How a Black Barber in Little Rock, AR Started a Credit Union

The first new charter in Arkansas in over a quarter of a century is the focus of a new podcast.

Arlo Washington is a barber, a self-made man who turned his entrepreneurial instincts into helping his community.

The story of People Trust Community FCU, chartered in September 2022 is told in this 30 minute podcast by the reporter Oscar Abello from Next City and Arlo Washington the credit union’s founder.

Hearing the story in their own voices, brings to life the challenges and promise of a new credit union.

The context matters.  Payday lenders were shut down by Arkansas in 2010.  Arlo had started a barber college and by necessity and local tradition became a lender to his customers.

The reporter states there have been just 25 new charters in the last ten years. He points out in the 1970’s there were hundreds of new charters  granted per year.

Today Arlo describes the chartering effort as “intimidating, scary and tedious.”  The endgame was to have “local ownership in the banking system.”

“If we’re ever going to close the racial wealth gap, we need financial institutions that understand neighborhoods and can meet their community members where they are in the process of building their financial well-being,” says Washington.

This example of a small lending enterprise adding a credit union is a model that could be replicated many times in other underserved communities across the country.

 Seeds of Hope at the Grassroots

Planting seeds  whether in a garden or in our communities’ choices is the practice of hope.   Seeds that will grow and flourish to make lives more colorful and abundant.

There are more Arlo Washingtons throughout America who want to become gardeners for their community.  How do we reach out to them?  And grow our grassroots?



One Reply to “How a Black Barber in Little Rock, AR Started a Credit Union”

  1. How do we indeed?

    There are no shortage of folks that find out about this financial cooperative model and think “Wow, this is exactly what my community needs.” Only to be beaten down by the daunting process.

    I think the answer is in building some templates with the NCUA. There is actually another gentleman trying to start a credit union for barbers. Why should he start from scratch?

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