From the start and to its final day, Cal Poly Federal Credit Union was a small financial institution that evolved to meet the changing needs of its members and always retained the friendly touch of community banks of a bygone era.
In the days leading up to the credit union’s final closing on Aug. 30, an endless stream of people stopped at the institution’s one and only office in the Bronco Student Center to say goodbye to the small staff, said Joy Tafarella, who served as Cal Poly Federal’s vice president. Old friends wished each other a fond farewell.
“That last week, it was a hard week. I can’t tell you how many times I broke down,” she said.
The closure came two months before the credit union celebrated 60 years of being in business, she said.
The credit union’s closure will be felt across campus, said Patricia Duran-Quezada, project director for Achievement Retention and Commitment to Higher Education Success (ARCHES). It contributed to the university through more ways than writing out a check, said Duran-Quezada, a long-time credit union member and past member of its board of directors. She also served on the credit union’s supervisory committee for nine years.
“Over the long haul this credit union contributed a great deal,” she said.
The credit union offered services to meet the needs of all its members and offered customized services for students, which made up a large part of its membership.
Tafarella and Barbara Bean, the now retired president of Cal Poly Federal Credit Union, worked with departments and programs across campus to host financial literacy presentations for students on topics like budgeting, credit cards usage, paying bills on time and managing student loans. All this was done without trying to sell the credit union to students, many of whom had little or no experience with personal finance.
Tafarella said she and Bean frequently spoke to student groups and did so gladly.
“We are financial managers. We help people with their finances,” Tafarella said.
“I’ve had students come in to open an account as young freshmen and their parents would say, ‘This is my child. Take care of them.’ And I’d say, ‘We’ve got them.’”
But that’s not all credit union personnel did. Though not employed by the university, Cal Poly Federal Credit Union staff members were active on campus, frequently serving on committees and volunteering in activities.
“They really were immersed in the campus community,” said Jared Ceja, executive director and chief executive officer of the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation.
As Bean reflected on her 26 years at the credit union, she said the organization was always looking ahead, such as adopting a mobile app before most other credit unions.
“In so many ways we were cutting edge,” Bean said. “We were always able to adopt a new product or service. It was important to us because it was important to students.”
The credit union isn’t going away entirely. On Sept. 1, Cal Poly Federal Credit Union merged with SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, which has 68 branch locations throughout Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego and Sacramento counties. Branches near Cal Poly Pomona are in Walnut, West Covina, Chino, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Fullerton and La Habra.
Tafarella is now a supervisor in branch services with SchoolsFirst, and two other staff members have been assigned to branches located near the campus.
While the new credit union won’t have a branch on campus, the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation successfully arranged to have a SchoolsFirst ATM installed within the university’s bookstore building (66).
Having the credit union on campus was a convenience people will miss, Ceja said. But he hopes to have a smooth transition to SchoolsFirst.
Ceja said his goal is to work with representatives of SchoolsFirst FCU to continue and strengthen their partnership with the campus.
Tafarella said the credit union had a great relationship with its members, particularly the students whom staff watched mature.
“These students grow up to be the greatest young adults,” she said.