Providing top-notch customer service to its clients has helped Blair County's oldest credit union to survive.
"Customer service is important. The reason people come in here is because we know them. We are friends with our families and know what they need," said Ted Glunt, manager and CEO of American Pride Credit Union, 1431 Valley View Blvd., which is marking its 80th year in business.
American Pride is proud to be the oldest credit union in Blair County and among the oldest of the 515 credit unions in Pennsylvania.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec)
Ted Glunt, manager and CEO of American Pride Credit Union, 1431 Valley View Blvd., goes over some documents with Tracey Dodson, product support specialist. The business is celebrating its 80th year.
"To be 80 years old is a great accomplishment that we are very proud of, especially in the financial industry with all of the changes," said Nick Spallone, president of the board of directors. "We've been a stable, high performing credit union, and we believe we provide competitive rates and are very helpful to our members, hearing and meeting their needs."
"We have helped a lot of people over 80 years from small loans to large loans. We have seen generations come through here," said Glunt, who has been with the credit union for 28 years. "It is nice to say you have helped generations of families with their financial needs over the years."
The credit union was founded in 1932 by a group of postal workers at the Altoona Post Office. Its original name was Altoona Postal Employees Credit Union.
It was founded at the height of the Depression as a way for workers to save and borrow at reasonable rates, Glunt said.
In the 1980s, the credit union started welcoming other employee groups into the field of membership and its name was changed in 2004. It changed its charter in 2005 to become a community credit union, which meant it could accept anybody who lives, works or worships in Blair or Bedford counties as a member.
The credit union has been housed in three locations over the years.
"We started in a small room at the post office and remained there from 1932 until 1989. Then we built a new building at Eighth Avenue and 13th Street. We were there until the school district took that to build the new junior high," Glunt said.
The credit union has grown from about 50 initial members to about 2,700 today and it manages about $15 million in assets.
The credit union requires a $1 membership fee to join and you must maintain a minimum account balance of $50. That gives you part ownership and the opportunity to run for the board and vote on issues.
"It gives you access to all of our services," Glunt said.
American Pride is a full-service credit union. It has a large-mortgage program.
"We do all of our mortgages in-house, we don't sell them off. We have financial services controlled by people in our hometown," Glunt said. "We know our members and their families and we have been through a lot with our members."
American Pride recently got into social networking.
"We can be found on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. We are new to it. Facebook is something people enjoy; it is the most successful. We videotaped our annual meeting and put it on the YouTube site," Glunt said. "We have been here for 80 years and thought we could try to be more modern and embrace the technology."
Local credit unions are competitive but work together.
"We all have our own niche. We don't go after others' field of members. We support each other," Glunt said.
Taking a conservative approach has been one of the keys to American Pride's success.
"I think the key to success has been being conservative in how we manage members' money. We give them what they want affordably. Conservative stewardship of our members' money has kept us here," Glunt said.
"We've maintained our founders' approach in the credit union model of continuing to assist our members. We've continued to grow through providing a greater range of financial products and been able to make a significant difference in our members lives," Spallone said.
The popularity of credit unions has been growing and the future is bright, Glunt said.
"Since the economic turndown, credit unions have seen huge increases in memberships. We have benefited from the fallout of bailouts to the banking industry," Glunt said.
The crisis in the banking industry has helped make people more aware of credit unions, said Michael Wishnow, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association.
"There were many positive articles in the press about the availability of credit unions. It put people in the mind to look at their financial institutions and to shop around. Many found credit unions to be a better option," Wishnow said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.