How a Black Barber in Little Rock, Arkansas Started a Credit Union

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The first new charter in Arkansas in over a quarter of a century is the focus of a podcast.

Arlo Washington is a barber, a self-made man who turned his entrepreneurial instincts into helping his community.

The story of People Trust Community FCU, chartered in September 2022, is told in this 30 minute podcast by the reporter Oscar Abello from Next City and Arlo Washington the credit union’s founder.

Hearing the story in their own voices, brings to life the challenges and promise of a new credit union.

The context matters. Payday lenders were shut down by Arkansas in 2010. Arlo had started a barber college, and by necessity and local tradition became a lender to his customers.

The reporter states there have been just 25 new charters in the last ten years. He points out in the 1970s there were hundreds of new charters granted per year.

Now Arlo describes the chartering effort as “intimidating, scary, and tedious.” The endgame was to have “local ownership in the banking system.”

“If we’re ever going to close the racial wealth gap, we need financial institutions that understand neighborhoods and can meet their community members where they are in the process of building their financial well-being,” says Washington.

This example of a small lending enterprise adding a credit union is a model that could be replicated many times in other underserved communities across the country.

Seeds of hope at the grassroots

Planting seeds whether in a garden or in our communities’ choices is the practice of hope. Seeds that will grow and flourish to make lives more colorful and abundant.

There are more Arlo Washingtons throughout America who want to become gardeners for their community. How do we reach out to them? And grow our grassroots?

Author

  • Chip Filson

    A nationally recognized leader in the credit union industry, Filson is an astute author, frequent speaker, and consultant for the credit union movement. He has more than 40 years of experience in government, financial institutions, and business. Chip co-founded Callahan and Associates. Filson has held concurrent positions at the NCUA as president of the Central Liquidity Facility and Director of the Office of Programs, which includes the NCUSIF and the examination process. He holds a magna cum laude undergraduate degree in government from Harvard University. After being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, he earned a master’s degree in politics, philosophy, and economics from Oxford University in England. He also holds an MBA in management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School in Chicago.

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