For more than 80 years, the Homewood Federal Credit Union has been making a difference in the lives of people in Homewood and Flossmoor. The credit union, founded in 1937, is one of the oldest businesses in Homewood. Today it has 1,000 members.
For more than 80 years, the Homewood Federal Credit Union has been making a difference in the lives of people in Homewood and Flossmoor.
“We are here to help people. If you are a member, we work with you. We deal strictly with savings and loans. We have a direct deposit system, but we do not have ATM’s. If you are shopping for a loan, we can match rates from financial institutions and provide reasonable payment plans,” said Gerald “Gerry” Tienstra, president.
The credit union, founded in 1937, is one of the oldest businesses in Homewood. Today it has 1,000 members.
According to Tienstra, who has served as president since 1999, the current office is a far cry from the early days of the credit union.
It was two Homewood businessmen who organized the financial institution. Dick Vansberger was owner of a paint store and Ernie Bernhard owned a barber shop down the street.
“The members would come to one of the businesses to donate or make payments on their loan,” he said.
That continued until the early ’60’s when Vansberger and Bernard decided they could no longer handle the growing business. At that time, it was taken over by Melvin K. Meyer, who was Homewood’s police chief. He became president of the credit union and the business was operated out of his office at the police station.
Tienstra said it was also about that time that he was invited by Meyer to join the credit union’s board.
“I had just gotten out of the service and wasn’t even a member yet of the union. But Meyer presented my name to the board, who had to vote on new members, and that began my journey with the credit union,“ Tienstra explained. “There are 11 board members and 11 committees to serve, so I started at the bottom of the rung and through all these years I worked my way up.”
The board appointed Tienstra president when Meyer, CEO and treasurer, died in 1999. Tienstra says he’ll continue to hold the office “as long as the good Lord is willing.”
One of Meyer’s accomplishments, after he retired from the police department around 1962, was to purchase the current building where the Credit Union is located at 2005 Ridge Road, a seemingly small, unassuming storefront building on the south side of Ridge Road, just two doors from the corner of Dixie Highway.
Tienstra said: “The chief purchased the building with each member chipping in, which gave them a share in the project. The building is now owned by the HCU Corporation and the credit union pays rent.”
In the beginning, the HCU limited its membership to any Homewood resident, anyone employed in the village, volunteered or worshiped there, or is related to a Homewood resident. Tienstra said the policy was changed by the board of directors to include people who live, work or are part of an organization in Flossmoor.
“It just makes sense,” he said. “Our membership numbers fluctuate due to people moving away or passing away. We have a board membership of 11 but currently have a vacancy created by the death of a member.”
“You can join online, or just come into the office to apply. We will take your application and submit it to the board for consideration. A requisite of membership requires a minimum donation of $20. The maximum allowed in a share account is $40,000. Loans of up to $40,000 are available to members.”
Tienstra said credit unions originated in Germany.
“The idea was for members to pool their small, but regular, savings and provide low-interest loans. The plan worked well, and today there are more than 17,000 credit unions in the United States. Credit unions have become popular for many reasons, but the primary one is that they provide loans at low interest rates to credit union members.”
Credit unions are chartered under the terms of the Federal Credit Union Act and supervised by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Each member’s savings is insured to the full legal limit by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund.
To join the Homewood Credit Union, visit the office or call 708-957-0444. Office hours are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m.; Friday 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. The office is closed on Tuesday.