White House honors Costa Rican

A Costa Rican immigrant to North Carolina has been honored by the White House as a Champion of Change.

This is a designation that White House aides frequently make for groups of individuals who have made an impact on the society.

In this case, the Costa Rican, John Herrera, was among 11 immigrants honored by the white House.

He is the co-founder of a credit union for mostly Latin American depositors. It is the Latino Community Credit Union, headquartered in Durham, North Carolina. The credit union has 11 branches now. It was founded in 2000.

The credit union says on its Web site that it was founded as a grassroots response to a wave of robberies and muggings of Latino immigrants in Durham. Since then, it has become a national model for credit unions and community development financial institutions seeking to serve unbanked, immigrant communities, it added.

“The increasing immigrant population had little or no experience using a financial institution, often relying on high cost and inefficient alternative financial services,” said the credit union. “The reliance on cash resulted in increased crime against Latinos, as they were viewed as ‘walking banks.’ State and local leaders, community advocates, and the credit union community, including The Support Center, Durham-based El Centro Hispano, North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union and Self-Help Credit Union came together to form Latino Credit Union, a safe place for Latinos to save their money, access credit, and build wealth.”

The White House said that the credit union is the first fully bilingual financial institution in the state of North Carolina. A pioneering example of how businesses can creatively meet a gap in the market for the underserved, it has become the fastest growing community development credit union in the nation and a model for banking for new immigrants, the White House added.

The foreign ministry in Costa Rica said that Herrera credited his success to the education and culture he received here. He is married to Glisceria Vindas, formerly of Venecia de San Carlos and founder of the Asociación Costarricense de Carolina del Norte.

Despite the name, the credit union says on its Web site that one does not have to be Latin American or Latino to join. The credit union is producing videos to show its estimated 55,000 members the steps in buying a home.

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