Our Community’s Credit Unions – Working for a United Community
During the last few decades, our Ukrainian-American community has created a powerful financial voice – the Ukrainian-American Credit Union movement. Ukrainian credit unions were chartered in the US beginning in the 1950’s and now hold over two billion dollars in assets. Membership exceeds 100,000 Ukrainian-Americans who support our community while benefiting financially from credit union services. From an economic point of view, our community’s credit unions present a strong united voice and are the financial backbone of our Diaspora.
Beginning June 26, 2006 the Presidents, Directors, and CEOs from among the seventeen credit unions held their 25th anniversary technical conference and annual meeting in Washington DC. The Ukrainian National Credit Union Association (UNCUA) and its chairman, Bohdan Watral, organized this year’s conference to exchange ideas and plans for the Ukrainian-American credit union movement. UNCUA President and conference organizer Orysia Burdiak added a visit to the credit union-owned “Credit Union House” and to the Ukrainian Embassy. At the conference, Chairman Watral presented an overview of the Ukrainian-American credit union movement, and eloquently introduced speakers from the US Government, Congress and representatives from nationwide credit union associations.
Former Florida Congressman and President of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Dan Mica enthusiastically greeted attendees. Mr. Mica offered encouragement and the cooperation of his association, and offered the use of the strategically located “Credit Union House” as a base for use in addressing Ukrainian-related credit union issues while in Washington DC. New York State Credit Union League President William Mellin addressed participants and offered support from the New York League. Later, at the Ukrainian Embassy, attendees welcomed Ambassador Oleh Shamshur and NY Congressman James Walsh. Both Ukrainian Ambassador Shamshur and Congressman Walsh reiterated their support for the Ukrainian credit union movement.
Presenters for this year’s conference included JoAnn Johnson, Chairman of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the US government’s agency responsible for the oversight of our country’s federally chartered credit unions. The NCUA oversees 9,500 credit unions with over 82 million members and $520 billion in assets. NCUA Board member Gigi Hyland spoke to attendees and praised their work in developing Ukrainian-American credit unions. NCUA officers Matthew Biliouris and Judy Graham presented upcoming issues and challenges which face US credit unions.
The three-day conference included presentations from several credit union support organizations, including the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Members United Corporate Federal Credit Union, and the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). CUNA Mutual President Jeff Post welcomed participants and spoke on the issue of credit union insurance. CUNA’s senior economist, Bill Hampel, presented an optimistic view of credit unions in today’s economic environment and highlighted the fact that our nation’s credit unions consistently provide more advantageous financial services for their members than do banks.
After the conference, the Illinois delegation, consisting of Selfreliance Ukrainian American Federal Credit Union’s Board Chairman Michael R. Kos, CEO and President Bohdan Watral, Directors Oleh Karawan and Roman Yatskovskyy, along with Walter Tun and Volodymyr Pavelczak met with Illinois Senators Barack Obama and Dick Durbin, as well as Congressman Danny Davis and Congresswoman Melissa Bean. The Senators and Congressmen expressed their steadfast support of America’s credit unions and the credit union movement in Ukraine.
NCUA Board Member Gigi Hyland addresses participants of UNCUA’s 25th conference and annual meeting in Old Town Alexandria June 26, 2006. Seated are UNCUA Chair Bohdan Watral and NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnson.
As this country’s only Ukrainian-American community-owned financial institutions, our credit unions are indeed thought of as a strong community force. Their association, the UNCUA, provides a focus for the collective voice of these most-influential community institutions. What does the ongoing growth of our credit unions mean for the Ukrainian-American community? Nothing less than a powerful unifying force which can span differences between religious, civic, youth, and cultural community organizations. Our Ukrainian community-owned cooperatives represent the core of an even stronger, more united Ukrainian-American community, a community enriched by this focused financial strength, with a capable voice promoting cooperation and democracy both here and abroad.