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Travis Credit Union has created a new position-Community Outreach Officer-and hired a new person, Noreen Diaz, to fill it.

The $1.4-billion, 130,000-member CU describes a community outreach officer as someone who assists it in better serving unbanked markets within the community-which, for Travis CU, means those who live or work in Solano, Yolo, Sacramento, Placer, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Napa, Contra Costa or Merced Counties in Northern California.

The Credit Union Journal caught up with Diaz when she was two weeks into her new job.

CUJ: What does being the "Community Outreach Officer" for Travis CU entail?

Diaz: I've been doing it for quite a while, but I didn't know I was doing it. It means several things: using traditional means of advertising plus grassroots methods to reach people-especially Latinos and Hispanics. It means teaching youths financial education-especially Latinos and Hispanics. Outreach is very important. I will work with local Chambers of Commerce in Vacaville, as well as Solana, Contra Costa and Merced Counties.

CUJ: Is this a newly created position at Travis CU? If so, why did the credit union make this move?

Diaz: It is a new position. The main purpose of a Community Outreach Officer is very similar to the credit union mission: people helping people. It is dedicated to building life-long relationships and helping members build financial literacy.

There is so much potential in the community, and we want to be inclusive. We want everybody in the community to be welcome, including the Hispanic community.

CUJ: Why now?

Diaz: Travis has been a community-chartered credit union since 2000, and it realized the credit union mission goes hand-in-hand with reaching out to the whole community. There is a strong underserved community in the area, and not just Hispanics. Financial institutions are not serving them. Education is the key, along with trust and building long-term relationships. There is a lot of education that must be done. These people are being charged incredible fees at payday lenders. I want so much to help that.

CUJ: Does the job involve a lot of cold calling?

Diaz: I will be getting out into the community and reaching out in many different ways. First, I contacted all the local Hispanic Chambers. I attended events with the Fairfield Chamber and the Vacaville Chamber. I introduced myself and talked about what Travis Credit Union is and what we are doing.

CUJ: When did you start?

Diaz: On Sept. 28. It has been a fast-moving two weeks. The past few days, I was at a multi-cultural forum in Sacramento. Most of the topics I had heard before, but I learned several new statistics: Latinos now make up 34% of California's population, and their annual purchasing power in the state is $700 billion. Latinos are 14% of the U.S. population and are the largest minority group.

CUJ: What are some of the things you did during your time at the United Way that will translate to the credit union movement?

Diaz: With the United Way, I didn't bring in just the ethnic community, I brought in disengaged companies that didn't know what the United Way was about. The main difference is: the United Way was about convening and forming partnerships; nothing about service. Here, it is all about service. Both are people helping people.

CUJ: What about your work with Moroch Advertising?

Diaz: That was a targeted marketing account. When I was there, we were trying to reach three targeted markets for McDonalds-African-Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics-from the San Joaquin Valley in California to Reno, Nev. The marketing efforts involved using Hispanic media such as Spanish-language radio, television and newspapers. We tried to make sure people attended grand openings of new McDonalds locations. It was event-based outreach, making sure to use the media. I'm going to bring a lot of that knowledge to credit unions. I will see what types of advertising are best: billboards in different parts of town, literature, and more.

CUJ: In Travis CU's press release announcing your hire, it mentions serving designated groups within the community: any specific ideas on which groups and what to do with them?

Diaz: The Hispanic community is a definite target, as I mentioned. Also, youths. We are in the process of getting into local schools to teach financial literacy. Scholarships, especially in the Latino community, are important. I am on the board of directors for the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber, and am chair of the scholarship committee.

CUJ: How do you like the job so far?

Diaz: I love it! Can I tell you how happy I am? Travis Credit Union gets it. It understands it must hire bilingual managers and tellers on the back end before advertising to the Hispanic market on the front end. The credit union is giving me the tools I need when I'm out there in the field. It is a wonderful, refreshing thing to see. Management is very supportive: when there are events, festivals or conferences I need to attend, they send me.

And that is the only way to get the word out-to be out there. You have to let people see you, let them know they can trust you and that you care.

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