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Railway Credit Union President Kathie Zeszutek says the institution's January name change to the Greater Ozarks Community Credit Union will make it more clear that membership isn't limited to railroad employees.
Railway Credit Union President Kathie Zeszutek says the institution's January name change to the Greater Ozarks Community Credit Union will make it more clear that membership isn't limited to railroad employees.

New name reflects credit union's expanded focus

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A Springfield credit union that traces its roots back to a time when railroads were one of the city's key employment sectors will in January roll out a new name to reflect its broader membership footprint.

Founded in 1936 and originally called the Railway Employees Credit Union, the Railway Credit Union initially was located in a house on East Sunshine and served employees of the Burlington Northern railroad. Board Chairman Al Wagner, who has been a member for more than 40 years, remembers that in one of his first dealings with the credit union, he visited Railway's president at the house to apply for a loan.

Under Mary DeVries, who was president from 1979 to 2007, the credit union in 1980 moved to its present location at 2363 W. Division St.

The credit union also dropped "employees" from its name and opened its doors to all residents of the 65802 and 65803 ZIP codes, but President Kathie Zeszutek said it's still a common misconception that membership is limited to railroad employees.

But some recent and upcoming changes are aimed at combating that confusion. Railway already has expanded its membership eligibility to include anyone who lives and works in Greene County, and in January, its name change to Greater Ozarks Community Credit Union will be complete.

"This has been a long time in coming, but I feel like we're in a position where we can really make an impact in Greene County," Zeszutek said of the changes.

The Railway Credit Union, which has four employees, offers the same financial services as banks, including free checking, debit and ATM cards, savings accounts, online banking, and a full line of loan products. In January, it also will begin offering business accounts and mortgages.

"We are trying to put together a business program that will not only help businesses thrive by not charging them the fees that the banks do, but hopefully it'll help us in the process," Zeszutek said.

Credit unions are operated much like not-for-profits, governed by volunteer board members and owned by members rather than shareholders.

"I like the personality," says Glenn Martin, a 31-year member of the credit union and retired railroad employee. "If you go in there, you're not a number - you are a name. The Railway has always been staffed with personable folks."

While the coming changes could bring growth to Railway, that's nothing new for the credit union, which now has 2,175 members, Zeszutek said.

The credit union's assets now stand at nearly $7.7 million, Zeszutek said, up from $7.4 million in 2008 and a far cry from the $1 million in assets when DeVries became president in 1979.

Railway's 2008 deposits were $6.6 million, up 10 percent from $6 million in 2007, and the credit union's loan portfolio, at nearly $3.7 million for 2008, was up nearly 20 percent from the $3.1 million in loans reported for 2007, according to list research, and Zeszutek anticipates 12 percent loan growth in 2009.

Eventually, Zeszutek wants to add locations and ATMs for the credit union, and she also hopes to expand membership eligibility to another county in the next year or so.

"I think we're on a good foundation," Zeszutek said. "I think from that, the only place for us to go is up. I believe that we can do that."[[In-content Ad]]

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