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An organisation set up to give St Helens’ residents a fair system of borrowing money celebrated its 20th anniversary in June 2011.
St Helens Credit Union has helped thousands of people with their finances and prevented hundreds of poorer and desperate residents from using the services of unscrupulous moneylenders.
Staffed by volunteers the Credit Union was born in June 1990 to provide a safe haven for savings for people living in Sutton.
It became instantly popular due to its competitive interest rates on savings and loans which many of the High Street banks were unable to match.
In 2003 the Sutton Credit Union joined forces with a similar local group in Moss Bank to form a borough-wide organisation.
Now with share balances totalling almost £1 million the union is looking to help even more people and is also assisting small businesses looking for cash support grow and prosper.
“It’s been a remarkable journey,” said volunteer Pam Moorst, who’s also the Credit Union’s treasurer.
Pam, who works as a local school secretary, decided to donate her time after she needed the union’s services following her divorce.
“They helped me at a time when I needed support with my finances. After that I decided I’d also like to help others who might find themselves in similar circumstances,” she added.
Established in St Anne’s Church in Sutton the original savings club was fully accredited as a Credit Union after a year. It now operates from offices in Junction Lane, Sutton.
“We have grown from strength to strength and now have a membership of more than 1,600 people young and old. Many of the volunteers who helped set up our Credit Union all those years ago are still volunteering today which shows the commitment they have to the St Helens community,” added Pam.
The Union provides straightforward, affordable financial services to a wide-range of people in St Helens.
“It lets people in the community come together to save ethically and to borrow money at competitive rates, and is operated on a not-for-profit basis, with any cash surpluses being returned to members,” added Pam.
Members of St Helens Credit Union make regular payments into a range of savings accounts. This fund then provides the basis for low-interest rate loans. The income generated by lending helps the Credit Union meet its operating expenses, build cash reserves and pay savers a dividend. Each year more than £250,000 is loaned.
Judith Hull, from Harefinch, uses the Union as a convenient home for her savings. Earlier this year she was able to afford a dream holiday to New York using cash she’d built up over the past 18 months.
“It’s a simple process to save. I make a regular contribution each month by standing order. It’s convenient and I can get the money out quickly but because I can’t just dip into the account it is also useful for building up nice sums. My holiday was fabulous and I’ve decided to carry on saving for the next one,” added Judith a Year Co-Ordinator at Cowley International College.
Many of those who need support are residents who have been turned away by high street banks.
“These days people are finding it increasingly more difficult to borrow money, particularly if they have no credit history or perhaps have had debts in the past.
“We provide a safe, cost-effective alternative to loan sharks and other unscrupulous lenders. We encourage members to develop good financial habits and don’t allow them to borrow excessive amounts that will place them into worse financial situations,” added Pam.
Recently the Credit Union has also been helping a number of small start up businesses become established.
“Often these new companies are being shunned by the high street banks because they have no credit history or previous trading records. With us our members’ saving records dictate the amount they can borrow, which also helps them with their budgeting,” said Pam.
To become a member and enjoy the benefits of the Credit Union you need to live, work, volunteer or go to school or college in St Helens.