Meet our board members and learn about our board committees.

Board members

Alison Christie, President

Alison joined the Alternatives' Board in 2001. She enjoys many training opportunities available to Board members. Alison brings Marketing and Cooperative experience to the Board. She worked at GreenStar Cooperative Market for twelve years, during which she became Marketing and Member Services Manager. Alison is drawn to participate as a board member at Alternatives to support our vital and worthy mission and also because she is captivated by the cooperative movement and its capacity to transform peoples' lives and offer a democratic economic alternative in our capitalist economy. Alison is honored to be a steward for such a precious community asset.

Kenneth McLaurin, Secretary

Kenneth McLaurin Jr. graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta with a Liberal Arts Degree. He spent 12 years internationally leading community-based programs focused on servicing a wide range of needs for individuals, families and communities. He has been a part of our Ithaca community since 2011, and recently served as the Interim Executive Director of Southside Community Center. Currently he is working with Cornell Cooperative Extension as a Financial Management Educator.

Jim Fravil, Treasurer

Jim has considered it a privilege to serve as a director since 1996 with some of the most caring and concerned people for social and economic justice in very troubling times. Over this time along with excellent employees and board members we have taken on some large economic issues before it was fashionable and positioned the credit union for addressing those issues. In recent times the  credit union has become much more risk adverse which is probably appropriate as it has grown to a size where there is now much more to lose. The most difficult external issue is who we look to serve. Where we once looked to the underserved population, Jim now thinks this group is being served much better than previously by the likes of Wal-Mart and other mass marketers who have many low income people as a captive audience and we cannot compete with on a price or convenience basis. The area that needs attention is the unbanked and more desperately the newly unbankable, a group created by our fiscal meltdown burdened with unpaid debts and judgments and marginally or totally unemployed operating in the cash world and underground economy. The long term effect on them and their children and the community is easily seen from Jim’s front door. Poverty does not hide well in the rural areas to which he is accustomed. These people need a path to come back to our world. Jim believes, “We do need to recapture a little of the ‘fire in the belly’ for such issues while continuing our current initiatives.”

He and his wife have lived and farmed in Lodi since 1980.  He was previously a commercial bank officer and Commercial and Agriculture lending officer in what was a small locally owned bank and have an excellent working knowledge of bank operation, accounting and regulatory issues. They have been credit union members since 1983.

Says Jim, “Selfishly I love the credit union or more appropriately its people.” 

Dan Apfel

Dan Apfel is a consultant and researcher in the fields of strategy and impact investment and serves as a Senior Associate at the Croatan Institute. His experience includes work with philanthropic institutions, nonprofits, community development financial institutions, and impact investors. In the past Dan served as the Executive Director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, the leading voice for responsible investing in higher education, and Program Officer at the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, where he provided education, training, and program support to credit unions nationwide. In his role at the Federation Dan also served as co-Coordinator of the New York State Coalition of CDFIs. Dan holds a Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a BA in History from the University of Rochester.

Dan serves as the President of the Board of the Alternatives Fund of Ithaca, an affiliate of the Alternatives Federal Credit Union. Dan joined the board in 2016.

Ariana Blossom

Ariana is the creator of and program director for Passenger to Pilot: Empowering Women Entrepreneurs hosted at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works. The program was launched in 2015 to support women growing their small businesses. She founded her business Blossom Coaching, LLC in 2010. Her primary focus is on providing business development mentorship for women entrepreneurs and women’s leadership organizations. 

Diane Cohen

Diane has been a member of the Ithaca community for more than 30 years. She worked in nonprofit management since 2001, and is the Executive Director of Finger Lakes ReUse, a nonprofit organization founded in 2007 with a triple bottom line mission to enhance community, economy, and environment through reuse. ReUse is a past recipient of Alternatives FCU’s Jeff Furman Award for Social Responsibility in Business and is deeply aligned with our mission of creating opportunities for underserved people and communities. 

Diane currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County and is a member of the Environment Program Committee at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, the Get Your Green BackSteering Committee and the TST BOCES Technology Committee.

Brian DeYoung

Brian has been a Credit Union member since 1984, when he lived in California, and a long term member of Alternatives FCU.  He have an extensive professional background in real estate, housing, construction and related fields. He has a long time personal background of community service, including eight years as a volunteer at Willard Drug Treatment Center. He believes the Credit Union has many beneficial programs that he hopes to help spread the word about as well as build the member base. Real Estate is a large economic force, and he believes his lifetime background of building, designing, and selling homes makes him an asset to the board. 

Yvette Rubio

Yvette is not a newcomer to the Alternatives FCU board. She served on the board from 2002-2011 – the last four as its President. In 2009 she was awarded the Volunteer of the Year by the Credit Union Association of the State of New York. 

Yvette currently serves as the Coordinator for Volunteer Services at Tompkins County Public Library and continues to run her independent consulting business as an Organizational Development Consultant. She serves as secretary on the board of Foodnet/Meals on Wheels, represents the public library on the Diversity Consortium and as liaison to the County Office for the Aging. In the past she has served on numerous boards, including the Kitchen Theatre in Ithaca, and Grace House in New Orleans, LA and the Avila Foundation in Avila Beach, Ca. She has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity International and with Cornell Catholic Community in Guatemala, where her father was born, building homes in the western highlands near San Marcos, and constructing cooking stoves and clearing land for a coffee finca co-op in San Lucas Toliman.

Yvette is committed to seeing that Alternatives FCU remains an organization dedicated solely to promoting economic justice through its programs and policies.

Leonardo Vargas-Méndez

Leonardo is the Executive Director of the Cornell Public Service Center (CPSC), and as such, is a member of Cornell University’s Division of Student and Academic Services’ senior management team. Leonardo is Co-Principal Investigator for the Cornell Upward Bound Program and is Co-Director of the Faculty Fellows-in-Service learning programs. He is Cornell University’s liaison to the New York Campus Compact Advisory Board, and a member of the founding Board of this statewide higher education membership institution. He is also a Carl L. Becker House Faculty Fellow at Cornell University.   

In addition to his Cornell responsibilities, Leonardo has served on the boards of many Tompkins County non-profit agencies and governmental committees, including the Board of Trustees of the Tompkins County Public Library; the Founding Board of the Latino Civic Association of Tompkins County Inc.; the Ithaca Alliance for Community Empowerment; the Advisory Board of the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service of Tompkins County; the Tompkins County Workers Rights Center; the Board of the Tompkins County Human Services Coalition; the City of Ithaca’s Board of Public Works; and the Board of Planning and Development; the Board of the Tompkins County Human Rights Commission; and the Board of Planned Parenthood of Tompkins County. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Tompkins Community Action, and also a member of ATTAC International, Chile’s chapter.  

Leonardo enjoys being a Board member for Alternatives on many levels, and he and his family have been Alternatives members for many years.  

Ashley Cake

Ashley was born and raised in Ithaca and has been a member of Alternatives since 2010. Her first job was as a cashier at the Hancock St. P&C during high school. She went away for undergraduate and graduate study at the University of Toronto, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, and finally Syracuse University, attaining advanced degrees in European Philosophy, Gender Studies, and Comparative Religion.

Returning to Ithaca in 2006, Ashley worked for Gimme! Coffee, Madeline’s Restaurant, The Shop Cafe, Coltivare, Mercato Bar & Kitchen, and Bar Argos. In 2016 she opened The Watershed bar with her three business partners, incorporating as GDAM Industries, Inc. The Watershed is thriving in the new year, creating eight living wage jobs and striving to meet ambitious service, environmental, and social justice goals every day.

Ashley is deeply invested in socially responsible growth in the Ithaca business community and particularly interested in the Alternatives mission to build wealth among low-income folks and families in Ithaca and Tompkins County.

Olivia Armstrong, BSW/RM

Olivia opened her first Alternatives account in 1990 and started her first job as Youth Development Program Leader and Assistant Summer Camp Director, at the Greater Ithaca Activity Center. In later years, she was hired as Youth Director and Summer Camp Director at South Side Community Center, Project Administrator at Ithaca High School’s program, Project Moving Up, restarting her Alternatives membership account, for the third time since 2012, earlier commuting from her residence in Tioga County. Today she lives in Tompkins County.

Olivia moved to Ithaca (TC) in 2002, with global travel and a lot of hard knocks experience under her belt. She was welcomed back with open arms. She is an Adelphi School of Social Work Graduate (BSW) Certified Herbalist, Reiki Master, Professional Spoken Word/Poetess, Professional Dancer (primarily African), 1997 Ordained Minister, 2001 Co-Founder and now Executive Director at Rainbow Healing Center of America Inc. (rainbowhealingctr.weebly.com), community updates, Paralegal, Grassroot Community Activist, and an active Board Member of LAWNY Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc.

Michael McNeil

Michael is honored to support the outstanding staff and volunteers at Alternatives.

 A lawyer who works primarily in entertainment, intellectual property, and technology, Michael was raised in Ithaca and attended East Hill school, the Lehman Alternative Community School, and Ithaca College before moving away to attend law school.

 Michael’s entertainment work has involved him in many well-known films (such as the Hobbit trilogy, Jungle Book, the Planet of the Apes series, Avatar, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, etc.) and TV projects. His tech/IP work is typically focused on software or hi-tech issues such as business formation, IP ownership and protection, licensing, commercialization, etc. His clients are from around the world and range in size from a single creator or inventor just getting started to companies with thousands of people working for them.

 He has also serves as an arbitrator for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, determining business and financial disputes, and has been a consultant on economic development (particularly entrepreneurship) in both in the United States and overseas.

 He strongly believes in the positive effect of providing economic power to the underserved and is particularly interested in the positive effect of local and/or small-scale finance and entrepreneurship.

Board committees

Human Resources Committee

Makes recommendations to the Board on such personnel matters as the merit raise matrix – which must be adjusted relative to changes in asset size – the annual employee engagement survey, and other issues that pertain to staff. 

Member Experience Committee

Monitors issues and discusses strategies to deliver efficient, high-quality member service. The Member Experience Committee focuses on two parts of Alternatives' Strategic Plan: "making members lives easier" and "more members, more products, more services."

Loan Policy Committee

Members of the Loan Policy Committee review and propose changes to loan policies and make recommendations for new programs. They review and discuss monthly lending activity, trends, and changes. The value of serving on the Loan Policy Committee is being able to work towards creating products that help underserved people: being true to our mission. It is rewarding to see the impact our work has in the community. We see our members become homeowners at after other lenders have been unable to provide financial solutions. We see small businesses open their doors and enrich our community. We watch members on the Credit Path work to establish credit, borrow for a car, and eventually become homeowners.

Community Relations and Evaluation Committee

The Community Relations and Evaluation Committee was renamed and reframed in 2016. Directors from the Alternatives Group boards and community members with evaluation expertise review the Credit Union’s proposed evaluation initiatives, asking key questions and making recommendations.

Finance Committee

The Finance Committee reviews budgets, audit, capital expenditures, delinquency, collection, investments, and financial statements. There is nothing that is more important for a credit union than to ensure that its operations are financially sound. The Finance Committee works closely with Alternatives' top-notch staff to review financial trends, develop policies and oversee how the credit union's funds are invested and spent. A lot of this work directly affects the ability of Alternatives to meet its core mission of helping everyone take better control of their financial futures. The members of the Finance Committee help prioritize how and where Alternatives' resources are spent. These decisions directly affect the programs and services offered by Alternatives, and ultimately, its members.

Supervisory Committee

Alternatives. Federal Credit Union bylaws mandate the establishment of a Supervisory Committee to oversee internal audit functions. The responsibility of the committee is to ensure the financial safety and soundness of the credit union on behalf of the credit union's members. This committee performs one of the most important jobs associated with the credit union. The Supervisory Committee has two general goals: 

  1. Ensure management's financial reporting presents a fair and accurate picture of the Credit Union's condition.
  2. Ensure management practices, and procedures safeguard member's assets.

The primary tool used by the Supervisory Committee to accomplish its goals is hiring external auditors to perform an annual audit of the credit union's finances and accounting controls. Each year the committee solicits bids from, then hires an accounting firm or other qualified auditing organization. The committee also reviews internal controls, audit and Federal examination findings, and follows up on recommendations made during the audit and examination. Supervisory Committee members are volunteers, appointed by the board of directors. A committee member must be a member of the credit union and be bondable by the credit union's bonding company. Accounting or bookkeeping experience is not required, though it would be helpful in carrying out the mission of the committee.

ALCO

The Assets Liability Committee (ALCO) conducts quarterly reviews of the credit union’s asset to liability ratio, monitoring risk and capital structure.

Governance Committee

Document board policies and procedures, board assessment, conflict resolution, and training for new and veteran board members. Screen and nominate volunteers to fill board mid-term vacancies to be appointed by the full board.

Nominating Committee

Recruits and nominates a field of candidates for election to Alternatives Board of Directors, to be voted on by Alternatives’ general membership on an annual basis. Three-year board terms are staggered, with approximately three or four seats elected each year, plus any vacancies filled by nomination in the current cycle. It is the goal of the Nominating Committee to promote contested elections and nominate about 40% more candidates than seats up for election

CEO Evaluation Committee

Convened to conduct a performance evaluation of the CEO.

Executive Committee

Convened to handle situations that arise between board meetings.

Do you have any questions?