Cheryl has lived in North Ormesby since her family moved to the area when she was 15 years old. There was a credit union collection point in the community centre at the end of the street, and Cheryl’s mum took her and her sister there to start saving. Since then Cheryl has tried to save something every week, and now she has her own young family she is passionate about promoting the benefit of saving regularly to other families through the wide range of community activities that she is involved with.
Cheryl noticed a gap between local services and what struggling families really needed, especially those who were isolated and didn't have local support. In response she started a weekly coffee morning at The Trinity Centre, part of the ministry of Holy Trinity Church, where families can drop in to chat and receive practical help and reassurance. A feature of the weekly drop in is that parents are invited by Cheryl to join Pioneer, the local credit union (Pioneer volunteers pictured above). They can also pay in a weekly amount to their credit union account, making it a convenient way to save a little all year round which can come in handy for emergencies and especially around Christmas-time. Cheryl says,
"Some of the families who come to the drop-in have four or five children. With so many to buy for, they can't wait until November and then decide they've got no spare money for Christmas shopping. We did a big promotion for the credit union in January to tell families that if they started saving a little each week they would get a cash payment in November. This stops them from taking loans from door-step lenders who are very active in the area just before and just after Christmas when people are most vulnerable."
It takes time to change people's habits and attitudes, but as parents get to know each other at the drop-in they are forming new friendships, supporting each other, having conversations about saving and spreading the word about the credit union. Cheryl can see that this change of mind-set will also influence the attitudes and habits of local children as they follow their parents example. Just like the example set by Cheryl's mum when she took her to open a credit union account all those years ago.
Cheryl is supported by Heather Black who works for Together Middlesbrough, a Church Urban Fund Joint Venture. With the local credit union development officer, she has met with all three local credit unions and has started a weekly collection point at The Trinity Centre cafe with Pioneer credit union, alongside a Citizens Advice Bureau drop in. The cafe serves 300-400 people each week on market day.
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