Urban Partnership Bank and JCUA: Why Community Development Banks Matter

The important role of community development banks in the community recently was highlighted in a speech by Donna Gambrell, director of the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, an arm of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Speaking on Nov. 3 (read the whole speech here) to the Annual Development Banking Conference, Gambrell used JCUA as an example of how community organizations and banks can and should work together.

Here’s an excerpt of Gambrell’s speech.

Remembering why you do this

Throughout this conference, you have been exploring a variety of new ideas to strengthen your industry and your institutions. But this whole practice of raising the bar is not some kind of abstract exercise. It has tangible effects in the communities you serve, communities that need you more than ever.

I would like to share a story with you about a nonprofit organization here in Chicago called the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA).

JCUA has worked to promote economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities throughout Chicago for more than forty years. Its current projects range from affordable housing initiatives to immigration reform to a social justice institute for teens, but the one that really caught my eye is its Jewish-Muslim Community-Building Initiative.

JCUA launched the Initiative in 2001, in response to a rise in intolerance and hate crimes against Muslims following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Unlike many interfaith projects, the Initiative is not simply a dialogue group. Its aim is to bring Jews and Muslims together to work on local issues of mutual concern, such as protecting civil rights and undoing bigotry. Over the ten years since the Initiative began, JCUA has partnered with more than a dozen local Jewish and Muslim partner organizations to build bridges between their communities.

But in 2010, JCUA faced a new challenge. Like many non-profits, it saw its funding decline as the nation’s economic downturn deepened. And as it cash-flow issues mounted, JCUA faced the prospect of having to severely cut back its programs and limit its work in communities that were and still are among the most vulnerable in Chicago.

Fortunately, JCUA had been a longtime customer of ShoreBank and had continued its relationship with Urban Partnership Bank. With two loans from Urban Partnership, JCUA has been able to continue offering its full menu of programs, including its Jewish-Muslim Community-Building Initiative.

This story speaks volumes about the impact that community development banks have in their communities. I am sure each one of you has dozens of stories of your own about customers that you have helped when they needed help the most.

This story also speaks volumes about the importance of staying true to mission. JCUA’s executive director, Jane Ramsey, has said that her organization chose to bank with ShoreBank and continues to bank with Urban Partnership Bank because of their commitment to communities. Indeed, JCUA wanted a financial institution that shared its vision and mission. That was what drove its decision.

So I hope that as you go forward, you will always remember why you do this work and why it is so important to the communities you serve.

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