Gomez's children helped her with her speech, going so far as to translate the last piece of her remarks in fluent English.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Nancy Gomez arrived in America in the fall of 2017 with a dream for her family to own their own home.
She came from Colombia with her husband, three children, and pregnant. In a new country, the financial system was intimidating.
But she had gained some confidence through places like the Family Resource Center, the Elizabeth Freeman Center, Manos Unidas, Working Cities, and Habitat for Humanity and eventually, walked into Greylock Federal Credit Union to meet with the credit union's Community Development Coordinator Gloria Escobar.
"We started this project taking steps that caused fear in the beginning but if you have good accompaniment, that fear disappears little by little," Gomez said, speaking through a translator, on Monday.
Escobar got the family a secured line of credit. And then they moved onto a secured credit card. In just 18 months, they were able to get their credit score high enough to be approved for a home loan.
"One of our biggest dreams has been buying our own house and I am sure it is a dream most of you share with me. Now thanks to Greylock, that is a reality because we've been living in our own house for more than a month," Gomez said.
It is a dream that many in the Hispanic community share. But, still, many aren't served by financial institutions the way Gomez was served. On Monday, Greylock doubled down on their efforts to serve the Hispanic population when it received a "Juntos Avanzamos" designation.
The designation -- which means together we advance -- is part of a movement to build a network of banking institutions taking efforts to better serve the Hispanic and Latino community.
Rene Vargas Martinez, program officer at Inclusiv which heads the effort, said there are some 60 million Hispanics in the nation and about 6,000 in Berkshire County, yet they've been underserved by financial institutions. The designation is a commitment from the credit union to employ more bilingual and culturally-competent staff and "treat all of their members with respect, regardless of immigration status."
"For some, Latino continues to be invisible even though the economic, cultural, and social impact of the Hispanic population in the United States has grown substantially in recent years. We remain and underbanked and underserved sector of the population. Millions of Hispanics still hide their money under mattresses and go to check cashers or payday lenders for their most personal needs at a staggering personal cost," he said.
"But today there is hope in Pittsfield, Lenox, Lee, Great Barrington, Adams, Dalton, and Williamstown. Greylock Federal Credit Union has proven that given the tools it is possible to revitalize communities that have been written off by mainstream financial institutions."
Martinez said the program was launched in 2015 and now includes 95 credit unions serving more than 5.9 million members at 735 branches spanning 26 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.
"We seek to establish a strong national network of credit unions truly committed to meeting the financial needs of Hispanic and immigrant consumers," he said.
The designation was particularly driven by Escobar, who vowed to continue to help the Hispanic community achieve financial goals.
Greylock President John Bissell reaffirmed the credit union's dedication to serve everyone in the community.
"We promise to give you the best service and support to make your financial goals and dreams come true," Escobar said.
The move was heralded by Cooperative Credit Union Association President Ronald McLean as he looks to extend the designation throughout the credit union system.
"Today's celebration to me is the start of a broader outreach of Junto Avanzamos beyond the Berkshires. We are aiming to bring Junto Avanzamos across the state and across the northeast," McLean said.
The celebration on Monday at Greylock's West Street branch was attended by state Sen. Adam Hinds, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard, and Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer. Tyer praised the effort to be more inclusive.
"Our dream for our city is that all are welcome. There is enough room for all of us in our beautiful city and we are to celebrate what makes us unique," Tyer said.
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Wetland issues have derailed planned improvements to Pontsoosuc Lake Park.
The Friends of Pontoosuc Lake received $15,000 from the Community Preservation Act with the intent to restore the beach on the Hancock Road side. The city's Parks, Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager Jim McGrath, however, said it was found that the former beach has essentially turned into wetlands.
"We can't disturb that area of Pontoosuc Park," McGrath told the Parks Commission on Tuesday.
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Wetland issues have derailed planned improvements to Pontsoosuc Lake Park.
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