Lee Ginenthal, Owner, Der Rosenmeister Nursery
Lee Ginenthal is a Special Education teacher at Boynton Middle School, but his plans are to retire and run a nursery. Five years ago he signed up for our Getting Down to Business class. During that class Lee developed his business plan, and he’s used that plan step-by- step to get his nursery up and running. “I started my business four years ago, and since then I’ve come to Alternatives for information about sales tax, filing taxes…I’ve had all sorts of questions. Whenever something comes up, I stop by Alternatives. There’s always someone to help me.” Lee feels comfortable at Alternatives. “What’s nice about the Credit Union,” he continues, “is that every time I walk in, people know me - as the “Rose Guy” - and they always ask how business is doing. It feels good. The staff is interested and supportive.”
The atmosphere at Alternatives brings Lee back whenever he has a financial need. Right now he’s working on installing a solar electric system in his home, funded by an Alternatives NYSERDA low-interest loan. He hopes to produce 60%-70% of his own electric needs with this new system.
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Not only did Alternatives help me step-by-step to buy my own home, they also helped me pay off high interest credit cards, and I recently applied for a newer car loan. I will not do business with any other bank or credit union! I love you Alternatives!!
“I really found out how caring Alternatives is last October when I was called up to active duty after Hurricane Katrina,” says member Shannan Sullivan. “Navy pay is only a fraction of what I make as a nurse practitioner. I panicked. I had to make provisions. In 24 hours Alternatives had arranged for me to pay interest only on smaller loans, and forebear my mortgage until I returned from active duty… Alternatives made me feel like I was the only person they had to worry about.
“Hundreds and hundreds of sick and wounded people were sent from the Gulf region to Norfolk, Virginia where I was stationed. The experience really woke me up to all that I have, and because of Alternatives, I still have my home. Other financial institutions gave me so much trouble before I left. The people at Alternatives made me feel like I was the only person they had to worry about. It was like going to your parents for help... it was that personal. Alternatives took a hard situation and made it easy for me. I can’t thank them enough."
Maggie Stanley, Inklings and Imprints
I've had my own small business in the past - sewing and selling bags, clothing and home furnishings. As it expanded, however, I found myself balking at the prospect of actually having to manage a business. The idea of hiring, determining pay and managing others (and the resulting paperwork) terrified me. Of course, this limited the growth of the venture. One person can only sew so much.
Years later, when I decided that I wanted to start designing rubber stamps for use with fabric, clays, etc., I realized I could use some "learning." Alternatives' Business CENTS program in 2007 was at the right time and at the right price.
It was intensive and a time commitment - but I enjoyed the sessions. It was a great experience to share with other entrepreneurs! I loved hearing about their ideas and visions, and seeing how their plans and practices developed as the classes advanced.
While I feel I haven't taken full advantage of the information and resources made available, I am very glad I took the class - and grateful. I keep the binder nearby for reference and know that the experience has influenced many of my decisions. I'm building the business slowly and expect that I will be contacting Leslie sometime when I'm ready to bite the bullet and apply for a loan.
Thom Trause, owner of Ithaca Soy, took advantage of the SBA Express Loan when he decided to buy out his partner and become sole owner of this local business. "It made sense for me to turn to Alternatives," Thom says of his choice, "because they aren't the starchy-shirt kind of people I usually find at financial institutions. The people at Alternatives were so helpful. I credit Alternatives for my ability to buy, relocate and run my business with no lapse in production at all. I can't imagine any other place that would have helped me the way Alternatives did. I guess I could say that because of my experience, I'll be back for any business needs I have in the future."
Diane’s Downtown Automotive
Diane Russell owns the only woman-owned gas station and automotive repair in Ithaca. Diane says of her new endeavor, “The purchase of the station was owner-financed, but I turned to Alternatives for all my business banking. When I opened the station I opened my business account at Alternatives.”
“I have Alternatives to credit for some of the knowledge I have about running a business. I took the Business CENTS class, Getting Down to Business, when I was planning to purchase a station, and it made a big difference. The class covered all the topics I needed to know. It helped me figure out the numbers, and the marketing insights were great. It also gave me a business networking support group. I feel totally supported by Alternatives, both inside and outside the credit union. The staff supports my station, and I see a lot of Alternatives Credit and Debit Cards from customers.” Diane is getting ready to close on a Line of Credit that will enable her to add equipment to her station. “I like working with Alternatives,” she adds, “I think they have a real commitment to serve the people of modest means, and I think that’s really neat. It’s a commitment I respect and one of the reasons I support Alternatives and bank there.”
Laurie and Zoe Hill
Our family's strongest connection to Alternatives started at the Student Credit Union branch at Fall Creek Elementary School. Zoe started as a Saver and I as a Teller five years ago. Zoe is a regular depositor. I started putting money into my savings account on a more regular basis when we realized that it would be a good place to have a vacation account - one we didn't have a debit card or checkbook for. We saved enough for a trip to Zurich to visit friends on sabbatical and then the fast train to Paris.
Before Zoe was born, we went to Alternatives for a construction loan to build an addition to our house. We've also had a Home Equity Loan through the credit union in addition to Zoe's and my savings accounts.
Alternatives is unique in that it brings savings to the kids at school. It's accessible to everyone who wants to deposit. That's it - there are no barriers. It's supported by the Fall Creek PTA, the volunteer tellers (students and parents) and the wonderful coordinators.
Amy Walton got a loan for a new car before she started looking. “I called the Anytime LoanPhone. It only took 10 minutes and I was tentatively approved right away, pending confirmation of my information. When I found the car I wanted, the dealer told me I could get a better rate through dealer financing. He made me an offer that was ¾ % less than my Alternatives loan. I called Amy Smith, my loan officer, and she matched that rate immediately. I had no idea that Alternatives has a policy of matching rates to stay competitive. I was really glad. This policy allowed me to keep all my banking at Alternatives.”
Belle Sherman Elementary School Students
On a Tuesday afternoon, students in the Cornell Cooperative Extension's directed SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Education) program at Belle Sherman Elementary can be found hard at work learning about money and getting hands-on banking experience depositing money into their Student Credit Union accounts at Alternatives. The students, all refugees from Burma, range in age from 2nd to 5th grade.
Alternatives has partnered with the Cornell Cooperative Extension's Urban 4-H program and Belle Sherman Elementary School to provide a new experiential financial education program entitled S3: Spend, Save, Share. The S3 program helps students build financial skills through hands-on entrepreneurial activity, as well as structured lessons in money management and finance. The goal of the S3 program is to empower students to make smart spending, saving and sharing decisions.
These budding entrepreneurs designed and sold holiday greeting cards through Alternatives' Holiday Market. As profits came in, the group had to decide together how they wanted to distribute their earnings. The students decided they would share half of their earnings (over $70) with the SPCA of Tompkins County, and would save the remainder in their Alternatives' Student Credit Union Accounts.
The students were invited to visit the SPCA to present their donation and to get a first-hand view of how the agency will use their gift. Students learned about the SPCA's activities including how families are matched with animals, and the importance of the SPCA's spay and neuter program. The highlight of the day was a trip to the cat rooms where the children were able to pet and play with some very friendly feline friends!
Other S3 groups are actively spending, saving and sharing at Belle Sherman, and plans are in the works to expand to Beverly J. Martin Elementary School in 2010. We are very proud of the students' hard work and generosity!
I was getting beaten up by local banks and their penalties/fees. I got my taxes done through Alternatives' Free Tax Preparation program and found the people very friendly. It's a pleasure to feel the lack of pressure that banks put on me. Having folks listen and care does make a difference!
Oh, my goodness, where do I even begin? We renovated our house (home equity loan), started a business (commercial loan) and refinanced our house over the last few years. Alternatives has been there with us every step of the way! We have learned so much, with the help of the Alternatives staff and we're not done yet! We adore our partners at Alternatives and can't thank them enough for the support, planning assistance, and encouragement they've provided. Wow - what a fabulous community resource!
Nutritional Wellness Center
The Nutritional Wellness Center is celebrating its eighth year in business. We started on the right foot in 2006 by attending the Business CENTS program and by receiving a business loan. So far we have helped over 1,000 people on their journey to optimal health. Our mission is to help as many people as humanly possible be healthier and happier without the use of unnecessary drugs or surgery. Thank you Alternatives for your support along the way!
NorthStar House - Elliot Martin, Jed Ashton and Lee Hamilton
At NorthStar House, we use as many local, organic vegetables and meats as we can, so you have our word that we will do all we can to help the community grow in the healthiest way possible. Naturally we bank at Alternatives, not only because they share our goals of community development, but they also provide the tools to make those goals a reality. Alternatives has been there for us from the beginning, helping us develop a business plan in the Business CENTS program, and continues to support us as we grow and have new financial needs.
Joe Nolan, Home Green Home
My family's credit union has been Alternatives since '96; We liked the mission, and who could resist banking in a converted house? In 2005 I started thinking about a retail start-up called "Home Green Home" that would sell healthy and eco-conscious home furnishings and renovation supplies. The Business CENTS class helped me to understand and develop the elements of a business plan, and set me on the path to taking the big leap.
At every stage, I've felt well supported by Alternatives' friendly staff. From one-on-one consultation to business banking and credit needs, I've received quick, helpful service at Alternatives. We always look to partner with organizations that share our values, and Alternatives fits the bill.
When I knew I was moving from southwestern VA to Ithaca, NY, I knew I wanted to work at Alternatives. My partner at the time said it would be the perfect job for me. I read a little online about the mission. I didn’t really understand all of it, but it sounded positive and ethical. I had worked in banking for a few years and as a community-minded individual, I thought this could be a good fit.
I was hired in May of 2008. My credit score was 567, my credit report was about eight pages of negative history, and NO ONE would ever consider giving me a loan.
My credit score now, last I checked it, is about 672, and my credit report is three pages of positive history. I have received two car loans. I own a business and I’m saving for my first home. This change, contrary to popular belief, was not a miracle. It happened when I decided to take responsibility for my financial situation and bring what I need into my life. Community Programs at Alternatives helped me get there. One of the first things I did was take MoneyWise. This class gave me so many tools to utilize: it helped me bring awareness to the importance of knowing where my money was going; it helped to give me a new lens with which to look at money.
When the last car I paid cash for kicked the bucket, I wasn’t able to get a car loan without a co-signer. The loan officer counseled me in depth on what steps I needed to make to get a loan on my own. After our conversation, I enlisted a cosigner, purchased the car, and started financial counseling. These steps helped me to feel more personal empowerment in my finances and later down the road, that empowerment spread to my small business endeavors. Getting Down to Business was no joke! I learned so much about the difference between having a hobby that I’d like to make money with versus being a business owner. Cash flow projections bent my brain, but after I got it, I realized what a beneficial tool it is.
Last but not least, I am in the First Home Club IDA. I have been saving $188 a month to put towards my first home purchase and Alternatives will be matching my funds 4:1. I could not have done any of these things without knowing where my money goes. The sense of financial empowerment encouraged the self-discipline to make the change.
This is the IMPACT that Alternatives makes through our community programs.
Ariana Blossom, Blossom Success Coaching
I was attracted to Alternatives' educational programs MoneyWise and Business CENTS. I knew I needed to learn more about finances to successfully run a business. I applied for the business IDA - this coupled with the guest lecturers were of great use to my business education. I am now a Professional Success Coach working with individuals and businesses for greater vision and empowerment. Alternatives has been a huge help in my success.
I just wanted to express my gratitude to all of Alternatives for always making me feel valued as a member and a person. Almost three years ago I decided to start to climb out of a credit hole I had been digging for years, by purchasing my first car and paying it off. There were virtually no dealerships able to give me a loan, even through any of the myriad of predatory lenders they keep on hand. The only one that would approve financing was offering it at 25% APR! I approached Alternatives with my story, my plan and a car in mind, and I ended up approved WITHOUT a co-signer for a loan with 7.75% APR. I paid off my loan without a late payment, and I have Alternatives to thank for my reliable wheels, my much improved credit score, and a new outlook on financial responsibility. Since then I have continued to bank with Alternatives even living permanently in Portland, Oregon, because I have yet to find any other bank or credit union that has as much to offer.
I just wanted to share my story. I have always felt skepticism towards the validity of people's testimonials for other products or services. Never, though, had I felt strongly enough to actually write one. But in a world where most banking is impersonal and computerized, I thank Alternatives for delivering on exactly what they aim to provide - an alternative. And it is a great one.
Carol Bushberg proudly counts herself as a very early member of Alternatives - she remembers joining when Alternatives was located just off the Commons on the second floor. Over time, Carol has applied for and received every kind of loan from Alternatives - mortgage, personal and business. In 1986 she became a real estate broker, and became a strong promoter of Alternatives' home loans and accompanying member service. "Alternatives is to me the closest model of an old-fashioned bank," says Carol. "I not only trust the advice given to me by Alternatives, but also that Alternatives also trusts me and my financial decisions." Carol is also appreciative of the work Alternatives has done over the years helping people stay away from predatory lending practices.
Eugenio “Gino” Bush
Eugenio “Gino” Bush has been a member of Alternatives since 1996. Gino is a well known community activist working on employment, labor, addiction recovery and other social justice issues.
Gino became a member of Alternatives because he felt the Credit Union’s community development mission perfectly complimented his own commitment to social and economic justice.
“Working with clients who are mainly low-income, it was important for me to support the credit union because of its focus on low-income people. No fee savings and checking accounts plus financial and business education classes are important tools to help people build a more secure life. Financial security is an important social justice issue. I’m happy to support an organization that supports the community I work with.”
The Park Grill Café
The Park Grill Café is located at the Cornell Business and Technology Park near the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, providing breakfast and lunch to employees and residents in that area. They also provide catering. When it came to getting a loan, Alternatives was there to help. The Café's Levon Brewer explained: “It was a small loan, but Bob Anderson [business loan officer] couldn’t have been more patient and personable. We really felt like someone cared, that Alternatives really wanted to work with us.”
Recently, the Park Grill Café was expecting a payment for a catering event. The payment soon became quite late, putting the Cafe’s finances in dire straits. Levon called up Bob Anderson and the Café’s credit line was increased to accommodate the costs the Café outlayed for the event. “I can’t express what an amazing experience we have had with Alternatives,” LeVon says. “Alternatives really lives up to its name!”
The Finger Lakes ReUse Center was awarded The Jeff Furman Award for Social Responsibility in Business at Alternatives’ 2012 annual meeting, with Executive Director Diane Cohen accepting the award. Cohen expressed her thanks: “We will hang the award prominently and proudly in our Reuse Center, and as we grow, we will continue to use this as a beacon, to continue our efforts to maximize our capacity to provide opportunities and relieve hardship. We know we are in solidarity with Alternatives on these issues. We're a young organization with a mission to enhance community, economy, and environment through reuse, and a priority to serve our community well. Receiving this award has been an honor and an affirmation.”
My IDA [Individual Development Account] experience was just incredible. I saved a few bucks every week and after a year, I had a savings account with $3,000 in it! And I'm glad that the MoneyWise class was required, because it really helped me develop a healthier relationship with money. So many of the skills I learned in class seemed so obvious, but I never thought/knew how to do them until we went over them in class. For example, tracking my spending made a HUGE difference in how I now spend money. Also, the exercises in the beginning when we explored our relationships with money - I discovered I'm a carefree, spirited, impulsive spender. It helps to put a name on things.
After accruing thousands of dollars in debt from student loans from when I was an undergraduate, I was determined to do all I could to stay out of debt for when I continued my education. The IDA really helped. I feel so much better prepared to build equity and save for my future. Thanks, Alternatives!
Before changing professions, I worked in local banks for years. They were bought out by others, so I found a bank that I thought would meet my needs. When I began to work at True Insurance, I had a Health Savings Account at Alternatives and that was it. I was impressed by the service that I received - I could always ask questions and get an answer right away. When I went to my back to get a personal loan, I was denied, so I thought I would try Alternatives. Without really even knowing me, they gave me the loan. I moved all my acccounts to Alternatives. I will always recommend Alternatives to all my clients. Best little credit union around!
Kathy Nivison, Express Employment Professionals
With a background of 15 years in Human Resources, Kathy Nivison started up the Ithaca office of Express Employment Professionals to better serve local employment and recruiting needs. Kathy approached Alternatives for a business loan, and was impressed with both the loan’s low interest rate, as well as the quick response from Bob Anderson, the business loan officer at Alternatives.
Kathy took advantage of our “Women and Minority” subsidized loan, which helps women and minority borrowers who have a minimum of one year in business and are looking for assistance with continued growth and expansion.
Hillary Albrecht, Smart Start Preschool
When I decided to open a new preschool in Trumansburg, the Business CENTS program at Alternatives was suggested by many. With the outstanding support and guidance from the Business CENTS staff, I was able to write my first business plan and secure a business loan. My preschool is now open for business, and I am confident I will be off to a successful start! The Business CENTS program has been invaluable, and I would recommend their services and banking to all. Thank you Alternatives!
In the spring of 2014, we learned that our minivan needed repairs in excess of it's value. We'd already been cutting back on our auto use, and were trying to walk and bike more. We'd been talking with friends and reading about cargo bikes as a car alternative. Around the same time, a new business, "Boxy Bikes" opened in Ithaca, which specializes in electric and cargo bikes. We found a model we were interested in, and approached alternatives seeking financing. Alternatives set us up with a signature loan, and a "green loan" discount on our rate. Thanks to Alternatives, we are now the happy owners of a "Yuba Mundo" Electric Cargo bike. We can get anywhere we need to go, using no gas, and creating no emissions. I can carry two passengers, or a weeks worth of groceries. The loan will be paid off in two years, and the bike could last for many more, at a fraction of the cost of an automobile.