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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union recently announced the hiring of two staff members for its new loan-production office at 115 Elm Street in Enfield, Conn.: Jackson Findlay, mortgage loan originator, and John Santaniello, assistant vice president of Member Business Lending.

“We are excited to have Jackson and John join our team to serve our members in Connecticut,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “We could not have two better people representing us at our first location across state lines.”

Findlay will be responsible for helping guide members through mortgage loan options, preparing and submitting mortgage loan applications, and working with prospective homebuyers throughout the process of obtaining a mortgage loan. A graduate of Newbury College with a bachelor’s degree in international business and Elms College with an MBA, he previously served as a virtual mortgage officer with another financial institution.

Santaniello will work with businesses seeking loans, including term, Small Business Administration, commercial real estate, and commercial vehicle loans. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He previously worked at another financial institution in Connecticut as assistant vice president of Commercial Lending.

In 2020, Freedom expanded its charter from people who live, work, or attend school and their families in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties in Massachusetts, to also include people in Hartford and Tolland counties in Connecticut.

Daily News

ENFIELD, Conn. — Freedom Credit Union, with 10 branches throughout the Pioneer Valley, announced the opening of its first location in Connecticut at 115 Elm St., Unit 214, in Enfield. The office, which recently opened, is dedicated exclusively to mortgage and business lending for the time being.

“We are excited to expand our footprint over the state line into Connecticut to better meet the needs of our members there,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “This new location has both a full-time mortgage loan originator and a business lender on site.”

The mortgage loan originator, Jackson Findlay, will help guide members through mortgage loan options, prepare and submit mortgage loan applications, and work with prospective homebuyers throughout the process of obtaining a mortgage loan. He earned his bachelor’s degree in international business from Newbury College and an MBA from Elms College.

John Santaniello, assistant vice president of Member Business Lending, will work with businesses that are seeking loans including term, Small Business Administration, commercial real estate, and commercial vehicle loans. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

“We have a significant number of members who go back and forth across the state line for work and other activities, so this expansion makes sense,” Welch added. “It is our intention to offer additional services to Connecticut in the future.”

In 2020, Freedom expanded its charter from people who live, work, or attend school in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties to also include people in Hartford and Tolland counties in Connecticut.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Through Friday, Dec. 2, Freedom Credit Union is collecting cash donations at all its branches throughout Western Mass. to benefit the Pioneer Valley USO located at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee.

“At Freedom Credit Union, our members and staff are longtime supporters of our military and the brave men and women who give so much to protect and defend our nation,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “Throughout the year, and especially around the holidays, being away from family is one of the biggest challenges they face. The USO works to ease this difficulty by helping keep the members of our military connected to their families and homes, while also providing resources to their family members.”

Westover is the largest air reserve base in the nation and home to about 5,500 military service members and their families. There, the Pioneer Valley USO works to provide programs and services to service members and their families. This includes entertainment and events, a food pantry, transition programs, holiday celebrations, and more.

“We hope everyone will join us in supporting those who keep us safe,” Welch said. “Whether or not you are a Freedom member, please stop by one of our branches to make a cash donation toward this important effort. Every donation is appreciated and will be put to great use.”

Freedom Credit Union has branches in Chicopee, Feeding Hills, Greenfield, Ludlow, Northampton, Turners Falls, West Springfield, and Springfield.

Banking and Financial Services Special Coverage

Century Unlimited

 

President and CEO Glenn Welch (center) with some of his team.

President and CEO Glenn Welch (center) with some of his team.

When asked what might come next for Freedom Credit Union, Glenn Welch said simply, “we’re going to continue doing what we’ve been doing for the past 100 years.”

By that he meant … well, a whole lot of things, from continued growth and innovation to embracing new technology; from growing the base of customers to extending the institution’s geographic reach; from finding new ways to serve members to giving back to the community.

There will be more of all of that, said Welch, president and CEO of Freedom, who offered what amounted to a ‘state of the credit union’ report for BusinessWest on the occasion of its 100th birthday.

The milestone (July 22 was the official birthday) has been marked in various ways — from a 100-day summer food drive that raised $4,100 for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and collected 930 pounds of food for the Gray House, to a week of ice cream at all the branches in late July for members and employees; from raffles and giveaways for members to specials on loans and CDs.

“It’s a big milestone these days for a financial institution to be around that long,” Welch said. “So we wanted to celebrate with the community.”

Mostly, though, the institution has been quietly continuing those patterns of behavior listed above, he added, noting that he and his team are being both innovative and entrepreneurial as they go about writing the next chapter in a history that began with an institution known as the Western Massachusetts Telephone Workers Credit Union, formed when Warren Harding was patrolling the White House.

“It’s a big milestone these days for a financial institution to be around that long. So we wanted to celebrate with the community.”

Listing examples of both, he said Freedom will soon be introducing its first interactive teller machine (ITM) as well as credit cards and a new debit-card product. Meanwhile, it is continuing and broadening its push into Connecticut with the opening of a loan-production office on Elm Street in Enfield. Also, the credit union, which now boasts roughly $650 million in assets, more than 32,000 members, and 10 branches across Western Mass., has been making some inroads to service companies in the broad and ever-expanding cannabis industry in Western Mass., while continuing to aggressively pursue more business on the commercial-lending side of the ledger.

With the cannabis sector, the credit union recently started providing deposit and cash-management services for businesses in different kinds of businesses, said Welch, adding that this could become a vehicle for growth at Freedom.

“We have several clients that have signed on with us and we have a pretty good backlog of businesses that are looking to come on board with us,” Welch said, noting that the credit union is working with its regulator to make sure it is complying with guidelines for doing business with those in this sector.

It is certainly not the only institution looking to garner cannabis customers, he went on, adding that, as competition mounts, Freedom will work to remain competitive and secure market share in a sector where new businesses open every month, if not every week.

Cannabis was recently made legal for recreational use in the Nutmeg State, he went on, adding that this could be another avenue for growth in that market. “We think we’re in a good position with our expansion into that market.”

Overall, Freedom is still finding its footing in Connecticut, he said, adding that, over the next few years, it will explore opportunities to branch out south of the border, literally and figuratively.

Glenn Welch

Glenn Welch says the basic strategy at Freedom is “to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the past 100 years.”

“We’re going to explore our options in Connecticut as we get a foothold there,” he explained. “There could be a possibility of branching down there; we signed a two-year lease in Enfield, and we want to explore the market with the loan production first; we thought that was a good way to get a good foothold.”

For this issue and its focus on banking and financial services, BusinessWest talked at length with Welch about the first 100 years for Freedom Credit Union, and what is on tap for this Western Mass. institution.

 

Answering the Call

Tracing the history of the credit union, Welch said it started in a small office in the telephone-company building on Worthington Street, serving only employees of that large and fast-growing industry.

In 1978, the institution relocated to a new home on Main Street in Springfield’s North End, which still serves as its headquarters today. In 1987, the Western Massachusetts Telephone Workers Credit Union merged with Monarch Credit Union. As demand for the benefits of a credit union grew, the institution applied for a community charter. In January 2001, membership eligibility was expanded to include anyone who lived or worked in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, or Berkshire county, and in early 2020, further expansion of membership eligibility included Hartford and Tolland counties in Connecticut.

In 2004, the institution merged with FHBT Credit Union, and the name of the larger entity became Freedom Credit Union. And with that new name came geographic expansion, with new branches in Chicopee, Northampton, and, later, Turners Falls, Greenfield, Feeding Hills, Easthampton, the Sixteen Acres neighborhood in Springfield, Ludlow, West Springfield (after a merger with West Springfield Credit Union in 2019), and then Connecticut.

Throughout its history, Freedom has consistently sought out new opportunities to expand and bring its products, services, and mission to new zip codes, said Welch, while also looking for new and better ways to serve its members, said Welch, adding that these trends continue today.

Especially with its push into Connecticut, but also with its work to attract residents and businesses in its service area that are looking for options in the wake of a seemingly endless string of bank mergers, the latest being M&T’s absorption of People’s United Bank.

“We’re going to explore our options in Connecticut as we get a foothold there.”

Connecticut has become the next frontier for many banks and credit unions based in Western Mass., and so it is with Freedom, said Welch, adding that the new office in Enfield, which opened earlier this month, will include both a commercial-lending officer and a mortgage originator.

“We had a lot of people in Connecticut who wanted to bank with us, so that’s why we expanded our charter in 2020,” he said, adding that COVID obviously slowed the pace of progress into that state, but with the pandemic easing in most all respects, the credit union is expecting to see growth in the numbers of members from across the border.

Meanwhile, Freedom will continue and escalate what has been an aggressive push into the commercial-lending market on both sides of the border, another initiative that has been slowed somewhat by COVID.

“We’re trying to expand on the commercial side, but obviously not ignoring consumers,” he told BusinessWest. “We did hire a new hire lender for the Connecticut market; we believe there is a lot of opportunity there — on both the commercial and consumer side.”

Overall, the credit union began its push into the commercial market roughly seven years ago, he said, adding that it has been making good inroads since, with two lenders in this market and now the one in Connecticut.

Its legal lending limit is $7 million, with a large sweet spot of $2 million to $5 million, Welch explained, adding that this range leaves plenty of growth potential in a region dominated, on both sides of the border, by small businesses.

“We have a very experienced lending team — we’ve been in the market in a long time,” he said, adding that Freedom will be rolling out some new products in the next few months that will make it easier for companies to obtain small-business loans.

“We’ve partnered with a credit-union service organization with an online app where people can go, and they will make the credit decision for us, based on our guidelines in place,” he explained. “That’s how we hope to help the small businesses in the area.”

Another new service soon to be unveiled by Freedom will enable area retailers to offer financing for purchase of their products through the credit union, an initiative that he believes will help small businesses while also creating potential new members for the credit union on the consumer side.

The credit union’s headquarters have been located on Main Street in Springfield since 1978 — before it was called Freedom.

The credit union’s headquarters have been located on Main Street in Springfield since 1978 — before it was called Freedom.

Overall, growth in membership has been steady, at perhaps 1% a year on average, which is typical of credit unions in this market, he said, adding that Freedom is trying to capitalize on the ongoing consolidation of the banking market and mergers like the one involving M&T and People’s United, which, by most accounts, did not go smoothly.

“I think that’s our biggest opportunity, especially in Connecticut, with M&T and People’s United being such big players in that market,” he said, adding that the credit union is conducting some marketing targeting customers of those institutions.

Meanwhile, as noted earlier, the credit union will soon roll out its own credit card as well as a new debit-card product, its first ITM, and other products and services aimed at making banking easier and more convenient for members.

“We just keep automating things as we try to make it easier for our members to do business with us,” Welch explained. “A lot of things are being done online, and I think we have very competitive products for that; if people want to apply for loans or open accounts, they can do it on their own time, but certainly we have the branch system in place to support them when they need help.”

 

By All Accounts

Looking at the business plan for the next several years, Welch said Freedom is looking at a number of growth opportunities — in Massachusetts, Connecticut, within the cannabis industry, in commercial lending, and with several new consumer products.

It is moving on several different fronts at once, with the goal of expanding its membership base, providing new and better products and services, and taking its mission in new directions.

These initiatives are new in some respects, but overall, they’re simply a continuation of what the institution now known as Freedom has been doing for a century.

 

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union will once again offer the opportunity for Western Mass. residents to securely purge unwanted paperwork. In cooperation with PROSHRED Springfield, Freedom is offering a free Community Shred Day on Saturday, Oct. 15 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at its 74 Main St., Greenfield branch.

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 event. There is no charge for this service.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union is 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 on two Saturdays, Sept. 10 and Oct. 15, at its Ludlow, Chicopee, Northampton, and Greenfield branches.

On Sept. 10, shredding will take place from 9 to 10 a.m. at 645 Center St., Ludlow, and from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at 1976 Memorial Dr., Chicopee. On Oct. 15, shredding will take place from 9 to 10 a.m. at 226 King St., Northampton, and from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at 74 Main St., Greenfield.

The public is invited to bring old bills, bank statements, tax returns, and other sensitive documents for quick, secure on-site shredding. Credit union members and non-members alike may bring up to five file boxes or paper bags per vehicle to the events. There is no charge for this service.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union recently announced the promotion of Charlene Smolkowicz from commercial credit manager to assistant vice president.

She has been with Freedom since 2016 and is based in the main office in Springfield. In her role, she manages the Commercial Credit department, underwriting process, and analyst team for commercial and industrial, commercial mortgage/commercial real estate, and nonprofit borrowers. She is also responsible for maintaining sound portfolio credit quality and monitoring risk.

“Charlene already had nearly two decades of experience when she joined our team six years ago, and she has proven herself to be a leader time and time again,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “She is a past recipient of our GEM award and is dedicated not only to providing the best service to our members, but also to helping her colleagues grow and thrive.”

Smolkowicz earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration at Northeastern University in Boston and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management at Bay Path University. She also completed the Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. Advanced School of Commercial Lending at Babson College.

Active in the community, she serves as treasurer and chairs the finance committee for the board of directors for Viability Inc., and participates in both the WIT (Women Innovators & Trailblazers) Mentor Match Program and the Springfield School Volunteers Read-Aloud program. She was recognized by United Way of Pioneer Valley as Volunteer of the Year in 2012.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union recently announced the promotion of Andrew Sullivan from commercial loan officer to assistant vice president, member business lending.

Sullivan has been with Freedom since 2019 and is based in the main office in Springfield. He will continue his role providing financing for new and existing business members along with managing the existing commercial-loan portfolio.

“Andrew joined our team with experience as a small-business lender and portfolio manager and quickly showed his value to our members in his role as a commercial-loan officer,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “This well-deserved promotion will allow him to continue to serve our members while mentoring others on our lending team.”

Sullivan earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting/business management and an MBA from Elms College. He is also the founder of Andrew Sullivan’s Swing for a Cure to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union announced it recently promoted Rae Brown to the role of branch officer for its Northampton and Easthampton locations. She previously served as the assistant branch officer at the Main Street, Springfield office.

“Rae has been with us for nearly eight years and has proven herself to be a wonderful leader, dedicated to providing outstanding service to our members and committed to the success of her team,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “She is the perfect person to oversee our two branches in Hampshire County.”

Brown has more than two decades of experience in banking, including more than 11 years in Hampshire County. She has an associate degree from Springfield Technical Community College and is also a notary public.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union hired Carla Banas as branch officer for its Ludlow location. She brings more than 16 years of banking experience to her role, the last several of which were in Ludlow, where she specialized in commercial banking.

“Carla has a depth of experience in community and commercial banking, and a proven track record of coaching and staff development,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “She lives in Ludlow and has a passion for the local community and for helping small businesses.”

In her new role, Banas will oversee the daily operations of the branch, ensure the growth and development of employees, ensure exceptional customer service for members, and grow new business by cultivating lasting relationships.

Outside her professional role, Banas is on the board for Women to Watch and serves as community outreach chair. She is also a member and past president of the Ludlow BNI Core Connections chapter and is active in the East of the River Chamber of Commerce. In her previous position, she was recognized for her work with employed veterans by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Throughout the month of February, Freedom Credit Union is once again collecting donations for its  annual Gift of Warmth — ­Blanket, Clothing and Pajama Drive, supporting the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.

“As part of the Massachusetts credit unions, we assist with two annual initiatives for the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless: A Bed for Every Child and Gift of Warmth,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “Since the launch of A Bed for Every Child, more than 9,000 children throughout the state have received a new bed of their own. And as much as funding for beds is important, so are the special touches that make a bed comfy and cozy, which is why we also support the Gift of Warmth — Blanket, Clothing and Pajama Drive.”

Cash donations can be made at any Freedom Credit Union branch throughout the month of February. Funds raised will be used to purchase new blankets, clothing, and pajamas for area children. Donations can also be made online at abedforeverychild.org/ccua, or new blankets, clothing, or pajamas can be purchased and delivered to A Bed for Every Child, c/o Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, 73 Buffum St., Lynn, MA 01902.

“We are so gratified at the way our members, staff, and community step up each year to help ensure that all children in our community can get a warm, comfortable, good night’s sleep,” Welch said. “This is a cause that is close to all our hearts.”

Since 2011, Massachusetts credit unions have donated more than 9,100 blankets and thousands of warm clothing items, including pajamas, for many in need throughout the state.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union (FCU) is again proud to partner with the Pioneer Valley Chapter of the Cooperative Credit Union Assoc. on A Bed for Every Child.

“A Bed for Every Child is one of our most cherished organizations that we support,” said Glenn Welch, president and CEO of Freedom Credit Union. “We have a strong commitment to our community, and this group is doing amazing work right here in our backyard. Every child deserves a warm, safe place to rest their head for a restorative night of sleep.”

In 2011, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless learned that many public-school students were not getting enough sleep because they did not have their own beds. In response, the coalition launched A Bed for Every Child with a mission to help facilitate the healthy sleep children need to learn and succeed. Every $250 equals a ‘comforts of home’ package that provides sheets, blankets, pillows, and oral-hygiene kits. Every $350 allows for a ‘bed buddy’ package, which provides one child with a complete bed set.

Each FCU branch is currently collecting cash donations though Friday, Dec. 17 to benefit A Bed for Every Child and help Freedom reach its goal.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union has made a $15,000 commitment — $3,000 per year over five years —to support a new family-medicine residency program designed to attract and retain young physicians to Franklin County. Led by founding Chair Dr. Robert Baldor, the Department of Family Medicine is a partnership between Baystate Franklin Medical Center and UMass Chan Medical School – Baystate.

“We care not just about the financial health of our members and community, but also about their overall health,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “Franklin County is an underserved area when it comes to primary healthcare, and many of the local providers are older and close to retirement. We are happy to help attract new physicians to our area through this endeavor.”

The residency will be housed at the Greenfield Family Medicine Practice at 48 Sanderson St., which is adjacent to Baystate Franklin Medical Center and easily accessible to the Greater Greenfield community. Family medicine physicians are trained to treat all members of a family, from children to adults and seniors, diagnosing and treating a wide range of ailments and providing preventive care.

Four new residents will be welcomed annually into the three-year training program (12 in total). They will learn from the physicians at Baystate Franklin Medical Center and specialists from Franklin County and other Baystate Health facilities. The first class of four residents will arrive in June 2022.

“Historically, 85% of residents who train in family-medicine residencies practice as primary-care providers, and 39% of those physicians stay close to the community where they trained,” said Baldor, who noted that this is the first Baystate Health academic department housed outside Springfield, and the first accredited family-medicine training program in the region. “We are thrilled that Freedom Credit Union is supporting this new program that will have a real and lasting impact on the health of our entire community.”

Freedom’s $15,000 donation is among $245,700 that has been donated in support of the hospital’s $4.2 million investment in creating a state-of-the-art clinical/teaching facility at 48 Sanderson St. Two education grants from the federal government will support the program as well, including a $750,000 Health Resources & Services Administration grant and an Area Health Education Center grant for $100,000.

“An endeavor such as this one requires the support of the entire community,” Welch said. “We are proud to join the ranks of other local donors — including the medical staff at Baystate Franklin, who contributed $25,000 — in bringing this project to life, and we encourage others to do the same.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Throughout the month of August, Freedom Credit Union collected cash donations at all its branches throughout Western Mass. to benefit Unify Against Bullying, raising a total of $955.49 in support of the group’s mission to bring an end to bullying through the celebration of true diversity. The Springfield-based nonprofit organization provides grants to those who are in the best position to make a difference — children, parents, teachers, and administrators.

“Great strides have been made to shine a light on the problem of bullying, which affects children of every shape, size, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or physical ability,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “We are proud that our members and staff came together to support the important work being done by Unify Against Bullying to understand and eradicate the stigmas surrounding differences that fuel the majority of bullying.”

Unify Against Bullying works to provide grant funding for schools and other programs where individuals are on the frontlines of potential bullying every day. By providing added resources, they hope to promote awareness and acceptance, show children that the days of ignoring or tolerating bullying are over, promote the celebration of differences, and come together as one community.

Debra Mainolfi, Freedom’s West Springfield branch manager, is a member of the board of directors for Unify Against Bullying.

Freedom’s September Month of Giving Campaign focuses on awareness and research for Alzheimer’s disease. Cash donations are being collected at all branches through Sept. 30 benefit the Alzheimer’s Assoc. Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — During the month of September, Freedom Credit Union is collecting cash donations at all its branches throughout Western Mass. to benefit the Alzheimer’s Assoc. Walk to End Alzheimer’s and its mission to raise funds and awareness for a breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and all other forms of dementia.

“Alzheimer’s is a debilitating disease affecting more than 6 million people in the United States, killing more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “So many of our members and staff have been affected by this devastating disease, and we are happy to help by raising funds and awareness.”

Through Thursday, Sept. 30, Freedom Credit Union employees and members, as well as the community at large, are invited to make monetary donations at any Freedom branch.

Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest fundraiser for Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. This inspiring event calls on participants of all ages and abilities to join the fight against the disease.

“Not only will we be raising funds this month, but we are also putting together a team to participate in one of the walks on Sunday, September 26 at Holyoke Community College,” Welch noted. “We are proud to support causes that affect our community and hope others will join us.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Throughout June and July, Freedom Credit Union collected cash donations at its branches throughout Western Mass. to benefit The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, which leads the fight against food insecurity throughout Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties. It raised $2,710 thanks to the generosity of members and staff.

“Especially as we continue to recover from the pandemic, food insecurity is a pressing concern for many in our community,” said Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch. “In fact, more than 100,000 people across our four counties need support, a call our members and staff responded to with generosity.”

 

Since 1982, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts has helped provide much needed food to area residents. It source its 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.

 

Freedom’s August Month of Giving Campaign will benefit another worthy local charity: Unify Against Bullying. Visit any branch or freedom.coop to make a donation through August 31.

 

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union is collecting cash donations at all its branches throughout Western Mass. to benefit Unify Against Bullying, whose mission is to bring an end to bullying through the celebration of true diversity. The Springfield-based nonprofit organization provides grants to those who are in the best position to make a difference — children, parents, teachers, and administrators. Freedom Credit Union is accepting donations through Tuesday, Aug. 31.

“Bullying affects children of every shape, size, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or physical ability,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “We hope to raise funds this month to assist Unify Against Bullying in their important work of understanding and eradicating the stigmas surrounding differences that fuel the majority of bullying.”

Throughout August, Freedom Credit Union employees and members, as well as the community at large, are invited to make monetary donations at any Freedom branch or online at freedom.coop.

Unify Against Bullying works to provide grant funding for schools and other programs where individuals are on the frontlines of potential bullying every day. By providing added resources, they hope to promote awareness and acceptance and to show children that the days of ignoring or tolerating bullying are over. They hope to promote the celebration of differences and come together as one community.

“Not only is this a cause we are proud to support, but our West Springfield branch officer, Debra Mainolfi, is a member of the board of directors for Unify Against Bullying,” Welch said. “We are proud that so many of our employees are involved in organizations working to better our communities, and we’re honored to support them in any way we can.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union will once again to offer the opportunity for Western Mass. residents to securely purge unwanted paperwork. In cooperation with PROSHRED Springfield, Freedom is offering a free community shred day at two of its branches in Springfield and West Springfield.

The event is slated for Saturday, Sept. 18 from 9 to 10 a.m. at 296 Cooley St. in Springfield, and from 11 a.m. to noon at 58 Union St. in West Springfield. 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 not required for those who are vaccinated.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union announced it has appointed Kriste Joy as branch officer of its two Franklin County branches in Greenfield and Turners Falls.

“Kriste is truly passionate about Freedom Credit Union and does her best to make sure our name and brand are well-known throughout the county,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “There is no doubt she will be successful in further developing a sense of teamwork, continuity, and consistency among the Greenfield and Turners Falls branches and the members they serve.”

Joy started her career at Four Rivers Federal Credit Union in 2003 and became part of the Freedom Credit Union family through a merger in 2005. A short time later, she assumed responsibility for managing the former Four Rivers branch offices in Turners Falls and South Deerfield, doing so until the South Deerfield location closed and a new, full-service branch opened in Greenfield in 2009.

“I love my community here in Franklin County and am excited to be able to continue to help my neighbors through my work at Freedom,” Joy said. “With our cooperative spirit, we have a big impact on the lives of our local members, businesses, and community.”

Well-known in Franklin County, Joy has developed active relationships with local schools and formed several partnerships for financial-literacy and school banking programs, as well as strong ties with many local businesses and members. She also holds active roles in many local nonprofit organizations, including DIAL/SELF Youth and Community Services, the Greenfield Education Foundation, the Greenfield Business Assoc., and the YMCA, just to name a few.

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.

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