SCCCU's Watsonville branch team
(Santa Cruz Community Credit Union)
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For SCCCU members, affordable financial services is not just a dream- it’s a reality

Whether it’s helping members get a new home or combating predatory lending with short-term, lost-cost loan options, Santa Cruz Community Credit Union is committed to providing affordable financial services to our community. And one member’s story shows how this focus makes all the difference in the world.

Sarah Eblen has worked hard her entire life, starting her first job in high school. She has always believed in the importance of saving money and working for the things you get—nothing is for free. Her proactive approach to money management has allowed her to maintain good credit and positively save for her future.

Unfortunately, after arriving in Santa Cruz in 1985, she couldn’t afford to buy a home in such a high-demand and expensive housing market, so instead, she had to rent her home. But in April 2020, she decided it was time to own her first home.

Although Sarah is a successful self-employed sales representative, she was not a “perfect borrower” on paper. However, she had a good down payment, excellent credit, and long employment history. “Other financial institutions turned me down because I couldn’t provide a paystub from a company, something I just can’t provide being that I’m self-employed,” Sarah explained.

New Year, New Home and a Financial Dream Fulfilled

Sarah Eblen, client at Santa Cruz Community Credit Union
(Santa Cruz Community Credit Union)

In early 2021, things changed for Sarah. After a brief discussion with one of Santa Cruz Community Credit Union’s (SCCCU) Board members, she reached out to Brenda Merrell, a Loan Consultant at SCCCU. As a result, Sarah was the proud owner of a new mobile home in Aptos within a few months.

“I felt like Brenda was on my team from our first conversation. I felt supported and cheered on by her,” exclaimed Sarah.

“These are the experiences that make our jobs so worthwhile. It is so fulfilling to see someone fulfill a life-long dream. We fill a niche in this community, which is to provide financial support to individuals who get turned away from other places, and we are really good at it.”

— Richard Cooper, Executive Vice President and Chief Lending Officer at SCCCU

Providing Affordable Homes for Members is Critical to SCCCU’s Mission

Sarah is just one of the hundreds of members the Credit Union has helped over the past year, especially with the impact of COVID-19. SCCCU’s mission is to provide economic justice for all— and that means looking outside the box and reaching those who others may not be helping.

“We look at the whole person when we lend to them, not just what they look like on paper,” stated Cooper. “We have programs available to help people get back on track as well as loans for those with excellent credit. We genuinely want to help.”

Cooper further explained that the Credit Union has one of the only mobile home loan programs in the community and works closely with realtors to help people find the home they need at an affordable price.

Habitat for Humanity volunteer, Elizabeth McGinnis.
(Santa Cruz Community Credit Union)

SCCCU recently committed over $1 million to a local Habitat for Humanity project, which will build homes in one of our Santa Cruz neighborhoods. In addition, the project includes the creation of a community garden and play area.

“It’s an honor to be part of this project that is helping people achieve the dream of homeownership,” explained Cooper. “It’s projects like this that help make our community just that much better.”

Why Providing Affordable Financial Services Matters to SCCCU

The Credit Union is unique in its ability to be nimble and address issues as they arise.

“We’re a small financial institution compared to others in our community, but that allows us to get at the heart of what matters most to our members. Like Sarah, there are many people throughout our county who need help reaching their financial goals, and we’re happy to do so.”

— Katie Fairbairn, Vice President of Communications and Organizational Development at SCCCU

For years now, the Credit Union has joined in industry efforts to combat predatory lending. And now, with its LIFT Loan program, SCCCU is poised to counter Payday loans and help members fill the financial gaps they may have at certain times.

“It’s a lot like ITIN lending. We’ve been doing it for years and have been the only financial institution offering that service in the county until this past year,” stated Fairbairn. “We’re thrilled that some of the other financial institutions in our area are doing the same because the overall goal is to help all people access affordable financial services.”

“We know, especially during the holidays, that people need help. And not everyone who goes to a Payday lender has poor credit. Some go because they just don’t think they have other options, or maybe they’ve been turned down in the past. And we’re here to say that you do have other options.”

— Katie Fairbairn, Vice President of Communications and Organizational Development at SCCCU

SCCCU's Watsonville branch team
(Santa Cruz Community Credit Union)

Reaching Out in Our Community to Help the Most Vulnerable

return the favor

Besides its annual RETURN THE FAVOR campaign (which brought in over $157,000 this year), SCCCU regularly assists local non-profits in obtaining grants to help implement programs to help those most vulnerable in our community.

“We’re excited to announce that all three of the non-profit organizations we sponsored for FHLB grants were approved this past week,” stated Fairbairn. “It’s such a privilege to be able to help our local non-profits get the funds they need to serve so many who need assistance, especially during the holidays.”

More Services to Help the Unbanked and Underserved in Santa Cruz County

With a mission to provide economic justice for all, SCCCU is committed to reaching out to those who have been overlooked for years.

“We believe that everyone should have access to affordable financial services,” stated Beth Carr, President/CEO of SCCCU. “And we really do put our money where our mouth is.”

The Credit Union offers a variety of products and services to help people get back on track or build credit—from Second Chance Checking to Savings-Secured Loans to DACA Loans to free financial counseling.

(Santa Cruz Community Credit Union)

What Does The Future Hold?

Imagine how it would be if everyone—like Sarah—had access to the financial services they need to live comfortably?

“When we lower the percentage of the unbanked and underserved in our community, we improve the financial well-being of each household and build a more robust economy for all to enjoy. We believe economic justice for all is worth the effort.”

— Beth Carr, President/CEO of SCCCU