In a Nutshell: Day Air Credit Union is a community development financial institution dedicated to improving financial well-being in its service areas. It accomplishes that through financial education, which can help members understand and improve their credit. It also offers specialized products, including checking accounts and low-rate cards, so members can access the tools they need to advance their financial standing. Additionally, its homeownership and renovation programs enable consumers to invest in a home and grow its value, providing an important foundation for personal wealth.
Chris needed a car, so he tried to take out an auto loan. But time and again, lenders turned him away. Eventually, his brother suggested he visit Day Air Credit Union, where, his brother said, the institution would take care of him.
When he got there, Chris sat down with Nathan, who, as it turned out, didn’t approve Chris for an auto loan that day. But he provided something just as important: a path to qualifying for that auto loan.
Chris talked to Nathan every week for six months. Sometimes, he would visit Nathan at the branch. Other times, he would call on the phone. They’d talk about Nathan’s finances, how things had been going, and how prospects looked for the future.
Finally, Chris got his auto loan. But he also received something much more valuable. Chris learned more about his finances and how to sustain a strong position, so he’d never struggle to get a loan again.
“It’s just a great story of a guy who got turned away from other financial institutions,” said Joe Eckley, Director of Marketing at Day Air Credit Union. “That’s why we’re here. We love those stories. And we’re willing to work with anyone willing to work with us.”
Day Air Credit Union dates back to 1945, and today it controls $600 million in assets and serves more than 47,000 residents in Ohio’s Miami Valley. It’s also a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).
Credit unions and banks carrying that designation play an essential role in fostering growth and development in communities across the United States. Day Air Credit Union pursues that mission through financial education, helping members improve their credit scores, and providing products and services that meet current financial situations and needs.
Holistic Lending Approach Looks Beyond Credit Scores
When a financial institution makes a loan, it’s taking a risk. The risk is that the borrower defaults and never repays the money. To help them evaluate that risk, institutions often turn to credit scores, a numerical summary of the applicant’s financial history and current situation.
Credit scores are easy to use and evaluate, but they don’t tell the entire story of a consumer’s financial track record. They’re a calculated statistic indicating whether a financial institution stands to make a profit on the loan.
But as a CDFI institute, Day Air Credit Union is less interested in profit and more interested in the people it serves.
“It shapes the way we look at members and make lending decisions,” Joe said. “It’s about more than just what your credit score is. It’s your whole picture.”
In some cases, as in Chris’ story, Day Air Credit Union can’t extend a loan to an applicant. That’s where another piece of its mission as a CDFI comes into play. It provides educational resources that help members improve their finances and qualify for the loans they need.
“It helps shape who we serve and what kind of money we put behind that as well,” said Bettina Buscemi, Business Development Manager at Day Air Credit Union. “We just developed a philanthropy committee that makes charitable and or community decisions about who we’re going to sponsor. In the financial education department, it’s the average Joe.”
Education Can Reduce Recidivism for the Incarcerated
But average financial consumers have many faces and come from different backgrounds. Most didn’t receive an adequate financial education in their formative years. Some may come from underprivileged backgrounds, and others are working to overcome past mistakes that are holding them back.
“The Montgomery County Reentry Program includes people coming out of incarceration or some sort of prison or jail,” Bettina said. “We’ve been working with them since 2009, and we provide financial education monthly.”
Program participants get a top-flight financial education and connections to partner organizations that help with other aspects of reentry. They provide assistance with résumés, clothes to wear to job interviews, introductions to employers, and opportunities for stable housing.
All of those advantages are crucial for those who’ve been out of society for an extended period. Bettina said many of them were incarcerated for crimes involving money, and their time in prison hasn’t improved their financial proficiency or understanding.
Many are even unfamiliar with how the financial system works. As a result, they may not know how to use it to their advantage. Day Air Credit Union provides that basic education and can have a significant impact on their prospects and prosperity.
“If they get through this program, we’ve found that our recidivism rate is so much lower than the general population,” Bettina said.
Helping Members Build Credit and Weather Financial Issues
Day Air Credit Union provides members with opportunities for the same sort of financial education. It can help them understand their credit score in a free, one-on-one session. They learn more about how credit works, how to repair a bad score, or how to build one from scratch.
“To rebuild your credit, you have to be open to walking in the door,” Bettina said. “So many people cannot even get a checking account because they’ve made mistakes with other institutions.”
Day Air Credit Union is all about helping people make fresh starts, particularly with basic but vital products, including checking accounts. It also welcomes anyone and everyone in its service area to open a savings account, another valuable financial tool.
Day Air Credit Union offers a low-rate card with a credit limit based on the member’s current financial situation to help rebuild credit scores. In addition to the card, members receive information and coaching on responsible use and timely repayment.
The credit union also offers a Life Assistance Loan through employers to help people meet emergency needs. Employers vouch that the borrower has been an employee in good standing for 12 months. This endorsement makes the individual eligible for a small-dollar loan — with no credit pull or minimum score required.
That loan can help borrowers pay for unexpected expenses, including flat tires or other auto repairs, that could prevent them from working and earning money. Instead of being penalized for life’s emergencies, borrowers can access the funds they need and take advantage of valuable opportunities to build their credit scores.
Homebuying Programs Empower Members to Build Wealth
A strong credit score is one of the pillars of financial well-being. But a high score on its own is only one piece of the puzzle. Another critical component can be homeownership, which is typically cheaper than renting and helps build wealth through equity.
Day Air Credit Union hasn’t forgotten about the role of property ownership in helping people improve their financial situations. To that end, it offers a pair of programs to help people realize homeownership and enhance the values of their homes.
The first is a first-time homebuyer assistance program, which Day Air Credit Union is operating in partnership with the city of Kettering.
“It’s going to give anyone making up to 120% Area Median Income (AMI) looking to buy their first house in Kettering 10%, up to $20,000, for the down payment and closing costs as a forgivable loan,” Joe said. “We’ll look at them and do special credit categories for it and be a little bit more open to it.”
The second product is a home renovation program, also in partnership with the city of Kettering. Anyone who meets the program’s parameters a special low-rate loan from Day Air to cover 60% of the project and another loan from the City of Kettering for the remaining 40% of the project, which may be forgiven after five years of residence.
“They’ll get up to $20,000 in a forgivable loan,” Joe said. “And on the back end, we’ll provide a special low-rate loan for the rest of the portion up to $50,000.”
Through these and other products and services, Day Air Credit Union is living its mission to help revitalize underserved and underprivileged areas in the Miami Valley. The institution builds a stronger financial foundation for individuals and communities by helping its members build wealth and improve their credit.