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Paul Phillips Awarded 2013 Eugene H. Farley Jr. Award of Excellence

Apr 25, 2013 by Lewis Wood

Paul Phillips, of Freedom First Credit Union, has been awarded the Virginia Credit Union League's prestigious Eugene H. Farley Jr. Award of Excellence.

Lewis Wood
Virginia Credit Union League
Vice President, Public Relations and Communications
800.768.3344, ext. 629

Paul Phillips, president/CEO of Roanoke-based Freedom First Credit Union has been awarded one of the Virginia credit union system's highest individual honors – the Eugene H. Farley Jr. Award of Excellence.

The award is given annually to a credit union professional or volunteer official in recognition of his or her outstanding contributions to an individual credit union or to the credit union movement. In particular, the award seeks to recognize achievements that exemplify credit unions’ ‘People Helping People’ philosophy. It is named in honor of retired Virginia Credit Union League President Gene Farley, who served the League and Virginia’s credit unions for more than 40 years until his retirement in 1999.

"Paul Phillips believes that credit unions have an obligation to make a difference," says Rick Pillow, president of the Virginia Credit Union League. "He and Freedom First each day practice credit unions' 'People Helping People' philosophy."

Phillips was recognized for a long list of personal accomplishments at the local and state levels, and for his credit union's commitment to addressing the financial challenges facing individuals, businesses and communities.

"Credit unions have a unique opportunity to aid not only our members, but also our communities," said Phillips. "Our not-for-profit structure enables us to avoid that tension that plagues for-profits, where the need to turn a profit competes with the desire to help customers. For member-owned credit unions, our resources can be focused solely on serving our members and the communities we call home."

Under Phillips' leadership, Freedom First launched programs designed to address the needs of its members, including the 60 percent of members who are low-income earners. The credit union's unique suite of Impact Banking programs includes Responsible Rides, an award-winning partnership between Freedom First and local businesses and non-profits that prepares lower-income borrowers for the responsibilities associated with purchasing and maintaining an affordable, reliable vehicle.

Its Credit Builder Loans help those with no and damaged credit to build or rebuild their credit scores through affordable loan products. Member participants without a credit history boasted average credit scores of 606 after only six months of enrollment in the Credit Builder Loan program.

Freedom First's Payday Alternative Loans saved member borrowers almost $40,000 in fees and interest in 2012, when compared to the costs of such loans at for-profit, storefront payday loan providers.

In addition to his leadership at Freedom First, Phillips has served for 6 years on the board of the Virginia Credit Union League, the statewide trade association for Virginia credit unions. He has had a hand in two of the League’s key initiatives during his tenure: the launch of the Credit Unions Care Foundation of Virginia, the charitable arm of Virginia's credit union system, and the Reality Check initiative and guidebook, which are designed to help Virginia-based credit unions start, rebrand or rethink their micro-loan programs.

A major initiative of the League in 2012, Reality Check was developed as a response to the recession and the slow economic recovery, as credit unions recognized that members of all income levels were increasingly in need of small loans, generally $3,000 or less, to manage emergency financial needs. An important component of Reality Check is the collection of data from individual credit unions on their micro-loan programs, data which is used to educate consumers and lawmakers about the "Credit Union Difference."

"Credit unions now realize that we should not be afraid to tell our story," says Phillips. "Helping people prosper is more than just a mission statement; credit unions should proudly embrace our role as champions of affordable financial services."

The Eugene H. Farley Jr. Award of Excellence is given by the Virginia Credit Union League, the state trade association that has promoted, protected and supported the commonwealth's credit unions for almost 80 years. Learn more at


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