West Side Chicago Congregations Support Leaders Network Credit Union Campaign

Financial institutions are not thick on the ground in Austin, a sprawling neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. At its August meeting, the vestry of St. Christopher’s, Oak Park voted to support an effort to do something about that.

On a unanimous vote, the parish donated $5,000 to a campaign headed by The Leaders Network to establish a credit union to serve the neighborhood. The network is a collaborative of West Side faith and community leaders.

“We’d been looking for ways to support the work of anti-racism and the Austin community made sense because we border that community,” said Deborah Maue, the parish’s senior warden. “It was immediately clear this was something we needed to do.”

The proposal came to the vestry through John Hillman, a member of the parish’s anti-racism committee, and had the committee’s support.

St. Martin’s, Chicago, in the Austin neighborhood, has also supported the campaign through the Community of Congregations. The Rev. Sue Youngblood, a deacon at St. Martin’s serves as vice president of the Community of Congregations, an interfaith network that includes faith communities in Oak Park, River Forest and on Chicago’s West Side.

Leaders Network is seeking to raise $300,000 to establish the credit union. Their aim is “to break the cycles of poverty and advance economic power through providing financial services and literacy education that is accessible, equitable and professional,” according to the organization’s website.

“Our constant mission to level the economic playing field,” said the Rev. Ira Acree, one of the founders of Leaders Network who serves as pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin. “We thought this was something we could do that was substantive.”

“Getting the credit union will help this community because so many of us have been redlined by the big banks,” he added. “This community is unbanked and underbanked, so we are giving people some options.”

For more information on the credit union campaign visit the Leaders Network website.