PITTSFIELD — Key Greylock Federal Credit Union staff and community leaders gathered Friday in a moody drizzle at the entrance of the Kellogg Street branch to mark a milestone of inclusivity. As they took the mic in turn, they shared their thoughts on the institution’s commitment to diversity, equity, and accessibility while celebrating nabbing the designation, “Juntos Avanzamos,” that denotes a credit union has put in the work to make a branch welcoming to all. Their dedication to fostering financial wellness and education, especially for new Americans, was evident in their speeches delivered with warmth despite the raw weather at the start of the business day.
Even the musical accompaniment to the festivities kept seemingly sunny dispositions as the on-again, off-again drizzle threatened, but never delivered, a downpour. The band, Yo Soy Arte, which boasts Clara Guatta from GFCU’s Elm Street Branch, got the crowd, now protected under a forest of umbrellas provided by Branch Manager Mohammed Khan, clapping and swaying to a pan-Latin collection of tunes.
The Juntos Avanzamos designation, which translates to “Together We Advance,” is a recognition for credit unions that have shown a strong commitment to serving Hispanic and immigrant consumers. This initiative aims to help immigrants navigate the U.S. financial system while offering safe, affordable, and relevant financial services. These designated credit unions are known for employing bilingual, culturally-competent staff, and accepting alternative forms of ID, all while treating every member with respect irrespective of their immigration status.
Cindy Shogry-Raimer, Vice President, Director of Community Development, highlighted their early commitment, saying, “The Community Development department was created in Q4 of 2016 and we have been very committed to develop and enhance products and services that can assist our New Americans.”
Greylock Federal Credit Union has made significant strides in becoming more accessible to everyone. Their website is available in both Spanish and English, ensuring that information is easily accessible to a larger audience. Additionally, a variety of brochures and marketing materials are published in both languages. As Berkshire County sees a rise in the Brazilian Portuguese-speaking population, the credit union has introduced Financial Education Classes in this language, furthering their commitment to inclusivity.
Furthermore, the credit union houses two certified IRS ITIN Agents who assist with the applications for the Individual Tax Identification Numbers. These numbers are crucial for individuals to pay taxes, build credit, and access lending products. Unlike other organizations that charge for this service, at Greylock, it is offered free to members. Since the service’s inception in 2019, over 1,250 individuals have been assisted.
All lending products at Greylock are available to members, regardless of whether they have a Social Security number or an ITIN. Highlighting the institution’s dedication to ensuring everyone is catered to, Shogry-Raimer stated, “Last but certainly not least, we currently have four Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors that are bilingual. Three of them speak Spanish, and the third speaks five different dialects of Twi. And I can assure you that more will be coming.”
Introducing her esteemed colleague, she added, “It is an honor and a privilege to be able to work alongside mi amiga Gloria Escobar and all of my Greylock colleagues making Greylock available to all.”
Gloria Escobar, the Sr. Community Relations & Latinx Financial Wellness Coach at the credit union, recalled a recent conference she attended, saying, “Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a credit union conference in El Paso, Texas. More than 100 credit unions from different states gathered together and I was very proud to talk about the programs, the principles, and partnerships that we have developed as we open our arms to welcome immigrants to our community here.”
She continued with her commitment statement, “As a Juntos Avanzamos Credit Union, we are dedicated to working with a growing population… Our commitment at Greylock is to work with individuals and families as they settle into this new community, supporting their work towards financial security and independence.”
Expressing her pride and gratitude, Gloria added, visibly moved and with a slight tremolo, “I am very proud to be part of this community. And to partner with so many caring people who continue to help, and help us and our families succeed in this country.”
John Bissell, the President and CEO of Greylock Federal Credit Union, elaborated on their inclusive mission, saying, “The whole team at Greylock, and the Board, is committed to a program we call IDEA. I-D-E-A. It stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility… our Credit Union team is dedicated to helping anyone and everyone in the communities we serve…”
He expressed his gratitude at the accomplishment of the Kellogg Street branch in achieving the designation, “We are so honored this morning to receive the Juntos Avanzamos designation for our Kellogg Street branch from our friends at Inclusiv. It’s a prestigious recognition that reflects a tremendous amount of passion, dedication, and hard work by Gloria and many others on our Greylock team.”