CHICAGO – We are living in extraordinary times, the world is in the midst of a pandemic, and our Ukrainian community is suffering as well. The financial strain affected our Ukrainian parishes during the Easter season, when churches would normally be filled with faithful, coming to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. Baskets filled with pasky, krashanky and other festive fare would be blessed, and the parish coffers would be replenished with generous donations.
This year none of that was possible. Churches were closed, parishioners remained in their homes, to stay safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Selfreliance Federal Credit Union and the Selfreliance Foundation realized that our Ukrainian churches in Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey needed financial assistance in this critical time, so that they could cover their expenses until they could once more open their doors and welcome parishioners. The Selfreliance Foundation provided funds to meet the needs of our community’s religious institutions in anticipation of their needs, without waiting for them to appeal for assistance.
We believe that this financial assistance, in keeping with the cooperative motto “people helping people” was necessary, to ease the burden faced by our community. The Selfreliance Foundation provided $128,000 in donations to Ukrainian churches, as well as youth organizations, in the three states that comprise our service area.
Selfreliance FCU also participated in the Paycheck Protection Program that issued Small Business Administration (SBA) loans to businesses and other institutions, so they could continue to meet their payroll and cover other expenses. Selfreliance originated $3.5 million in SBA loans, including $864,000 to churches and other not-for-profit organizations. If all the requirements imposed by the government are met, these loans are eligible for 100 percent forgiveness under the terms of the Paycheck Protection Program. The process of issuing these loans was a daunting challenge, ably met by the credit union’s dedicated staff, under the direction of President/CEO Vitaliy Kutnyy.
Selfreliance also received a grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, with which it has a relationship, to mitigate the effect of the crisis. The $20,000 grant was disbursed to churches, the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, the Ukrainian National Museum and youth organizations.
It is worth noting that Selfreliance FCU continued to serve its member-owners throughout the crisis, with access to tellers, online and telephone services, and an enhanced member services help line. The credit union also donated some 6,000 masks to its sponsoring associations in Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey, which were distributed to the communities that are served by the credit union.
Selfreliance Federal Credit Union offices have reopened, taking all necessary precautions to preserve the health of its employees and members.
Selfreliance believes that its cooperation and assistance provided a crucial benefit to community institutions and churches, and to members, in this difficult time. Thus, it encourages more people to use the credit union as their primary financial institution, so that Selfreliance can continue to grow and provide even more support to community organizations.
Oleh Karawan is chairman of the board of Selfreliance Federal Credit Union.