RICHMOND, Va. -- A trolley tour this Saturday has two missions: highlighting historic African American sites and to reintroduce the historic Richmond Heritage Federal Credit Union.
"We are the last Black credit union in Richmond," Randy Cooper, the credit union's president, explained. "It was started in the middle of the Great Depression."
Richmond Heritage Federal Credit Union was founded by ten Black teachers on April 17, 1936. Formerly the Richmond Teachers Credit Union, it was originally set up in the home of one of the founding members with cash kept in a kitchen drawer.
"So when people would come to the house to borrow money, or get the check cashed, she will pull the drawer out and pull the money out," Cooper said. "Because they were feeding people physically and financially during the Great Depression."
The 87-year-old credit union was among other Black banks in Richmond paving the way for the community and generational wealth. However, there were still limitations.
"In fact, when our credit union was formed, our charter originally said we were only allowed to do business with Negro employees of the school board," Cooper explained. "And so, unfortunately, those restrictions still impact us today."
As a result, the charter only allows the credit union to set up in specific areas Blackwell, Manchester, and the Swansboro communities.
"And we are only allowed to do business with three black organizations: Virginia Union, Richmond Public Schools and Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital," Cooper said.
But Cooper is working to change that with a call to action.
"We need people to join our organization, borrow from us and pay it back. It's really that simple," he said.
And before the charter can be changed, Cooper said the credit union needs 1,000 new members and for those members to each borrow $1,000.
"And the simple math is 1,000 times 1,000 is a million dollars," Cooper said. "If we loan out a million dollars, we would generate revenue. That's what the government wants to see."
Taking the trolley tour is one way to support this historic credit union.
"This is why we try to share our story during — most people call Black History Month, but we refer to it as Black Future Month. A lot of us know our history, but we are talking about the future," Cooper said.
Saturday's tour will travel to several landmarks, including the credit union's first address and its present-day office, the Black History Museum and other locations.
"We go to several Black churches. We then go over to Virginia Union. One of the fun narratives that we say is, they are an HBCU school. We refer to ourselves as the other HBCU, Historically Black Credit Union," Cooper said. "We want people to understand this journey, and ask the question, 'Why are we allowed to do business at Virginia Union, but we're not allowed to do business, you know, the 10 miles space between that and Church Hill?'"
Cooper will offer answers on the tour and share how profits benefit the community.
"So when someone borrows money from us and pays it back, the profits they pay me, that's how I help others," he said.
Cooper said the credit union's acronym S-I-P "stands for share, invest and partner."
"At the end of the day, we know that people share our story and our vision," Cooper said. "We need people to invest in this partnership and we need people to partner with us to grow."
The Heritage Tour is Saturday, Feb. 25 beginning at 11 a.m. For more details, visit https://events.richheritage.org/ or call 804-651-9138. For information on Richmond Heritage Federal Credit Union, visit https://richheritage.org/