Del-One Federal Credit Union has been making a difference in members’ lives for 60 years. Founded in 1960 by employees of what became DelDOT, the credit union later extended membership invitations to any state employee. It kept expanding, and today there are more than 300 different “select employer groups” and more than 72,000 members served by 11 locations throughout Delaware, plus three student-run high school branches in Dover High School, Caesar Rodney High School, and Indian River High School.
To celebrate the 60-year anniversary, Del-One employees are performing 60 acts of kindness — things they are able to do for the community throughout the year 2020.
Ron Baron, who was recruited as Chief Financial Officer two years ago and became Chief Executive Officer last year, said, “We wanted to have a presence with select employer groups. A number of them are nonprofits, such as kids’ camps, food banks, and pet adoption services. We wanted to do for them specific things they couldn’t do for themselves. With the guidance of Amy Resh, our Director of Marketing and Del-One Foundation President, we were great at getting some acts of kindness done before the pandemic struck. The coronavirus lockdown did preempt some things, but we will still get 60 in before the end of the year.”
Del-One Federal Credit Union has grown and developed through the years, incorporating new and innovative products and services to meet the members’ needs. Baron said his first year with Del-One was very interesting and challenging. The credit union experienced record earnings for 2019 along with tremendous membership growth of 6.5 percent.
Among the new services offered, Ron Baron was pleased to announce a new investment service available through the Insley Investment Group. Harry Insley Jr., who goes by “T,” and his sons, Brandon and Nick, already have Nationwide Insurance offices in the Seaford, Milford and West Dover branches that operate under the name of Insley Insurance. This is part of a 12-year relationship between Insley Insurance and Financial Services and Del-One. The investment advisory service was created after a conversation Ron Baron initiated with T Insley.
Nick, along with T’s other son, Andrew, are finishing up their certifications to perform in the roles of advisors/brokers.
“We selected T Insley’s group because it was a natural progression, to really help round out the services we can offer our members. We already know the Insley folks; we’ve had a relationship for 12 years with insurance services, so adding investment services made perfect sense. The insurance group already knows a lot of our members, providing them with life, auto and home insurance.
“Once COVID-19 clears up,” Baron continued, “we’re going to be ready to do retirement planning seminars in various locations of the state, by invitation.”
Baron is also enthusiastic about a new initiative to serve those who live in an underserved, densely populated “banking desert” along Route 9 from Old New Castle to the southern end of Wilmington. “Sixteen thousand people live there,” he said, “and there’s not a single branch where they can bank.”
Without a financial institution, residents had to turn to liquor stores, check-cashing services, or payday lenders to cash checks, at a hefty fee.
“When we heard that story, we realized this was a situation where Del-One can help. We reached out to a coalition called the “New Banking Delaware Initiative”. Larry Lambert and Ron Handy Sr. came from Wilmington to our corporate headquarters in Dover where we discussed their needs. We were the first to say we would help with the initiative — invest money, time and effort to reach out to that community. ‘All you have to do is tell people about Del-One,’ we told them.”
Del-One began working on the project in 2019. A micro branch of the credit union was opened at the Rose Hill Community Center at the southern end of the corridor.
“We installed a Live Teller machine with tellers available during office hours and 24-hour ATM services. Until the pandemic, staff members from our Wilmington, Newark and New Castle offices went to the community center two days a week to meet with the community and help open accounts. We were developing relationships. Now that things are opening up again, we look forward to continuing those efforts.”
Baron added the Longshoremen’s Association is also involved. “At a meeting at the Longshoremen’s Association union hall in Wilmington last fall, they invited us to talk to and enroll their members. The most important thing we learned was that these longshoremen were paying up to 10 percent of their paychecks as a fee to cash a paycheck issued by Gulftainer USA. Gulftainer is a huge, global company. There’s no risk to the liquor store or payday lender for cashing those checks. This is gouging at its best.”
Baron said Del-One did not look at this opportunity for profitability. “Other financial institutions wanted to see how much money they could make, but they can’t make the numbers work. I’m really proud of Del-One. It’s not about the numbers; it’s about the people. If we lose our compass that we are people helping people, then we’ve lost our way completely and we are no different than a bank.”
It has not been easy to establish relationships with a population that has been taken advantage of. “We have our work cut out for us,” Baron said.
Help is coming from Gulftainer USA, which now operates the Port of Wilmington. Based in the United Arab Emirates, the company agreed, when it took over operations at the Port, to provide resources to the community, Baron explained. Among those resources is a new hiring and training center for longshoremen. Gulftainer is leasing the recently closed Elbert Palmer Elementary School near the longshoremen’s union hall and will renovate the building for that purpose.
With more space than needed for its own purposes, Gulftainer is making space available for local community nonprofits. Del-One was offered space there to open a local branch office. “We will hire and train people from the community to serve as credit union employees for the full-time branch,” Baron said.
Gulftainer offered to do the necessary renovation to accommodate the credit union’s needs, but the renovations were put on hold because of the COVID-19 shutdown.
“This is a way to deliver services to people, not as a money maker but a way to change people’s lives and improve their community. Credit unions can make this happen. We can change one life at a time,” Baron said.
The credit union’s plans include offering help with financial literacy, budgeting and saving money. Use of direct deposit, for example, lessens the temptation for someone to spend, when a person puts cash from an entire paycheck in their pocket.
One participant in the New Banking Delaware Initiative is a businesswoman who rehabs homes and makes them available for rent or purchase by veterans or those coming out of prison. “We’ve been able to work with her, give her financing for renovations,” Baron said. “That’s how we begin to change the community. The overall mission of Del-One is people helping people, helping people find their financial pathway in life.
“We are proud of that tradition. We look forward to another 60 years or 180 years. We certainly want to run a financial institution that is sound and safe, and that people want to choose as their primary financial institution.”
“In a credit union, the members are the owners. That’s who we work for every day, the member-owners,” Baron concluded.
If you are not yet a member of Del-One, find the nearest branch online at del-one.org or call 302-739-4496.