By Robert Rudy
There was a time in the early 1990s, Alison Yonas recounts, that a rapid increase in the size of the Latino community in North Carolina was creating a serious crime problem for new immigrants. “Some newcomers were coming from places where people did not use financial institutions or feel comfortable doing so,” she said. “They were easy targets for robbery and home invasions.”
In 2000, as a grassroots response to crime against Latino immigrants, the Latino Community Credit Union was established to provide a safe place for the Latino immigrants to save money and become more comfortable with financial situations. Through the years, the credit union has received loans from both the Religious Communities Investment Fund (RCIF), directed by Adrian Dominican Sister Corinne Florek, OP, and the Adrian Dominican Sisters, through the Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB).
The low-interest loans have helped the Latino Credit Union in its services to the local community. “When people come from countries where financial systems have failed or their experiences aren’t as strong, and you come to this country with issues of language and cultural concerns about entering a bank, it’s hard to feel comfortable,” said Alison, Vice Present of Development and Strategic Investments for the credit union.
Based in Durham, the Latino Credit Union now has 75,000 members in 12 branches throughout North Carolina. Alison said the credit union provides bilingual and bicultural services which do not require a credit history and are geared to be accessible to members – from starter accounts to checking accounts, IRAs to affordable mortgage loans.
RCIF has been involved with the Latino Credit Union since lending the organization $150,000 in 2010, Alison said. She explained that the relationship of RCIF and the credit union is an easy one because of the alignment of their missions and because “people with RCIF are leaders in socially responsible investing.”
The Latino Credit Union provides banking solutions and education through workshops on such topics as budgeting, saving, and credit. “The workshops are one of the most inspiring parts of the work that we do,” Alison said. “We have a graduation ceremony at the end of the workshops. For some of our members, it’s their first experience graduating.”
The credit union has also helped more than 2,300 “dreamers” – those who immigrated to the United States as children with their parents without formal papers – with a loan for the $465 application fee for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Latino Credit Union has provided more of these loans than any other country, Alison said.
Feature photo: The Latino Credit Union, organized into 12 branches in North Carolina, offers financial services to those who might not otherwise have access to those services. Photo Courtesy of Latino Credit Union
March 5, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) continues its 43-year-old mission of socially responsible investing with a new structure and staff. The changes were outlined in a recent presentation to Adrian Dominican Sisters living on the Motherhouse campus.
Much of the presentation focused on the new structure of the PAB, which was put into place after the December 2016 retirement of Lura Mack, long-time Executive Director of the PAB. Most recently, Dee Joyner, Chair of the PAB at the time, was asked to serve as director of the Congregation’s new Office of Resilient Communities. This office was established to help the Congregation live out its 2016 General Chapter Enactment to “facilitate and participate in creating resilient communities with people who are relegated to the margins.” Dee, an Adrian Dominican Associate, had served as Vice President of Commerce Bank and Economic Developer of St. Louis County, Missouri. While she is no longer the Chair, her new position involves overseeing the PAB.
The PAB is now headed by Co-chairs Rosemary Martin, former Chair of the Community Investment Committee, and Kathy Woods, former Chair of the Corporate Responsibility Committee. The two committees – now working as one streamlined Board – represent the dual functions of the PAB.
In introducing the two new Co-chairs, Dee noted the “wealth of experience” they bring to their new role on the PAB. Kathy, a former Adrian Dominican Sister, was one of the founding members of the PAB, with extensive experience in not-for-profit organizations, particularly hospital work and counseling. Rosemary, an Adrian Dominican Associate from North Carolina, also has been involved in the non-profit world. She founded and directed an international adopting agency, placing more than 2,000 children from other countries into loving homes in the United States. She now works for an accreditation company for service organizations.
In both corporate responsibility and community investments, the PAB collaborates with other communities of women religious. Pat Zerega, senior director of shareholder advocacies for Mercy Investments, works with the PAB in the area of corporate responsibility. The PAB also collaborates with other members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in working with corporations to help them to be more socially responsible in their actions and policies.
Since the retirement of Lura Mack, who did much of the work with community investments, the PAB sought the help of an organization that could help in that area. Members of the PAB unanimously chose the Religious Communities Investment Fund (RCIF), founded and directed by Adrian Dominican Sister Corinne Florek, OP.
Kris Cooper, Office Manager, has served the PAB on the staff since 2013. Other members of the PAB are Sister Patricia Leonard, OP, Associate Director of St. Ann Place, a homeless hygiene center in West Palm Beach, Florida; Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, school psychologist in Joliet, Illinois; Lloyd Van Bylevelt, an Adrian Dominican Associate who serves at the Peace Education Foundation in Miami; Marcy Brown, Vice President in Commercial Treasury Management at First Federal Bank in Adrian; and Margaret Weber, who works for the Basilian Fathers in Toronto in the area of socially responsible investment. Sister Elise García, OP, is the General Council liaison to the PAB. Pat Zerega and Adrian Dominican Sisters Judy Byron, OP, and Corinne Florek, OP, serve as consultants.
A Passion for the Peripheries
Co-creating an Economy for All
Investing in the Environment
Uniting Faith and Capital
Cultivating a Legacy
Making a Difference Bit by Little Bit
Ministry through Collaboration
These are the titles of the Religious Communities Investment Fund’s (RCIF) annual reports for the past eight years.
During those years, RCIF has grown from a $3 million fund begun by 11 congregations of women religious to a $10 million fund sponsored by 28 congregations. These congregations believe that they are called to use their financial resources as a ministry to help overcome social and environmental inequities. RCIF’s portfolio includes loans to intermediaries such as loan funds, credit unions, and international microfinance institutions, as well as direct loans to nonprofits.
RCIF’s mission is to promote economic justice through investments in low-income communities worldwide. The fund seeks to promote an economy of solidarity and to reflect the Gospel values of economic justice, compassion, human dignity, and environmental stewardship. As Adrian Dominican Sister Corinne Florek, OP, the founding Executive Director, has said, “We promised the congregations that this fund would be as effective, efficient, and prophetic as when each congregation operated their own fund.”
RCIF enables smaller congregations that never had their own community investment program to participate in this ministry. “The investment is an extension of our charism into an arena where we would not otherwise be visible – a spiritual parallel to the hidden life of the Holy Family in Nazareth,” said Sister Gladys Guenther, of the Sisters of the Holy Family, at the fifth anniversary celebration of RCIF.
RCIF is “another way to turn the coin on our diminishing resources so that they are working to transform underserved areas,” said Sister Cathy Minhoto, of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. “Through partnerships we never had 50 years ago, we are able to continue our mission and we can see the impact our investment makes globally.”
The Adrian Dominican Sisters joined RCIF in 2017. The advantage of membership is that it allows for larger and riskier loans. Some of the more intriguing loans made possible by RCIF were to organizations such as Los Angeles House of Ruth, a domestic violence prevention program; the YWCA of Watsonville, California, which offers a program to empower Latina girls; a student cooperative in Bloomington, Indiana, for their residence; and Friendship Bridge, which provides microfinance and health clinics to indigenous women in Guatemala.
A unique feature of RCIF is its development of prayer cards for the congregations. Each year, RCIF chooses five organizations and gives prayer cards to the Sisters in the member congregations, describing the organization and asking them to pray for the staff and clients. “When I do a site visit and I talk to the staff about who the Sisters are and that we come with not just money but also our prayers, I see many eyes well up with tears,” Sister Corinne said. “Our prayers are deeply appreciated because this work is hard and it takes strength and courage from staff, as well as their clients.”
RCIF is delighted that the Adrian Dominicans have become a member to continue this ministry of economic justice.
Left: This Guatemalan weaver is one of the clients of Friendship Bridge. Right: Girls practice yoga as part of their empowerment program at the YWCA in Watsonville, California.
Portfolio Advisory Board, Adrian Dominican Sisters | 1257 E. Siena Heights Drive | Adrian, Michigan 49221
Phone: (517) 266-3523 | Email: