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Freedom First Credit Union


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Stay Up to Date With Freedom First News

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-SVP Mortgage 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 through our Affordable Housing Loan Program.

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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