Community 1st Credit Union fosters financial well-being in rural Iowa

Community 1st Credit Union, a financial cooperative tucked away in rural, southeast Iowa, is dedicated to helping members in need and improving their financial wellness.

Headquartered in Ottumwa, Iowa, many Community 1st members have an agricultural background and often partner with the credit union to receive the needed funds to run their farming operations.

“Most folks don’t have the means or the wherewithal to fund their own operations, so they need a partner,” says Greg Hanshaw, CEO at the $951-million-asset credit union. “They need someone willing to work with them, stand beside them, and help them through the process. We love to take care of folks who are part of the agricultural economy.”

Agriculture feeds and fuels our economy; however, the high cost of farming equipment, seed, feed and livestock continues to be a barrier for members and impacts their day-to-day operations. Now more than ever, having access to capital and longer-term loans is critical to this industry’s survival.

The Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) has primarily served agricultural businesses for years after noticing the lack of local, financial institutions in the area. .

“Ag lending is one more way we can show Iowans that credit unions are different,” says Hanshaw, noting that credit unions’ people-helping-people mission makes Community 1st willing to take risks other financial institutions may avoid. “In almost every case, the risk has proven to be well worth it.”

One member Community 1st took a chance on is Ryan Stober, owner of Centerville Produce, a store specializing in livestock feed and animal nutrition. When a frustrated Stober first met with the credit union, he was struggling to find the right financial partner.

“Meeting up with our credit union was exactly what he needed at that time,” Hanshaw says. “We spent the whole day with Ryan, getting to know his business and what he struggled with. It was apparent early on that this guy knew exactly what he was doing. He had a dream and the wherewithal to make it happen.”

Now understanding Ryan’s needs, the credit union went all in to help Stober figure out the fine details to make his dreams happen. When members can work with their credit union to find the loan and repayment options that work best for their needs, livelihoods are saved. 

“My business has been in my family for 72 years and means everything to me,” Ryan said. “The credit union support I received when I had to start over was a turning point, and it is the reason why I am where I am today.” 

“That’s a story we’re extremely proud of—taking care of a member like Ryan and helping make his dreams and aspirations come true at a time when he felt they might come crashing down,” Hanshaw says.

The credit union encourages staff to listen to members’ stories, goals, and needs, and then brainstorm how to meet those needs. Plus, in the right circumstances, meeting one member’s needs will spread throughout the community.

“Pretty much every deal we make has a much bigger effect,” Hanshaw says. “Ryan has grown his business and employment significantly over the last few years. He isn’t just taking care of his own family, he’s providing a way for quite a few others to take care of their families.”

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