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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union is collecting cash donations at its 11 branches throughout the region to benefit the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, which leads the fight against food insecurity throughout Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties. Donations will be accepted through Saturday, July 31.

“Food insecurity is more prevalent than you might expect,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “More than 100,000 people across the region’s four counties are in need of support, especially as we all continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. As an institution, we are proud to raise awareness and funds to help the Food Bank provide for those in need.”

Since 1982, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts has helped provide much-needed food to area residents. It sources products from donations and then supplies it to participating pantries, meal sites, and shelters throughout the region. Its work allows individuals, families, seniors, children, veterans, and people with disabilities to lead healthy and meaningful lives.

Based on the donations received in their previous fiscal year, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts was able to provide the equivalent of 12.3 million meals, a significant increase over previous years.

“You don’t need to donate a lot to make a difference — any amount helps to make a significant impact in ensuring that your neighbors have enough to eat,” Welch said. “A $1 donation to the Food Bank can actually provide up to four meals for those in need. We can all work together to create a hunger-free Western Massachusetts.”

Throughout the months of June and July, Freedom Credit Union employees and members, as well as the community at large, are invited to make monetary donations in support of this cause at any Freedom branch. All funds collected during this time will directly benefit the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD  Throughout the month of March, Freedom Credit Union collected cash donations at its 11 branches throughout Western Mass. to benefit the Foundation for TJO Animals and the Franklin County Regional Dog Shelter, raising a total of $1,736.

“As a member-owned institution, we do our best to support organizations that are near and dear to our members’ hearts, and it’s obvious by this outpouring of support that we have a lot of animal lovers in our community,” said Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch. “We were glad to take this opportunity to let our local shelters know how much we appreciate their efforts on behalf of our furry friends.”

Freedom Credit Union provided the opportunity for its employees, members and community to purchase a “paw print” for $1 or more at any Freedom branch.

 “It was gratifying to see our branch windows fill with these paw prints,” said Welch. “We extend a thank you to everyone who participated.”

The Thomas J. O’Connor Adoption Center provides animal shelter and adoption services for the cities of Springfield, Chicopee and Holyoke. The Foundation for TJO Animals was formed to allow the group to better serve the shelter animals in their care through medical treatments and rehabilitation. This veterinary care allows pets to be brought to the adoption floor, where they will hopefully find their forever home.

The Franklin County Regional Dog Shelter is a volunteer-led group serving the communities of Franklin County. Their mission is to protect and improve the lives of stray, lost and unwanted dogs by offering a welcoming facility, providing care and finding good homes for each and every animal.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Just in time for spring cleaning, Freedom Credit Union will again offer the opportunity for Western Mass. residents to securely purge unwanted paperwork.

In cooperation with PROSHRED Springfield, Freedom is offering free Community Shred Days at six of its branches in Springfield, Feeding Hills, Northampton, Greenfield, Chicopee, and Ludlow. The schedule is as follows:

• Saturday, May 8, 9-10 a.m., 1976 Main St. Springfield;

• Saturday, May 8, 11 a.m. to noon, 959 Springfield St. Feeding Hills;

• Friday, May 14, 9-10 a.m., 226 King St., Northampton;

• Friday, May 14, 11 a.m. to noon, 74 Main St. Greenfield;

• Friday, June 11, 9-10 a.m., 1976 Memorial Dr., Chicopee; and

• Friday, June 11, 11 a.m. to noon, 645 Center St., Ludlow.

The public is invited to bring old bills, bank statements, tax returns, and other sensitive documents for free, quick, and secure on-site shredding.

Members and non-members alike may bring up to five file boxes or paper bags per vehicle to the events. Masks are required, and social-distancing guidelines will be in effect.

Daily News

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union recently welcomed Greg Landry as a mortgage loan originator in its West Springfield branch.

“We’re delighted to have Greg on our lending team,” Vice President and Chief Loan Officer Jeffrey Smith said. “In a way, it’s like he’s coming home, as he previously worked at West Springfield Federal Credit Union before it merged with Freedom in 2019. He has a long history in this community and is the perfect person to help our members in the area become homeowners.”

A graduate of Framingham State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Landry has worked as a mortgage and home-equity loan originator for more than 24 years.

“I was born and raised in West Springfield and have lived in Hampden County for most of my life,” Landry said. “In addition, I’ve been a member of Freedom Credit Union for more than 30 years. That means I understand and love this city and this region, and I’m excited to be able to help others establish roots in our community.”

Mortgage loan originators help homebuyers understand their mortgage options and assist with free pre-qualifications and every step of the application process through closing. They also work with members who wish to refinance or take advantage of their home equity with a line of credit or fixed-rate home-equity loan.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — In Massachusetts, one in seven children is growing up in poverty. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are facing increased challenges meeting even basic needs. That’s why Freedom Credit Union has joined other credit unions in the Commonwealth to once again support the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless and its A Bed for Every Child program by participating in the 11th annual Gift of Warmth — Blanket, Clothing and Pajama Drive this month.

“There are a lot of comforts many of us take for granted: a soft bed, a warm blanket, cozy pajamas. Sadly, there are also people — many of them children — who go without,” Freedom President Glenn Welch said. “In past years, we have accepted donations of clothing and blankets, but to keep things simpler and safer during the pandemic, we are instead requesting that our members and the community make cash donations at any of our branches this month.”

Funds raised throughout the month will be used to purchase new blankets and warm clothing, including pajamas, for children in need throughout the region.

“Our members have always been generous when it comes to helping their neighbors in our community,” Welch said. “Every child deserves a good night’s sleep in a warm bed, so we are hoping to make a strong impact this year.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Throughout the month of December, Freedom Credit Union will partner with its members and the local community to raise funds to benefit the Pioneer Valley USO. Freedom will match total donations made through Dec. 31 up to $2,500.

The mission of the USO (United Service Organizations) is to strengthen America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home, and country throughout their service to our country. The Pioneer Valley USO, located at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, provides more than 102,000 pounds of food to more than 3,200 individuals annually through the Emergency Food Pantry, supports more than 600 families annually with holiday food baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and sends more than 500 care packages to deployed military men and women around the world. Funded entirely by private donations, sponsorships, and grants, it supports both Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee and Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield.

Donations can be made to Freedom’s matching drive online at bit.ly/393WCzo.

“We wanted to do something to help care for those who sacrifice so much for our freedom,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “The Pioneer Valley USO was set up in the 1940s to help local service families in need by serving meals and providing food through a pantry at Westover Air Reserve Base. With all the challenges this year, the organization has experienced a dip in donations, and we’d like to help fix this.”

Allan Tracy, executive director of the Pioneer Valley USO, added that, “during this holiday season, there are about 220,000 American men and women on active duty in 100 countries who will not be home for the holidays. We appreciate Freedom’s generosity in soliciting and matching donations to help relieve some of our service members’ stress by helping to ensure their families are cared for.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — As fall approaches, Freedom Credit Union is once again offering the opportunity for Western Mass. residents to securely purge unwanted paperwork. In cooperation with PROSHRED Springfield, Freedom is offering free Community Shred Days at two of its branches on Saturday, Sept. 19: 9 to 10 a.m. at 296 Cooley St., Springfield; and 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at 645 Center St., Ludlow.

The public is invited to bring old bills, bank statements, tax returns, and other sensitive documents for free, quick, and secure on-site shredding.

Members and non-members alike may bring up to five file boxes or paper bags (per vehicle) to the events. Masks are required, and social-distancing guidelines will be in effect.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD Freedom Credit Union (FCU), headquartered in Springfield and serving members in the four counties of western Massachusetts and Hartford and Tolland counties in Connecticut, is warning the public of emerging sweetheart scams.

According to data from the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network, more than $200 million was reported lost last year by 20,000 individuals falling victim to online schemers. In comparison, 8,500 people filed claims of $33 million in losses in 2015.

Sweetheart scammers, also commonly referred to as romance scammers or catfishers, prey on individuals looking for love or companionship online. By creating phony online profiles and backgrounds, these individuals forge relationships by gaining trust and then seeking monetary gain. Often, an emergency will be fabricated; creating a storyline and opportunity to request money from the unsuspecting victim.

“Internet dating sites have become increasingly popular, especially during the early spring months, with people spending more time inside and with more free time,” explained FCU President Glenn Welch. “With so much at stake, we want to raise awareness to protect members of our community from falling prey.”

Welch offered the following signs of a potential scam. The individual:

  • Professes love or affection quickly;
  • Asks to move the conversation off the chat or dating website;
  • Requests money or gifts to handle an emergency medical bill or travel expense;
  • Offers to meet in person, but always offers an excuse as to why they must cancel plans.

“It’s never wise to send gifts or money to someone you’ve never met,” warned Welch. “While it’s possible that online relationships can develop into real life relationships, it’s best to be cautious of individuals who seem too good to be true, or who ask for gifts of money for situations that seem outlandish.”

Consumers who believe they’ve been a victim of a sweetheart scam can report the incident to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. For the latest updates from Freedom Credit Union, visit freedom.coop.

COVID-19 Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union (FCU) announced a donation of $55,000 to be dispersed among several community organizations at the front lines of the local fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The coronavirus crisis has required that the entire community come together in response,” FCU President and CEO Glenn Welch said. “At Freedom, we wanted to honor those organizations that are at the center of the community response and contribute to the resources they need to help others during the pandemic.”

FCU announced that the following slate of organizations will receive a portion of the $55,000 donation: Baystate Health Foundation; Mercy Medical Center; Cooley Dickinson Health Care; the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts; Hampshire Hospitality Group, whose Hampshire County Heroes feed first responders in Hampshire County; and Feed the Fight, an initiative of Peter Pan Bus Lines and area restaurants to feed healthcare workers and first responders in the community.

Welch indicated that FCU will continue to assist the community throughout the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to these community donations, Welch said FCU has offered resources to its individual members intended to provide financial assistance or relief during the crisis, including online banking services and the new Freedom Relief Loan, which provides up to $10,000 to members dealing with consequences of the pandemic, including layoffs, furloughs, and bills.

In addition, FCU’s Skip-a-Pay program allows members with a consumer loan — auto, mortgage, home equity, or home improvement — to defer payments up to 90 days. Members should contact their local branch for details. FCU can also work with member businesses needing financial relief on their specific circumstances. Business members should speak with the Member Business Lending department. For contact information, visit freedom.coop.

“Community and member support is a central tenet of Freedom’s work,” Welch said. “And there’s never been a more important time to give back. We’re grateful for the courageous and critical work being done by doctors, nurses, EMTs, and other first responders, as well as everyday heroes like grocery and restaurant workers, mail carriers, and delivery people. They are truly essential and appreciated, and we’re proud to join this effort to assist the entire community at a time of great need.”

Daily News

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union announced that Debra Mainolfi has been hired as branch officer at its West Springfield location.

“We’re thrilled to have Debra join the Freedom Credit Union team,” said Glenn Welch, president and CEO. “With over 25 years of experience in finance, and with her previous roles in banking as branch manager and assistant vice president, she has the obvious knowledge, skills, and drive to help manage our West Springfield location and to serve that community of Freedom customers.”

Mainolfi began her finance career as a licensed agent for major national insurance providers, working closely with businesses and families to design retirement and succession plans through both insurance and mutual funds. Following her later roles in banking, she joined Freedom in 2019.

As part of her long commitment to community service, she serves on the executive board of directors for Unify Against Bullying, an organization working to end bullying through the celebration of diversity. In addition to serving on other boards, she previously facilitated a financial-literacy program at Sunshine Village and collaborated on a similar program for refugees with Catholic Charities and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Banking and Financial Services

Expanding the Footprint

Glenn Welch

Glenn Welch

Although many Freedom Credit Union members have ties to West Springfield, Glenn Welch said, the institution has never had a physical branch there.

But that will soon change, following the announcement that Freedom has agreed to a merger with West Springfield Federal Credit Union (WSFCU), bringing the West Side institution under the Freedom umbrella.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to extend our products and services to West Springfield, an area where we do not have a branch but where many of our members live and work,” said Welch, Freedom’s president and CEO. “We promise our members accessibility to us, whether it’s at a branch location or through mobile banking. This merger delivers on that promise.”

Freedom, which is headquartered in Springfield and serves members in the four counties of Western Mass. with 10 branches, was originally chartered as the Western Massachusetts Telephone Workers Credit Union in 1922 and renamed in 2004. It currently has $491 million in assets with 28,000 members who live, work, or attend school in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, or Berkshire county.

West Springfield Federal Credit Union, which was initially chartered in 1960 as the West Springfield Municipal Employees Credit Union before its name change in 2003, has nearly 3,000 members and more than $29 million in assets.

Welch noted that WSFCU members will have access to many new products and services, including member business lending, use of 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs across the worldwide Allpoint Network, and robust mobile-banking products and services. All employees of WSFCU will become part of the Freedom Credit Union family. The West Springfield Federal Credit Union location will remain open at 58 Union St. and conduct business as Freedom Credit Union.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to extend our products and services to West Springfield, an area where we do not have a branch but where many of our members live and work. We promise our members accessibility to us, whether it’s at a branch or through mobile banking.”

“The additional products, services, and opportunities available to both our members and the employees who serve them is a win-win proposition,” said Ann Manchino, manager of West Springfield Federal Credit Union. “We are excited for a new chapter in our history and to be part of the Freedom Credit Union family.”

The merger will require regulatory and member approvals, and is anticipated to be complete by the end of 2018.

Pending regulatory approval, Freedom Credit Union will have 11 total branches, including three offices in Springfield and locations in Feeding Hills, Ludlow, Chicopee, Easthampton, Northampton, Turners Falls, and Greenfield.

Credit unions are cooperative financial institutions owned by their members. As a not-for-profit organization, Welch noted, Freedom Credit Union returns its profits to its members in the form of high rates on deposit accounts, low rates on loans, and low or no fees for its services.