can be used to pay for a limited scope of expenses, such as:

• Working capital such as wages, utilities, rent, etc.
• Costs to comply with COVID-19 related CDC standards
• Other costs that will enable the business to reopen (as outlined in the program qualifications)

“Through these difficult times, small businesses have struggled to invent new ways to sustain their operations and stay open,” said City Manager Bob Cowell. “This small business relief grant program will continue the City's efforts at offering much needed support to do what we can to help keep our small businesses afloat.”

“We are excited to partner with the City of Roanoke to distribute these grants to our local small businesses,” said Freedom First SVP of Community Development Dave Prosser. “Roanoke has a reputation for many one-of-a-kind, locally-owned small businesses, and we want to ensure they have the means to reopen and retain jobs for our workforce once lockdown restrictions have eased.”

Completed applications and program questions should be emailed to by 4 p.m. on June 1, 2022 or until funds are exhausted.

November 18, 2020

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Meet Araceli Arellano, Financial Empowerment Center Counselor

Araceli Arellano joined Freedom First in April as one of the new counselors at the Roanoke Financial Empowerment Center. Araceli has over four years of experience in the banking industry and working as a legal assistant at an immigration law firm. She is now able to apply her experience into being a counselor, educating clients on financial issues and creating long lasting relationships, especially within the Spanish speaking community.

As a financial counselor, Araceli works with clients to help them reach their financial goals, like increasing bad credit scores or creating a budget to save for their first home. “During these difficult times, I can provide clients that are struggling to make ends meet due to job loss or reduced wages as a result of COVID-19 with helpful community resources such as access to CARES funding or assistance for rental or mortgage relief, as well as helping them create budgets and spending plans.” The primary focus of the FEC is to empower clients so they can continue to grow on their own while the counselors help them on their journey.

What Araceli enjoys most about her job is the relationships that are created along the way. “It’s a great feeling when you’ve helped someone reach an important milestone in their life when they’ve felt like it couldn’t be reached. Making them aware of their ability to get out of difficult situations like dealing with creditors or starting and keeping a savings plan, and empower them to make good financial decisions in their lives is a rewarding feeling.” The FEC counselors work diligently with clients to listen to their financial burdens and goals and helping them to create a tailor-made financial plan made specifically for them.

Araceli and her partner have four children, and they enjoy spending time at the pool, doing arts and crafts, and making movies. Araceli also runs her own side business of woodworking and enjoys making business logos out of wood.

November 4, 2020

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Freedom First Adds VaLinda Hayes as Mortgage Loan Officer

Freedom First Credit Union is excited to announce the addition of VaLinda Hayes to the Freedom First Mortgage Team. Hayes joins a team of four Mortgage Loan Officers serving homebuyers in the Roanoke and New River Valleys. “VaLinda has more than fifteen years of experience in the mortgage industry and we are thrilled to have her high-level of commitment on our team,” says Senior Vice President Mortgage Paula Brown.

“I am really excited to be a part of an organization with deep roots in the community,” says Hayes. Hayes was born and raised in the Roanoke Valley and graduated from Radford University, where she studied interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in special education. “As a Roanoke Valley native, I appreciate the value Freedom First places on being local and investing in the well-being of our community.”

Hayes currently lives in Botetourt with her husband and three children. In her spare time, she loves taking a scenic drive, seeking the next great hiking trail, and cheering on her kids in all their sports and activities.

 October 26, 2020

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Meet Kathryn Knotts, Financial Education Coordinator

Kathryn Knotts has been with Freedom First for four years. She began working as a Personal Banker in the Call Center, giving her the opportunity to learn more about the credit union and how each department works together to make Freedom First run efficiently. 

After hearing Dave Prosser, Senior Vice President Community Development, speak, she knew she wanted to be a part of his department and became a Financial Education Coordinator. In that role, Kathryn coaches Freedom First members accomplish the ultimate goal of long-term financial stability and success. The sessions focus on goal setting, asset building, debt management, credit repair/establishment, spending plans, and banking best practices.

Kathryn is now based out of the Roanoke Financial Empowerment Center (FEC). While her job role hasn’t changed, she is now able to carry the relationships she forms with clients further into multiple sessions, and is able to provide one-on-one counseling to better help educate clients and help them to reach their financial goals.  Kathryn says, “The most rewarding part of my job is to experience and share in the excitement of my clients reaching their goals after working so hard to achieve them.” 

She enjoys drawing, crafting, and anything that can be done creatively as well as enjoying all that Roanoke has to offer outdoors.

October 14, 2020

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Meet Marlin Reeves, Vice President New River Valley and Roanoke Markets

Marlin Reeves was hired in July 2019 as the Vice President of the Christiansburg branch and after one year at Freedom First, Marlin was promoted to Vice President New River Valley and Roanoke Markets. In his new role, Marlin works alongside of Tabatha Quesenberry and Matt Graybill, managing and overseeing our New River Valley and Roanoke branches.

What Marlin enjoys most about his job is the opportunity to be able to make a direct impact on member’s lives daily. Marlin says, “What I love most about working for Freedom First is knowing that we put our members before profits and truly care about their financial health and well-being”. He feels very fortunate to be able to work alongside of some amazing people and to work for company that measures its value by how much it gives back.

Marlin and his wife have four children, and are avid Virginia Tech fans. If you visit Marlin at the Christiansburg branch, you will see how much he loves Virginia Tech.

 October 2, 2020

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Meet Keri Garnett, Financial Empowerment Center Manager

Keri Garnett was hired at Freedom First in 2019 as the Financial Empowerment Center Manager. The Roanoke Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) operates through a partnership between the City of Roanoke, Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, Inc., Freedom First Enterprises, and key community organizations to help our communities achieve financial well-being, with the ultimate goal to improve our overall health.

As the FEC manager, Keri works with the FEC counselors to support their work, providing professional, one-on-one financial counseling at no-cost to Roanoke area residents. “A large part of this focuses on continuing education for them, as well as linking them to our community so they can provide and refer our clients to the services that will help them best”, she says.

Keri says the best part of her job is her team. “They’re all bright, dedicated, and fun to work with. They help me grow as a person and a supervisor and I feel proud of the work they’re doing for our community.”

Keri has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services and a Master’s degree in Education, focusing on non-traditional/adult education. She is very passionate about alleviating poverty. When Keri is not on the job, you can find her either working on her black belt in karate or enjoying time spent reading, drawing, or painting.

For more information about the Roanoke Financial Empowerment Center please visit

 September 21, 2020

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Meet Matt Graybill, Vice President Roanoke Market

Matt started at Freedom First in September of 2012 as Vice President at the newly opened Daleville branch, then transitioned to the Towers branch. He was recently promoted to Vice President Roanoke Market and in his new role, he oversees the Vinton, Daleville and Towers branches.

As the new VP Roanoke Market, Matt works alongside Tabatha Quesenberry and Marlin Reeves overseeing our ten branch locations throughout the Roanoke and New River Valleys. “This new role allows me to provide support to the branch teams and Freedom First members to help ensure stellar service to the footprint we serve,” says Matt.

What he enjoys most about his new job is that he gets to help families grow and succeed financially, as well as getting to know them along the way. It’s this kind of personal service that employees like Matt uphold Freedom First’s mission of “Helping People Prosper – Helping Communities Thrive”.

Matt and his wife Susan are proud parents of two daughters. As a Roanoke native, Matt and his family enjoy taking advantage of all things that Roanoke has to offer as it continues to grow.

September 9, 2020

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Meet Tabatha Quesenberry, Vice President Roanoke Market

Tabatha Quesenberry has been with Freedom First for 11 years. She started out working in Lending Operations as a Title Clerk and it was her responsibility to process all title work and book indirect loans. After working in Lending for 2 years, she was promoted to Personal Banker. She worked at the Salem branch for 8 years and spent the last 2 years as the Vice President of the Tanglewood branch.

Recently, Tabatha was promoted to Vice President Roanoke Market, overseeing the Tanglewood, Salem and Downtown branches. In this role, Tabatha’s primary focus is on employee development, where she spends more time with the employees to help them have an even stronger impact on our member experience. “What I enjoy most about my new role is being able to help others succeed in their own career goals. Watching individuals succeed past what they thought was possible for themselves is very rewarding.”

Tabatha is working with Marlin Reeves, Vice President NRV and Roanoke Markets, and Matt Graybill, Vice President Roanoke Market, to make sure each branch is working efficiently and remain consistent with one another. This helps to provide members consistency in their interactions with different employees at the branch levels.

When Tabatha is not helping members or coaching her employees, you can find her at home with her husband and three children. They have one son and two daughters and enjoy hiking, camping and anything outdoors related.


May 11, 2020

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2018-2019 Community Impact Report


Click here to view our 2018-2019 Community Impact Report.


May 11, 2020

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2019 Annual Report


Click here to view our 2019 Annual Report.


May 7, 2020

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2020 Annual Business Meeting Update


Out of an abundance of caution, our Annual Business Meeting will be held over the phone on Thursday, May 14 at 3 PM. Thank you for those that attended. 

March 5, 2020

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2020 Annual Business Meeting

The Freedom First Annual Business Meeting will be held virtually on Thursday, May 14. More information will be provided on how to access it on our website. 

For 2020, the Nominating Committee returned three nominations for the three vacancies on the Board. As a result, there will be no election held and no nominations will be taken from the floor at the 2020 Annual Business Meeting. Please welcome our two Board incumbents, Michelle Davis and Ron Williams, and one new Board member, Shirley Holland.

December 12, 2019

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Credit Unions Top Banks When Serving Members' Financial Well-being

Credit unions are far better than banks at serving their members’ feelings of well-being, according to a recent study from Gallup. According to the research, credit unions appear to be at their best far more often than banks, and the research shows meaningful differences between customers and members regarding perceptions of the financial well-being support their institutions offer.

“Credit unions have built strong member relationships by using a personal approach, thoughtful products and member-centric service models to help members manage their finances -- and 46% of members strongly agree their credit union does,” the report reads. “The credit union business model and member-centric ethic also enhance members' belief that the credit union has its members' best interests at heart. This all adds up to help credit unions create better perceptions of financial well-being support among their customers.

“The feeling credit union members enjoy -- of being cared for and looked after by trusted advisers -- is real. It's not marketing,” it adds.

The gap in perspective is most evident when looking at which statements consumers agree with about the priorities of their institution:

  • For “Looks out for my financial well-being,” credit unions scored 25.5%, while banks received only 14.5%;
  • For “Understands my financial situation,” 24.6% of respondents said this applied to their credit union, while 15.1% said it applied to their bank;
  • For “Has my best interests at heart,” credit unions scored 27.1%, while banks only 14.2%; and
  • For “Puts my financial interests above that of the bank,” credit unions scored 18.4% compared with banks’ 8.6%.
Original article from Credit Union National Association, published December 11, 2019
December 3, 2019

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Freedom First Announces 2019 Grant Recipients

Freedom First Credit Union is proud to announce the award of $35,000 in community grants to eight local nonprofits in the Roanoke and New River Valleys. “We are pleased to continue our support of our community nonprofits and are proud to partner and fund their new initiatives.” said Dave Prosser, SVP Community Development. The following are the 2019 grant recipients:

Blue Ridge Literacy- $3,000: Grant funds will be used to support their Citizenship Classes in order to achieve a 100% pass rate for learners scheduled to take the citizenship test in 2020. Blue Ridge Literacy will achieve their goal of 100% pass rate by conducting pre- and post-reading assessments to ensure that 100% of learners have a reading level of High Beginning, the minimum level required to understand the test, or higher by the time they take their test.

Boys & Girls Club of SWVA- $5,000: Grant funds will be used to support the Project Learn Program. Project Learn gives Boys and Girls Club members the opportunity for academic success by presenting academic programming at the club to compliment what they are learning in the classroom.

LovABLE Services- $5,000: Grant funding will go towards supporting Chris’s Coffee & Custard, a job training site that will serve the needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities by creating opportunities to enhance life, social, communication and vocational skills that will lead to gainful and meaningful employment.

Franklin County Public School Educational Foundation- $5,000: Grant funds will be used to support the Life Check Program, a simulation program to give students an opportunity to look into their future as consumers. For the last 3 years, the Foundation has used Life Check as a culminating activity for economic and finance classes in the Spring. The students in these classes are provide with the necessary knowledge and skills to function effectively as consumers, workers, savers, investors, and entrepreneurs.

Live, Work, Eat, Gather, Inc -- Millstone Kitchen- $5,000: The mission of Live, Work, Eat, Gather, Inc. is to cultivate and nourish community through the support of local food and farms, the creation and growth of jobs, the security of a home, and the gathering of friends and neighbors. Grant funding will support Millstone Kitchen, a shared use commercial kitchen located in the old school center of the Prices Fork Elementary School. Half of the old kindergarten space has been converted into kitchen space rentable hourly by food business entrepreneurs, such as caterers, bakers, value-added farmers and food trucks.

Roanoke Children’s Theatre- $2,000: Roanoke Children’s Theatre launched RCT4TEENS in 2010 as an ongoing health education program using educational theatre to help young people change risky behavior and learn healthy behaviors through issue-based plays that address important health and social concerns. RCT has commissioned THE FAKES, an original play addressing internet safety and addiction and staying safe from online predators and human trafficking. Funding will support educational health outreach for approximately 2,500 – 3,500 middle and high school students who participate in post-show interactive prevention talkbacks with agency professional while identifying resources for ongoing support.

Roanoke Hospitality House- $5,000: The Roanoke Hospitality House will provide adult patients and caregivers traveling to Roanoke for healthcare a compassionate, comfortable alternative to a hospital waiting room or expensive lodging. While away from home and receiving care at Roanoke-area hospitals, patients will be able to focus on healing from illness without the added stress of financial burden. Roanoke Hospitality will use their grant funding to support start-up operational expenses.

TAP- $5,000: Grant funding will go towards supporting TAP Sabrina's Place, the region's only secure supervised visitation and safe exchange program. It serves families affected by domestic violence and/or sexual assault by providing a secure facility staffed by off-duty Roanoke City Police Department officers and trained visitation monitors.

November 14, 2019

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Freedom First Announces Richard Fairley as Business Intelligence Manager 

Freedom First Credit Union announces the promotion of Richard Fairley to Business Intelligence Manager and founding leader of the new Business Intelligence Division.

“Richard’s skills, knowledge, and understanding of the Credit Union make him the perfect match for the Business Intelligence Manager,” says Senior Vice President of Organizational Development Jennifer Jones. “We are excited to see Richard lead this new department and how it will help Freedom First continue to grow and serve our members in Roanoke and New River Valleys.”

Richard has been with Freedom First since 2014 where he began as an Accounting Clerk. After one year in the Accounting Department, he transitioned into Finance where he has most recently been leading the department as Finance Manager.

“It’s an exciting time for the credit union as we move further into business intelligence,” says Fairley. “Business Intelligence will allow the credit union to understand and serve our members better, allowing faster product development and response time to meet our members’ needs.”

October 9, 2019

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Member Appreciation Day October 17, 2019

Freedom First is celebrating our members with an Appreciation Day, in conjunction with International Credit Union Day, on October 17. As a huge thank you to our members for their business, you can enjoy complimentary refreshments at our 10 local branches during lobby hours.

International Credit Union Day (ICU Day) is an opportunity to raise worldwide awareness about how and why credit unions serve their communities. Credit Unions are, in fact, all over the world! Organizations like World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) work with third world countries to establish credit unions, fund micro businesses, and engage in other activities to lift people out of poverty and improve their quality of life. This is the credit union difference. What sets Freedom First apart is that our shareholders are our members — which means we put your interests first. Credit unions are also not-for-profit — so our number one concern is helping the people we serve. We are headquartered locally, and we invest in our community through our Impact Banking programs. That's why you can rest assured that when you bank with us, your money stays here — where it matters. 

At Freedom First, we're taking this opportunity to say thank you to our members for making us who we are today.

October 1, 2019

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Linda Johnson Promoted to Chief Financial Officer Effective March 2020

Freedom First Credit Union announces the appointment of Linda Johnson as Chief Financial Officer effective March 2020. Linda currently serves as SVP Accounting/Finance to the CFO. She will take the place of retiring CFO Keith Rickoff.

Linda joined Freedom First in 2008 and has grown to lead Accounting, Finance and Analytics. She has over 22 years of combined financial management and leadership experience and is a member of the American Society of Women Accountants and the Institute of Managerial Accountants.

Linda serves as Finance Chair and member of the Strategic Planning Committee for the State Children’s Advocacy Center and on the board, Finance Committee, Strategic Planning Committee and Executive Committee of Children’s Trust of Roanoke and the New River Valley. She is a Certified Credit Union Investment Professional and is currently preparing for the Fraud Examiners certification.

Linda has worked diligently to gain the necessary skills and knowledge to meet the challenges of this important role. We wish her the best as Freedom First continues to grow and serve members of the Roanoke and New River Valleys. 

September 30, 2019

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Cameron Wells Promoted to VP Community Development Center

Freedom First is proud to announce that Cameron Wells has been promoted to VP of Community Development Center. We are so excited to have him in this position to better serve our Impact Banking members. Thank you Cameron for your time at our West End branch.

August 14, 2019

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Local Impact For Tomorrow (LIFT) Will Empower Holistic Wellness at Fallon Park Elementary in Southeast Roanoke

Roanoke City Public Schools announced Tuesday it will open a pediatric health clinic and community center at the new Fallon Park Elementary through a partnership with Carilion Clinic, Freedom First Credit Union, and Delta Dental of Virginia. The announcement for the initiative, Local Impact For Tomorrow (LIFT), came during a Roanoke School Board meeting.

The initiative will provide services to students and local families in southeast Roanoke, such as physical and oral health and financial wellness.

The facility is expected to open in August 2020 along with the new Fallon Park Elementary. The school’s renovation and expansion project should be completed next summer. School nurses and a nurse practitioner will provide clinical services to help students and their families at the Fallon Park facility. United Way of Roanoke Valley provided grant funding for a community health worker to help students and families meet needs such as transportation, job training and access to appointments.

The facility will have its own entrance separate from the school. Some services for members of the southeast community will be provided only after school hours. Read the full article in the Roanoke Times here.

August 13, 2019

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James McKell Joins Freedom First as General Counsel

Freedom First is proud to announce that James McKell has joined Freedom First Credit Union as General Counsel. James has 9 years of experience as a corporate attorney and looks forward to this new venture.

“We are excited to bring James on to help us fulfill our vision, and we plan to utilize his expertise to help Freedom First continue our trend of positive growth,” said President and CEO Paul Phillips.

A graduate of Wake Forest University and Duke Law, James earned degrees in Philosophy and Law. James’s community involvement includes the Blue Ridge Legal Services Hotline. James has been living in the Roanoke Valley with his family for the past 9 years.

August 3, 2019

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Steve Hildebrand Promoted to Senior Vice President of Freedom First

Freedom First Credit Union announces the promotion of Steve Hildebrand as Senior Vice President of Marketing. Steve has served as Vice President of Marketing at Freedom First since 2014.

Since joining Freedom First, Steve has helped to take its marketing and branding efforts to new heights, including leading Freedom First to be placed in the Financial Brand’s Top 10 Social Media rankings since December 2018 and a leading business magazine's Top 5 Credit Unions in Virginia in 2019. Steve is a veteran in the Credit Union industry, as he got his start in 2007 and has steadily climbed up the ladder by excelling in each role he has earned.

“Steve has continued to push himself to be a leader in innovation in marketing, both for Freedom First and for the industry as a whole,” said President and CEO Paul Phillips. “We’re excited to see where he helps lead Freedom First as it continues to grow and serve members of the Roanoke and New River Valleys.”

July 30, 2019

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Advisory on Capital One Compromise and Cardholder Fraud Education

It was announced in the media today that a hacker gained access to more than 100 million Capital One customers' accounts and credit card applications earlier this year. At this point in time, Capital One is saying that the vulnerability has been fixed and that it is "unlikely that the information was used for fraud or disseminated by this individual." However, the company is still investigating. It was also noted that "no credit card account numbers or log-in credentials were compromised and that over 99% of Social Security numbers were not compromised." 

Although only Capital One customers are impacted by this breach, we consider this a perfect opportunity to remind everyone of how stolen cardholder information is used to commit fraud. Here are some tips for keeping your information safe - even when dealing with someone you think is from your financial institution.

June 21, 2019

Freedom First star icon.Freedom First Finances Danville Revitalization Effort

Roanoke entrepreneur Ed Walker is developing a 42-room boutique hotel in downtown Danville with the hopes of spurring further revitalization efforts in the downtown area. The $6.2 million project has been dubbed Honey Bee, a play on the name of one of the building’s former tenants, the Danville Register & Bee, and will be managed by Freedom First Board Vice-Chair Brent Cochran's company CitySpace LLC.

Both the City of Danville and Freedom First are providing funding for this project, which will be the only hotel in the River District, the downtown area that the city has been revitalizing since the decline of its tobacco and textile industries. Walker is known for rehabbing buildings in smaller communities and Roanoke, his hometown. Walker and students at Washington and Lee University’s law school, where he teaches, also are redeveloping a significant portion of downtown Buena Vista. Additionally, he’s working on several projects in Salem with Cochran, also financed in part by Freedom First. Read more about this project here.

April 26, 2019

Freedom First star icon.Aligning Capital, Training, & Economic Mobility

Freedom First Credit Union was recently invited to participate in an invite-only Financial Innovations Roundtable event at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. This is an annual event, co-hosted by the Carsey School of Public Policy’s Center for Impact Finance. The purpose was to bring together cross-sector representation to find solutions and provide low-income communities with increased access to capital and financial services. This annual event is billed as a “think tank” and a “think-do tank” that has successfully developed new tools, policies, and practices resulting in millions of dollars being directed into investments in affordable housing, small and minority businesses, community facilities, and other community development efforts.

This year’s theme, “Aligning Capital, Training, and Economic Mobility,” offered an opportunity for experts in community development finance to join a conversation with their peers in workforce development and training. Freedom First's VP Community Development Programs-Tim Cerebe attended and spoke on "Understanding the Workforce Development and Community Development Finance systems". This year’s roundtable supports the two sectors to learn more about each other’s work, examine financial barriers to scaling successful training programs, and discuss opportunities for investments to be made in high-impact businesses and programs. The discussions focused on training and paths to jobs that offer career ladders and economic mobility to low- and moderate-income workers.

Freedom First is honored to be a catalyst at this event.

March 18, 2019

Freedom First star icon.Freedom First Annual Meeting 2019

All Freedom First members are invited to the Freedom First Annual meeting on May 9th, 2019 starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Salem Civic Center.

For 2019, the Nominating Committee returned three nominations for the three vacancies on the Board. As a result there will be no nominations taken from the floor at the meeting. Congratulations to our Board Members - Melinda Payne, Wayne Strickland, and John Budd, Jr., all of whom are incumbents. We hope to see you there!

January 16, 2019

Freedom First star icon.Brian Taylor Joins Freedom First

Freedom First is proud to announce that Brian Taylor has joined the credit union as Vice President of Commercial Lending. Taylor has 9 years of experience in various business roles in the financial services industry including Commercial Lending Relationship Officer, Commercial Loan Officer, and various Loan Servicing roles. Taylor brings knowledge of Business/Commercial Credit underwriting and analysis to an already established commercial lending team at Freedom First.

A graduate of Virginia Tech, Taylor earned a degree in Political Science with minors in Real Estate & Music. Brian’s community involvement includes being a Board Member of the Botetourt County Rotary Club, a member of Carilion Children’s Advisory Board, Campaign Ambassador for Goodwill Industries of the Roanoke Valley, a Loan Review Committee Member/Mentor for The Advancement Foundation, and a member of the Botetourt Chamber’s Business Growth Committee.

November 2, 2018

Freedom First star icon.Freedom First Named Roanoke Chamber of Commerce Large Not-For-Profit of the Year Award 2018

On November 1st the Roanoke Regional Chamber and Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center announced the winners of the 32nd Annual Small Business of the Year Awards. The annual program showcases the accomplishments of the small business sector which is composed of more than 90 percent of the area’s business community. This year, the awards were separated into categories to demonstrate the broad variety of small businesses we have in Roanoke. Freedom First was recognized as the winner of the Large Not-for-Profit category. 

October 16, 2018

Freedom First star icon.Paula Brown Wins Affiliate of the Year Award 2018

Freedom First congratulates Paula Brown for being named the Roanoke Valley Association of Realtors Individual Affiliate of the Year for 2018. Paula's dedication to Freedom First, her team of Mortgage Professionals, and the local Roanoke and New River Valley real estate and mortgage market has been clear for over 20 years. Paula and her team have expertise that includes Conventional, FHA, VA, VHDA, and USDA mortgages with local processing and underwriting. Her goal has always been to provide a perfect client experience while ensuring that Freedom First's mission  ~ "Helping People Prosper, Helping Communities Thrive" is at the forefront of all she does.  

September 20, 2018

Freedom First star icon.Freedom First Wins CDFI Fund award for 2018

Freedom First is honored to receive the CDFI Fund award for 2018 from the National Federation of Community Development Credit UnionsThe Federation is an association of credit unions united by the mission to provide safe, affordable financial services to low-income consumers and communities. 264 organizations received $187,041,119 in awards. 182 Loan Funds, 48 Credit Unions, 30 Depository Institutions/Holding Companies, and 4 Venture Capital Funds received awards. The organizations awarded were in headquartered in 43 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. This award will enable Freedom First to partner with Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley to bring more home ownership opportunities to the local community.

September 1, 2018

Freedom First star icon.Freedom First Welcomes John Budd, Jr. to the Board of Directors

Freedom First welcomes John Budd, Jr., CPA to fill an open Board seat recently vacated when Mr. Tim Sutphin stepped down. John is President and Managing Director of Budd CPA in Roanoke. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee with degrees in Economics and Finance and completed his post graduate work in Accounting, Auditing, and Taxation at Virginia Tech. John serves on the Foundation for Roanoke Valley and the Grandin Theatre Foundation. He is a member of the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of CPAs. The results of the Board self-assessment as well as Management’s needs assessment indicated the need for more local business owners and those with knowledge in finance and accounting. Mr. Budd possesses both these attributes. 

The Board of Directors wishes to thank Tim Sutphin for 18 years of volunteerism on Freedom First's Board of Directors. We wish him well.

August 21, 2018

Freedom First star icon.Freedom First Welcomes New Supervisory Committee Members for 2018-2019

Freedom First welcomes two new additions to serve a 2018-2019 term on the Supervisory Committee: Ms. Cynthia DiFrancesco, CPA and Ms. Adrienne Sowers. The Credit Union’s Supervisory Committee has the responsibility to ensure that the operations of the Credit Union are carried out in accordance with the Federal Credit Union Act and the rules and regulations of the National Credit Union Administration.

Cynthia DiFrancesco, CPA, is a Tax and Accounting Consultant for both the public and private sector. She graduated from Florida State University with a B.S. in Accounting. She has an understanding of financial statements and has an interest in helping the homeless. She likes that Freedom First has a great community mindset and is a not-for-profit foundation. Ms. DiFrancesco resides in Christiansburg.

Adrienne Sowers is Director of Strategic Payment Relationships and previously Financial Operations Manager with Carilion Clinic. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a Master of Science in Public Health Administration and a Bachelor of Science from the Pamplin College of Business. Having worked at Carilion, Adrienne is familiar with finance and the auditing process as well as working with stakeholders to mitigate the negative impact of changes in processes due to regulatory requirements. She is interested in becoming more involved with the local community. Ms. Sowers resides in Roanoke.

August 1, 2018

Freedom First star icon.2018 Community Grant Application is Open

Freedom First's Community Grant Application is now open for 2018.
If a local organization has a project that supports Community & Household Economy, Health & Human Services, or Arts & Culture, they may be eligible for funding. Living our mission - Helping People Prosper, Helping Communities Thrive. 
Applications must be submitted by 4:00 pm on Friday, September 28th for consideration. For more information contact the Community Development team at

May 11, 2018

Freedom First star icon.Freedom First Announces Board of Directors at Annual Meeting

Freedom First recently held their annual membership meeting and announced the returning members of the board of directors. Filling the three open positions of the nine-member volunteer board are re-elected incumbent directors, Brent Cochran and Judith Harrison, and first-time director, Andrea Garland. The Freedom First Credit Union board of directors are democratically elected by the membership to serve three-year terms.

Brent Cochran is a Roanoke native and social entrepreneur committed to developing sustainable solutions through triple-bottom-line business methods. Brent has already served one term on the board and a few months on the Executive Committee. He holds an MBA in Sustainable Business, is an active entrepreneur and business leader, and a millennial. Brent is the Founding Director of LEAP, the Founding Advisor of the Grandin Co-Lab, General Manager of River Rock Climbing Gym, and Co-founder and Director of Community Sourced Capital.

Judith Harrison has had many years in the Credit Union movement on local and state levels and brings almost 40 years of experience serving on the Supervisory and Board of Directors positions. Judith represents the Credit Union well to our employees, members, potential members and the community at large. She is passionately involved in the Mountain View neighborhood preservation and revitalization efforts.

Andrea Garland offers a diverse cultural knowledge and technical expertise to the Board as an immigrant, young professional, and female engineer. After housing, transportation is on average the largest household expense for American families. Andrea has helped shape the way the Credit Union understands transportation, and brings new ideas on how transportation options can benefit members as a member of the Supervisory Committee.

“Our entire board of directors embodies the spirit of community and brings talent, expertise, and energy to help guide Freedom First,” said Paul Phillips, President and CEO. “We are very fortunate to have each of them by our side as we serve our members in the Roanoke and New River Valleys.”

The other six directors on Freedom First’s board include: Dan Merenda, Chairman; Wayne Strickland, Melinda Payne, Ron Williams, Michelle Dykstra, and Tim Sutphin. The board of directors is responsible for establishing strategic goals and guiding policies, as well as monitoring the performance of management.

May 1, 2018

Freedom First star icon. Freedom First Partners With Alzheimer's Association

Freedom First Credit Union in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association of Central and Western Virginia is proud to sponsor "The Crime of the 21st Century: How to Protect Older Adults from Financial Exploitation"This presentation is free and open to the public. Call (800) 272-3900 for information.

The #1 elder abuse issue is financial fraud...and it is growing. Learn how to avoid misuse of assets at this program. Medical, legal, banking, and law enforcement experts will share important information on protecting your resources. A Q&A will follow the panel presentation.

Esteemed Guest Speakers:
Karen A. Roberto, Ph.D, Director of the Institute for Society, Culture & Environment, and
Senior Fellow at the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Tech. Secondary appointee-Department of Internal
Medicine & Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Virginia Tech Carilion School
of Medicine. Primary architect of the MetLife Mature Market Institute studies on financial abuse.
Chris Desimone, Attorney, Anderson, Desimone & Green
Susan Drees-Armstrong, MBA, CFE, Special Agent Accountant, Virginia State Police
Sarah Andrews, Chief Operating Officer, Freedom First Credit Union

2 Venues and Dates:
May 15, 2018, 1-2:30 p.m.
South County Library, SOCO Auditorium - Room 155
6303 Merriman Road, Roanoke, VA 24018

May 17, 2018, 1-2:30 p.m.
Blacksburg Library,
200 Miller Street, Blacksburg, VA 24060

March 28, 2018

Freedom First star icon.Senator Mark Warner Visits Freedom First's West End Branch For Credit Union Town Hall

Freedom First welcomed Senator Mark Warner to a town hall style session for Credit Unions. The Virginia Credit Union League and the Senator's office were instrumental in organizing and promoting this event at the Freedom First West End Branch on Patterson Avenue in Roanoke. The West End Branch community room was filled to capacity with employees, other credit union invitees, and local politicians. The Senator spoke at length about the effect that Credit Unions have on their local communities, how banking regulations implemented in recent years affect smaller community banks, and his vision for changes that he hopes to see legislated in the coming months.

Dave Prosser (SVP — Community Development) and Sarah Andrews (Chief Operating Officer) also spoke with Senator Warner, bringing him up to date on Freedom First's initiatives in Southwest Virginia and the amazing outreach and impact that we have had on our members and communities. The West End Branch, with its community kitchen operated by LEAP for Local Food, is a prime example of what we hope to see in more food and bank deserts in our Valleys.

Freedom First is guided by our mission: Helping People Prosper - Helping Communities Thrive. It was our distinct pleasure to host Senator Warner and the town hall session.

March 19, 2018

Freedom First star icon.Freedom First St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Shamrock Festival Was a Smash Hit

The Freedom First St. Patricks Day Parade and Shamrock Festival was a resounding success. Freedom First was proud to be the title sponsor and enjoyed seeing the multitude of people and many of our members attend this event and enjoy community festivities. This heavily attended event featured floats, children's activities, live bands, food, and plenty of fun. Being the first big event of early spring, we were delighted to see a huge crowd again this year. Freedom First employees decorated and manned the first float in the parade as well as volunteered to help out with other activites like tickets, food stalls, and directing people.

Freedom First takes great pride in being a part of our communities in various ways. By sponsoring local events and bringing people together we believe that we are accomplishing our mission of Helping People Prosper - Helping Communities Thrive.

When you open an account at Freedom First we reinvest the profits locally by sponsoring local events and with our innovative suite of Community Impact Products. Call our Contact Center or Community Development team with questions. (540) 389-0244.

March 17, 2018

Freedom First star icon.You're Invited to the 2018 Annual Meeting on Thursday, May 10, 2018 at the Salem Civic Center

All members are invited to the Freedom First annual meeting on Thursday, May 10, 2018 beginning at 6:30 pm at the Salem Civic Center to welcome our Board of Directors.

For 2018, the nominating committee has returned three nominations for the three vacancies on the Board, and as a result there will be no nominations taken from the floor at the annual meeting. Therefore, no election will be held for 2018 Board members.

Congratulations to our three new Board members:

  • Brent Cochran, Current Board Member
  • Judith Ann Harrison, Current Board Member
  • Andrea Garland, Current Supervisory Committee Member

We hope to see you there!

February 19, 2018

Freedom First star icon.Roanoke's Own Ed Walker Speaks at Freedom First 2018 Employee Meeting

All 180 Freedom First employees gathered in Salem on President's Day for the annual Employee Meeting. CEO Paul Phillips reviewed the past year, recognized stellar employees, and welcomed several guest speakers. 2017 Community Grant recipient The Prevention Council of Roanoke County spoke on their expanding Digital Literacy and safety program, as well as on how Southwest Virginia's opioid epidemic is affecting our youth. 

Ed Walker — Roanoke's very own Real Estate Developer, Roanoke Citizen of the Year (2014), Entrepreneur, & Idea Man — spoke about the importance of social enterprise and how as a credit union, Freedom First is in a prime position to bridge the gap between private business and charitable organizations. He expanded on this point by saying, "“The work you do is a necessary condition to individuals and the community becoming everything they can be. Access to capital and knowledge is a foundational requirement to a community reaching its full potential. I hope to see more investors and depositors make deposits at Freedom First to keep capital here in the community."

Tony Pearman, CEO of Access Advertising & Public Relations, closed the meeting with his recommendations on how Freedom First can provide even more excellent services, products, and member satisfaction in the year ahead. Be sure to keep an eye out on Facebook and Twitter to hear exciting updates! 
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