Utah Credit Union With Humble Start Celebrates 60 Years

Utah Credit Union With Humble Start Celebrates 60 Years

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Keith McCord ReportingUtah is home to a financial institution with a very humble beginning. It’s a credit union that started out with seven members and it's still going strong. This is a financial institution that's not a skyscraper in the downtown area.

The National Japanese American Citizens League Credit Union quietly does its business in a one-story building on 4th East in Salt Lake City.

Dean Hirabayashi, Chairman, JACL: "Right now we're about 46-hundred-members. We have members throughout the United States."

But things were certainly different 60-years ago. World War II was wrapping up and Japanese-Americans were finally being let out of the internment camps, including the one at Topaz in central Utah. The idea to create the credit union began in the camp.

Yukus Inouye, Founding Member: "Trying to purchase automobiles or piece of property was very difficult. No one really was willing to lend to those Japanese-Americans at the time because at that time,= we were outcasts so to speak. We lost our citizenship -- you know the story."

Yukus Inouye was one of the seven original members of the credit union.

And how much money did it take to get things started?

"Well, it just kind of happened. We all just pitched in 50-dollars a piece."

Mr. Inouye said he had no doubts that the institution would succeed; there was a huge need he said.

Since it's beginning, the JACL Credit Union has been run by a volunteer Board of Directors. Inouye served for many years. Current Board Chairman Dean Hirabayashi actually works at a different credit union -- for the past 18-years at America First.

Forty six hundred members, mostly of Japanese descent, and still growing.

The JACL Credit Union started with a few hundred bucks. Today assets are close to 26-million. The National JACL Credit Union has a few small branches in other states, but the headquarters has always been in downtown Salt Lake.

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