Stepping Stones Community Federal Credit Union officially opened its doors and celebrated the grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.
Stepping Stones is located in the east side of Wilmington on North Church Street, next to the Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council’s offices. The main sponsor behind Stepping Stones, DCRAC has been working for the past seven years to open this alternative for low-income residents frustrated with big banks.
“Financial institutions’ presence in a community does wonders for the community’s morale. So our presence, physical presence over here is going to build the community inside and their pockets as well,” said DCRAC Executive Director Rashmi Rangan.
Wilmington resident Lakenzia Gordon was the first person to open an account with Stepping Stones.
“The community needs a place like Stepping Stones, that way the people know that there is a small community here that’s gonna help bring up the community, and help the people of the community save their money and get in touch with their credit.”
“I’ve just had the opportunity to talk with a number of folks who’ve joined the credit union. After going through financial literacy training with DCRAC, after learning about how they can have their money working for them, rather than they’re working for their money, and I think this is going to be a very positive contribution to this neighborhood, to our broader community and to our state,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.
Federal credit unions operate differently from banks in that they’re member-owned and controlled. They also tend to have fewer fees and help people save, borrow and become homeowners at a lower cost.
“Some of the other financial institutions have so many restrictions… this is a way that they can finally get involved, get started saving and have some financial direction even though they have some blemishes on their credit history,” said Wilmington City Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz. Stepping Stones is located in her district.
Democratic Congressman John Carney, who serves on the Financial Services Committee, has participated in the planning process over the past five months. Following the ceremony, he opened up his very own savings account “to show the people in the neighborhood, and in the city, how easy it is to do, to try to emphasize how safe it is… so we’re going to try to lead the way and show people what we’d like to see them do.”
The wholly volunteer Stepping Stones Community Federal Credit Union offers a variety of savings options and will open three days a week for now. Rangan says Stepping Stones hopes to offer small loans by May and eventually open seven days a week, providing all of the services traditional banks offer.
Before Stepping Stones Community Federal Credit Union, DCRAC says Delaware’s last new charter was approved 33 years ago.