Issue #12 January 2018
Above: Next Jennaration Dance Studio
Photo credit: The Visual Team
Table of contents

01 Good things to come
02 Mobility+
03 Increased daily mobile deposit limit
04 Partnerships that make an impact
05 Business After Hours with Alternatives
06 Did someone say cake?
07 Spotlight on staff: Meet Marinez
08 Reflections of an intern
09 It's your money, why not keep it?

Artist of the Month

Jody Feaveryear



Kenneth McLaurin and Elbonee "SingTrece" Stevenson

Daniel Segal

A special thank you to our last quarter Artists of the Month:
Betsy K. Gram
Monica J. Knight
Alternatives staff

If you are an artist interested in being our Artist of the Month, contact

Business of the Month

La Jolie Beauty Bar 


Becca Harber

Floof Collage Party


If you interested in participating in our Business of the Month, please register at 

Upcoming events


 9  Business CENTS: Coffee Talk
 9  Business After Hours
11  40th Anniversary Celebration (lobby)
12  Technology Tuesday (lobby)

16  Free Tax Preparation Program Jan 16- April 13)
28  Money Wise (every Monday for seven weeks)
29  Technology Tuesday (lobby)

31  Money Smart for Business


 7  Money Smart for Business
12  Technology Tuesday (lobby)
13  Business CENTS: Coffee Talk
26  Technology Tuesday (lobby)



12  Technology Tuesday (lobby)
13  Business CENTS: Coffee Talk
18  Money Wise (every Monday for seven weeks)
26  Technology Tuesday (lobby)


Details and how to participate are online at

Holiday closings
New Year's Day, January 1

Martin Luther King Day, January 21
President's Day, February 18 

Above: Eric Levine, CEO
Photo credit:  Jamie Love Photography
01 Good things to come

By: Eric Levine, CEO

2019 is an exciting year for Alternatives. In January and throughout 2019 we will proudly celebrate Alternatives’ 40th year as a federally chartered credit union. In June we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Alternatives’ biennial Living Wage study, which started for the purpose of fairly setting and adjusting entry-level staff compensation, and was later adopted by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center for Employer Living Wage Certification. From its humble beginnings in 1979, Alternatives has always been a cooperative agent for economic justice. In 2019, Alternatives will continue to expand inclusive access to innovative financial products, services, counseling, and education.

Alternatives recently completed an ambitious strategic plan based on a competitive commitment to operational excellence and exceptional member service. Alternatives will remain at the forefront of developing innovative products and services that help people no matter where they are financially.

At the core of Alternatives’ Mission is greater access to fair transaction and loan services for underserved and marginalized people. Alternatives is increasing capacity and commitment to meet these needs, as we expand measured risk to lend to even more people who do not fit into traditional underwriting standards, or who fall victim to predatory loans because of a low credit score or a recent reentry into the workforce. We will encourage additional outside referrals to our services with expanded community outreach, through developing mission-aligned relationships and partnerships. 

Alternatives will continue to prioritize investment in technology for many reasons, including member convenience, operational efficiency, and expanded reach. We will remain committed to compete with the technology of large financial institutions, so anyone can choose to become a member of Alternatives without giving up technological conveniences. 

The unique staff cooperative culture at Alternatives will continue to be fostered because a great mission-oriented organization begins with engaged, inclusive, and committed staff. Through our commitment to empowering staff, we invite more input and participation from those closest to our members. This supports innovation, because discovering the developing needs of our members, and discussing them freely, is what leads Alternatives to create innovative solutions to meet those needs. New ideas which move Alternatives forward can start with any staff, board member, or the membership. As we progress, Alternatives will continue striving to think outside the box and boldly embrace change.  
02 Mobility+

By: Reiley Schoen


Alternatives knows you are busy and we want to make your banking needs easier with our Mobility+ options. Check your balance, deposit checks, make loan payments, transfer funds, view account activity and more all from your smart device. Come to the lobby to learn how to sign up, set alerts, activate digital wallet and more. We are here to help with your digital banking options! Our team will be set up for Technology Tuesdays in the lobby on the following dates from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm:
  • January 15 and 29
  • February 12 and 26
  • March 12 and 26
You can talk to any Member Experience Associate during your branch visit at any time to learn more about Mobility+. Also, follow us on social media for tips, tricks and helpful information about digital banking and mark your calendars to get mobile!
03 Increased daily mobile deposit limit

By: Kathleen Clark and Reiley Schoen


Mobile deposit provides the ease of depositing your checks at anywhere, anytime without coming into our physical location. We heard our member’s requests and are pleased to share we have increased the daily deposit limit to $5,000.00. We expect this will be especially useful to our business members who frequently collect checks as a form of payment.

Branch Manager, Reiley Schoen, shares “We understand that life is busy and Alternatives strives to make members lives easier with our unique products and services. Remote Deposit Capture is a fast, safe and convenient way to deposit checks to your account. Our online app allows you to check your balances in real time, transfer funds between accounts, access the free BillPay and deposit your checks anytime from anywhere. Check deposits approved through Remote Deposit Capture will make $200.00 available immediately. Remote Deposit Capture will save you time and energy and is as secure as coming to the branch. If you do not already have the Alternatives app I recommend that you try it out. Great features, many benefits and easy to use! If you have any questions or need help with our mobile access, you can always call or ask a Member Experience Associate for help the next time you are in the branch.”

Depositing checks using the Alternatives app on your phone is easy.

Information to note:
  • There are no per item limits, with a daily deposit limit of $5,000
  • You will receive three notifications after each deposit; one mobile message, then two emails:
  1. Mobile message “deposit successful” shows the process was carried out correctly.
  2. Email sent to the address linked to your account shows the credit union received the deposit. Don’t spend the money yet!
  3. Final email sent to the same account tells you if the deposit was approved, adjusted, or cannot be accepted.
You can learn more by visiting
04 Partnerships that make an impact

By: Ryan McCune, VP Sales and Marketing, Renovus Solar

Good partners are hard to find. Three years ago, when Renovus Solar and Alternatives joined forces to open up the market for solar in Central NY, neither organization was sure where that partnership would lead. Now, with 2018 coming to a close one thing has become abundantly clear; we have something special.

The partnership between Renovus and Alternatives is built on a few core values. By focusing on these values, together we have grown a one-of-a-kind partnership with broad-reaching impacts.

First, renewable energy is a smart business.
When Renovus constructed the first community solar farm in NYS back in 2015, it needed creative and community-centric lenders to step up and make this dream a reality. Alternatives answered the call, and since then our collective impact has been astounding. In 2016, we started small, with just 33 loans issued totaling just north of half a million dollars.

In 2017, we saw the interest in community solar explode, and our partnership with Alternatives grew with it. In 2017 alone, solar loan volume nearly tripled, with 86 loans issued to a tune of almost 1.5 million dollars.

So far in 2018, we haven't seen any signs of a slowdown. As of December 2018, Renovus and Alternatives have continued to grow together with more than 118 loans issued to the tune of nearly 2.5 million dollars.

Together, we have helped hundreds of homes go solar. We've increased the solar-loan portfolio by 380% in just two years, and most importantly, we've kept the money local; where it can do the most good.

Second, people have the right to control their energy.
The second principle of our current success is fundamental; the value of ownership. Community access to solar has increased exponentially in the past few years, largely on the back of subscription style community solar projects. These projects, while environmentally valuable, take money out of the communities they serve while offering customers very little control over their energy. They only allow homeowners the ability to offset energy costs partially and are often owned and funded by hedge-fund backed investment groups who siphon money out of the communities they serve. Renovus solar projects allow customers to buy panels at an offsite solar farm. Those panels produce energy credits that can offset that customer's electrical bill, exactly like on-site projects.

By hitching our collective wagons to an ownership model, we have created a locally-focused, secure and flexible solar infrastructure that gives consumers a powerful ally in the fight against climate change. It gives them the ability to offset as much, or as little of their energy consumption with solar as they'd like. Most importantly, it provides those consumers something they haven't had before; Choice.

Third, saving money with solar power should be simple.
Solar isn't all that complicated, but the incentives, grants and tax credits available to consumers can cast a cloud over projects, confusing customers. Renovus and Alternatives set out to take confusion off the table, and make solar simple. Together, with Alternatives leadership and Renovus' expertise, we have created a one-of-a-kind solar loan package that provides customers with security not found anywhere else in the financing landscape. Our dual-loan package helps lessen the financial burden of waiting for tax credits and provides Alternatives with reliable, secured income throughout the first year of the loan. Additionally, pairing this loan product with the consumer-friendly rates offered by Alternatives, we've been able to take the guesswork out of solar.

Renovus and Alternatives have proven that smart, local relationships between likely minded businesses can be a boon to all, but now we want to expand our footprint past individual transactions and towards community-scale impact.

Starting in 2019, Renovus will be partnering with Alternatives Impact; the Alternatives 501(c)3 focused on helping our community improve their lives. Its financial literacy, tax prep, job training, and community outreach programs help people live smart, sustainable lives. Renovus believes in the power of people, so investing in Impact is a natural extension of our one-of-a-kind partnership with Alternatives. Moving forward, for every person referred by Alternatives who goes solar, Renovus will make a donation to Alternatives Impact to fund the amazing work they do in our community.

2019 is an important year. Alternatives is turning a page to its bright future. By expanding our partnership, Renovus hopes to make 2019 a banner year for solar. With our new referral program, the effects of solar's expansion will go even further, impacting every corner of our community through the work of Alternatives Impact and its partners.

We're proud to have found such an incredible partner and excited about what the future holds. 

05 Business after hours with Alternatives

By: Tammy S. Drost

Join Alternatives and The Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce for the first Business After Hours of 2019. Celebrate our 40th Anniversary, meet some of our staff, board members, business members and connect with chamber members and community leaders.

The Tompkins Chamber Business After Hours is a premier monthly networking event.

For event details and to register, visit: We hope you'll join us!

06 Did someone say cake?
By: Tammy S. Drost

Yes, it’s true! We’re having cake to celebrate 40 years of building wealth and creating economic opportunities for underserved people and the community. Join us in the lobby on January 11 to celebrate the positive impact we've had since 1979. Balloons all day and a cake will be cut at 1:00 pm and served until gone!

Follow us on social media in 2019 as we celebrate 40 years of Alternatives! Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Above: Marinez Barrett, Member Experience Associate
Photo credit: Thomas Hoebbel Photography
07 Spotlight on staff: Meet Marinez 

By: Bea Nellenback

In Marinez Barrett’s teenage years, she often daydreamed of what it might be like to work as a bank teller. She went on to study finance in college and continued to consider this as she observed people handling transactions behind the counters in various financial institutions. A native to Ithaca, she knew of Alternatives Federal Credit Union as a particular sort of financial institution, in her words “a good place where everybody wants to help.”

When she heard about the job opening at Alternatives for a Member Experience Associate (MEA) from another MEA, she decided to apply, even though she thought the opportunity might be out of reach. At 19, she felt she was likely too young, or lacked the necessary experience. This moment of her life was also at the tail end of a somewhat rough year, one in which she didn’t feel able to make any progress on her goals.

When she was offered the job, she found herself in a whole new world that allowed her to take on an entirely new state of mind. Suddenly that leap she took in even applying for the job gave her the confidence to begin to revisit some long-held financial goals and to put her mind to achieving them. In just a year, she not only trained to handle the duties of her job with confidence, but she also moved into her first apartment, began to save some money, and bought her first car with an Alternatives auto loan. She was also able to take a well-deserved vacation, paid for entirely with her funds.

She also enrolled in the Alternatives Money Wise course, learning money management skills with others in a supportive environment. After her recent string of successes, her focus is on continuing to save for expected and unexpected expenses, while also saving for an even more fabulous vacation in 2019.

Mari feels that many blessings have come her way in 2018 and that she couldn’t have done it without the support of Alternatives. She feels an alignment with the mission of Alternatives and has a new perspective on her potential after her first year on staff. Mairi loves that she has found a welcoming community of staff and credit union members, all with their unique potential and story to tell. Working at Alternatives has helped Mairi realize that she can take some chances and go after opportunities. She hopes that others will also come to Alternatives to take advantage of the great programs and services here and to find the support she has experienced in pursuing her goals and dreams. 


08 Reflections of an Intern 

By: Tyler Lucas

My name is Tyler Lucas, and I’m a junior at Ithaca College, studying writing. This past semester, I’ve been completing a copywriting internship at Alternatives Federal Credit Union, which involves contributing to social media posts, editing and writing portions of grant applications, and generating material for various newsletters.

When I started interning at Alternatives, I viewed it as an opportunity to dabble in a type of writing that I was not experienced in. I pictured myself having to mentally suspend parts of my previous writing education in order to avoid instinctive use of literary devices that would be inappropriate here. I found instead that my previous experience served me well. My assumptions about the duties of my internship were misinformed by my idea of what a bank does, and a further assumption that Alternatives was similar to a bank. I expected to write dispassionately about logistical material with the objective of streamlining the credit union’s communication process. Instead I found that this is an organization that’s fundamentally motivated in empathy, and that my rhetoric would need to rise to the occasion of the goodwill behind the work that’s done here. The time that I had pictured myself spending on double checking data and statistics was actually spent reading about the tangible impact on the greater Ithaca area that’s made by the professionals here every day. I looked over testimony from clients who would otherwise not have had the opportunity to maximize the resources available to them in their pursuit of a more stable, fruitful lifestyle.

Alternatives is a lighthouse of financial security for marginalized people that have experienced exclusion from typical financial institutions. Furthermore, it represents a bright future for the community at large, rather than just individuals. Even people who don’t bank at Alternatives indirectly reap the benefits it offers to the area, in that Alternatives is constantly fortifying professional networks between locally owned businesses, offering a variety of free services and workshops, and educating the local youth on developing a financially responsible lifestyle. Anyone with a savings account at Alternatives is a member-owner of the cooperative, and members and nonmembers are eligible for free tax return assistance depending on their income. Alternatives constantly offers educational opportunities to high school and middle school students in the area to help them regulate spending habits, and get a head start on savings and long term financial planning.

I found myself grateful for the opportunity to contribute, even in a small way, to the mission at Alternatives. I had never been in a situation where my writing might actually help someone. Moreover, looking over statistics and demographic information about the Tompkins County region was an invaluable reality check. For as much time as I’d spent in Ithaca, I didn’t have a particularly accurate sense of the economic disparity in this part of New York State, and the work I’ve done for Alternatives has opened my eyes to the ways that marginalized groups are underserved by the financial industry. This is an example of an instance where I realized that my training in argument, rhetoric, and personal essay forms was going to be useful here, in describing this disparity, and how the different services that Alternatives offers sets the credit union apart by allowing them to effectively serve their clients without leaving the rest of the community behind.

There has not been a single instance in my time here where I felt that I was working toward the benefit of a self interested individual or group. There has been no “busy work” at all. Rather, I have always been a small part of a well concentrated effort to promote equality and wellbeing for anyone seeking a better life for themselves and the people they care about.

My time at Alternatives has been invaluable to my development as a writer, in that the creative coursework that I do has benefitted from this more technical writing that’s been introduced into my workload. I now write with a wider range of tones and registers at my disposal, having done more writing with an objective purpose that’s strengthened my rhetorical flourishes. I’ve also had an introduction to managing time and working efficiently in an office environment, and developed a clearer understanding of the opportunities grant writing provides, and how fulfilling it can be. On a day to day basis, I now feel a greater connection with this area that I’m spending my college years in.

While my role in Alternatives mission is relatively small, it has offered me the opportunity to hear firsthand what life is like for the average local resident. As I type in my cubicle, a diverse variety of people often file in and out of the space that I share. They have families, they own businesses, and they all strive to improve these facets of their life with honest, meaningful work that makes this city a better place to live. Not only do I write for a credit union that is many ways a centerpiece of the local economy, I also get the opportunity to observe its inner workings. The longer I spend at Alternatives, the more I’m amazed at how the people who work here are able to consistently and genuinely relate to their clients. This is not a place where clients arrive hat in hand to ask cold, calculating people in three piece suits for help. This is a welcoming space where the clients are greeted by professionals that are as diverse, hardworking and compassionate as they are. My time here has been as enjoyable as it was educational, which is a direct result the people I have had the pleasure to work with.


09 It's your money, why not keep it

By: Brian Zapf

Are you paying high fees to file your taxes? Are you sure you’re getting all the credits you deserve? Why pay when you can get it done for free?

From January 16 - April 13, Alternatives Federal Credit Union offers free tax preparation for those who qualify. If your income is less than $55,000, you could be eligible for free tax preparation!

Alternatives’ Free Tax Preparation Program serves low and middle-income community members as an IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site. Trained volunteers prepare federal and state income tax returns and counsel clients to make sure they claim all the tax benefits they are eligible for, including the Earned Income Tax Credit. To be sure that returns are filed properly, volunteers are trained on tax laws and must pass an IRS test to be certified volunteer tax preparers. A visit to our tax site is nothing like your typical encounter with an accountant or paid tax preparer. Children are encouraged to come and enjoy the play area. Tax preparers and clients engage in friendly banter. Tax preparers are volunteers who genuinely care about the taxpayer’s life and financial situation.
It’s not just taxes, “it’s the people, volunteers, and clients, that make it interesting and rewarding,” said one volunteer.

The Tax Program would not be possible without these dedicated volunteers. They are a diverse group of people who, in addition to their time, give their compassion, energy, and knowledge. As one volunteer said, “I love the camaraderie of other volunteers and the good we are doing for the community.”
In addition to the many volunteers that make this program possible, the program would not be where it is today without the help of its community partners and donors. Thanks to our partners: Ithaca College Accounting Program, United Way of Tompkins County, United Auto Workers, Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, TC3, Human Services Coalition, Tompkins 2-1-1 Information and Referral, Tompkins Community Action, and Tompkins County Legislature. 

Alternatives Free Tax Preparation Program offers:
  • Free electronic filing or tax preparation service
  • Faster refunds
  • Accurate returns
  • Electronic filing of Federal and State Returns at the same time
  • Tax Savers Certificate – ask about this special offering rate
  • Free credit report review
  • Information about home buying programs, savings programs, affordable health care and insurance, food stamps, low-cost loans and much more.
Downtown site hours
  • Tuesday: 10:00am - 1:00pm
  • Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday: 3:00pm - 8:00pm (broken up into an afternoon and evening shift).
  • Saturday: 10:00am - 2:00pm
Additional satellite sites are in Groton, Dryden, Newfield, Caroline, and Danby. Visit or call Tompkins/Cortland Information and Referral Services at 2-1-1 or 1 (877) 211-8667 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Call 2-1-1 beginning January 7 for appointments starting January 16. 

Alternatives IMPACT

At Alternatives Federal Credit Union, we are better together. Generous donations from individuals, families, and foundations to businesses, trusts, and government ensure Alternatives continues to champion asset ownership, retain local money in local communities, and foster financial fortitude. Always learning, we are good listeners and seek to engage our funders in dialogue that improves our delivery and benefits our community

For more information about how you or your business can support Alternatives Impact, visit or email Liz Hudson, Development Director.


Alternatives Federal Credit Union
125 N. Fulton Street
Ithaca, NY 14850

t: (607) 273-4611 
toll free: (877) 273-AFCU 
f: (607) 277-6391

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