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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.
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.
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 www.freedomfirst.com/who-we-are.
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.”
Freedom First Purchases Building in Downtown Roanoke to Serve as its Future 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.
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.
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.
Freedom First Recognizes Juneteenth National Independence Day
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.
2021 Annual Business Meeting
Meet Darion Boisseau, Financial Empowerment Center Counselor
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 roanokefec.org.
Freedom First Welcomes Jeremiah Clarke as Vice President of Private Banking and Treasury Services
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.
Freedom First Partners with City of Roanoke to Bring CDBG-CV Grants to Local Microbusinesses
• 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.”
Applications and further details can be found at www.freedomfirst.com/small-business-relief-grant. Completed applications and program questions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4 p.m. on June 1, 2022 or until funds are exhausted.
Meet Araceli Arellano, Financial Empowerment Center Counselor
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.
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.
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.
Meet Marlin Reeves, Vice President New River Valley and Roanoke MarketsMarlin 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.
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 RoanokeFEC.org.
Meet Matt Graybill, Vice President Roanoke Market
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.
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.
2018-2019 Community Impact Report
Click here to view our 2018-2019 Community Impact Report.
2019 Annual Report
Click here to view our 2019 Annual Report.
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.
2020 Annual Business Meeting
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.
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%.
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.
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.”
Member Appreciation Day October 17, 2019
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.
Cameron Wells Promoted to VP Community Development Center
Local Impact For Tomorrow (LIFT) Will Empower Holistic Wellness at Fallon Park Elementary in Southeast Roanoke
James McKell Joins Freedom First as General Counsel
“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.
Steve Hildebrand Promoted to Senior Vice President of Freedom First
Advisory on Capital One Compromise and Cardholder Fraud Education
Freedom First Finances Danville Revitalization Effort
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.
Freedom First Annual Meeting 2019
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.
Freedom First Named Roanoke Chamber of Commerce Large Not-For-Profit of the Year Award 2018
Paula Brown Wins Affiliate of the Year Award 2018
Freedom First Wins CDFI Fund award for 2018
Freedom First Welcomes John Budd, Jr. to the Board of Directors
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.
Freedom First Welcomes New Supervisory Committee Members for 2018-2019Freedom 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.
2018 Community Grant Application is OpenFreedom 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.
Freedom First Announces Board of Directors at Annual Meeting
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.”
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.
200 Miller Street, Blacksburg, VA 24060
Senator Mark Warner Visits Freedom First's West End Branch For Credit Union Town Hall
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.
Freedom First St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Shamrock Festival Was a Smash Hit
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.
You're Invited to the 2018 Annual Meeting on Thursday, May 10, 2018 at the Salem Civic Center
Congratulations to our three new Board members:
- Brent Cochran, Current Board Member
- Judith Ann Harrison, Current Board Member
- Andrea Garland, Current Supervisory Committee Member