Anyone who has spent much time in the community of San Antonio has undoubtedly seen the tangible results of the San Antonio Citizens Federal Credit Union’s handiwork.
The credit union, which serves the eastern half of Pasco County, and the tip of Hernando County, has been handling the financial transactions of its members for 60 years.
In a world of bank mergers and takeovers, this credit union is the oldest chartered financial institution in Pasco County, said Tim Baldwin, the credit union’s current president.
“I think the credit union has made a big difference in the lives of a lot of people in this area, and we feel that’s what we’re here to do — help people make their lives better,” Baldwin said.
“We make home loans, car loans, personal loans. We have credit card accounts. We even do member business lending,” he said.
The credit union has offices in San Antonio, Dade City and Zephyrhills, and expects to have a soft opening on its fourth location — in Wesley Chapel — this week.
It all began with two men.
Joe Herrmann and some of his friends wanted to bring a financial institution to San Antonio, a small community between Dade City and the town of St. Leo.
“They applied for a state bank charter and were denied. And, they applied for a federal
bank charter and were denied,” Baldwin said.
During his research, Herrmann found out about credit unions and decided to find out more.
So, Herrmann and his friend, Joe Collura, did some field research.
“They got together, and they drove around Florida and Georgia visiting credit unions.
“They decided that would fit what they wanted to do here,” Baldwin said.
The charter was dated Dec. 12, 1955, and the credit union opened for business on Jan. 3, 1956.
The desire for a financial institution likely stemmed from the community’s civic pride, Baldwin said.
“It’s a little town, and it’s always been a little town; but, it was always a vital little town,” Baldwin said.
While some credit unions are established to serve a certain group of employees, or a particular business, the San Antonio credit union has always been a community charter.
Under its original charter, anyone who lived within a 5-mile radius could join. Now, the credit union is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school within its field area.
In those days, the credit union was located in a storefront of a building owned by Joe Herrmann.
As it grew, it moved to a new location in San Antonio and then built its current location.
It also has offices in Zephyrhills and Dade City, and will have a soft opening this week for a new location in Wesley Chapel.
Its membership and assets grew, too. During its first year, it had 358 members and $67,000 in assets.
It finished last year with more than 13,000 members and slightly more than $175 million in assets, Baldwin said.
“I can remember, it has probably been 25 years ago or so, I remember at one of our annual meetings we were reporting that we had crossed $22 million in assets.
“I remember Mr. Herrmann got up and spoke to us. He almost cried. He said, ‘We never dreamed that there would be $22 million in assets in this credit union,’ ” Baldwin said.
“To me, it’s just a remarkable story about how this got started,” Baldwin said.
“In the early days, everybody that worked at the credit union was a volunteer. They couldn’t afford to pay anybody,” he said. “I don’t know if you could start a credit union from scratch again today, I would hate to try. It would be a daunting task.”
Now, the credit union has 40 employees.
Baldwin, who has been with the credit union for 27 years, loves his job.
“We still make small personal loans to people. Usually at a commercial bank, unless a loan is a certain size, they won’t do it.
“You just feel like you can actually make a difference for people,” Baldwin said.
Terri Gude, vice president of branch operations and compliance, has been around the credit union most of her life.
Her mother, Veda Gude, was the former credit union president.
“I really grew up in the credit union. I used to come in on the weekends and in the evenings, and things like that, with my mother,” she said.
She enjoys the personal nature of the credit union.
“We’re not as big as some of the banks, so you get that true hometown feeling when you come in,” she said.
“If you need a $500 loan, we’re willing to do it. We have the opportunity to change lives. We do that everyday,” Gude said.
Stockholders own banks, but members own credit unions.
It makes a difference in pricing and policy decisions, Baldwin said.
It also affects the environment, said Andy Kinross, who is one of the credit union’s two newest employees.
“You’re literally a member. You aren’t just one of the masses,” said Kinross, who worked at a credit union in Ohio before moving to Florida.
She’ll be working at the new Wesley Chapel, at 28909 State Road 54, just east of Interstate 75.
The new office will serve a rapidly growing area, Baldwin said.
He also expects the credit union’s territory to continue to grow.
“I don’t think we’d ever want to go too far west in the county, but I think a next natural progression would be to try to incorporate some of the Land O’ Lakes area,” Baldwin said. “Land O’ Lakes would be a nice westerly boundary for us, eventually.”
Published January 13, 2016