From High School Hallway To 23 Branches

OnPoint owes its beginnings to two teachers and difficult times.

OnPoint Community Credit Union ($3.5B, Portland, OR) traces its roots to the height of the Great Depression in 1932, when two schoolteachers, Viola Hammond and Ethel Clark, attended the National Education Association’s convention, where they heard about a revolutionary idea: people pooling their savings and making loans to each other.

The idea resonated with Hammond and Clark because at the time Portland teachers received their salaries in the form of warrants. Wary of Oregon’s troubled finances, merchants refused to cash the warrants at full value for fear that the state wouldn’t be able to honor them, leaving teachers short-changed.

Over the next few months, Hammond and Clark gained support for the cooperative, and in 1932, 16 teachers banded together to form Portland Teachers Credit Union. Pooling their funds, the teachers deposited a total of $36 to form the cooperative.

The first credit union office was in a hallway of the High School of Commerce, an independent high school with a focus on business that is now Cleveland High School. There was barely room for a desk and two chairs. Rent was $2.50 per month.

Nevertheless, the original charter members continued to support their fellow teachers, and by the end of the year, the credit union had grown to 400 members with assets of $11,000.

OnPoint has come a long way from those humble beginnings in a school hallway. Today, the credit union has 23 branches and more than 269,000 members.

The credit union pays tribute to its history by investing in its community, particularly education. In addition to sponsoring a spelling bee and a school supply drive, the credit union awards its annual OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education to two teachers who spark enthusiasm, creativity, and a passion for learning in their students. OnPoint selects one high school teacher and one K-8 teacher from hundreds of applicants each year. The winning teachers each get their mortgage paid for one school year along with $1000 for their school to spend on resources and supplies.

In one way, though, every teacher is a winner at the credit union, which offers a generous mortgage product to educators. Through OnPoint’s Homeroom home loan program, members who work for an accredited school are eligible for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with 100% financing and no mortgage insurance.

This week, in honor of July 4, we invited five credit unions to share the story of their beginnings. Tune in each day to learn about another cooperative’s origins.

July 1, 2014

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