Issue #11 October 2018
Above: Jessica Rodgers, Two Goats Brewing
Photo credit: Jamie Love Photography
Table of contents

01 CEO announcement
02 Mobility+
03 Partnering with Renovus Solar
04 Ithaca cupcake baking contest
05 Holiday Market vendors, sign-up today!
06 Ithaca is Local Business Expo
07 She Means Business
08 Thursday night Ithaca Farmer's Market
09 Pride Block Party 2018
10 Free Tax to come

Artist of the Month

Betsy K. Gram


Monica J. Knight

Alternatives Staff Show

A special thank you to our last quarter Artists of the Month:

Regis Carver
The Cascadilla Writers’ Group
Peter Panek


If you are an artist interested in being our Artist of the Month, contact We are currently booking for 2019. 

Business of the Month

SRS Unlimited Imagemaker


Avital's Aviaries

Holiday Market vendors


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

Upcoming events


10  Business CENTS: Coffee Talk

12  Google Analytics
13  The Sophie Fund Cupcake Contest
21  Ithaca is Local Business Expo
29  Money Wise (Every Monday for 7 weeks)



14  Business CENTS: Coffee Talk



 3  Holiday Market (Mon, Fri. and Sat. 12/3-12/22) 
12  Business CENTS: Coffee Talk
13  Get your business office organized


Details and how to participate are online at

Holiday closings
Indigenous Peoples' Day: Monday, October 8
Veteran's Day: Monday, November 12
Thanksgiving: Thursday, November 22 and Friday, November 23
Christmas Day: Tuesday, December 25

Eric Levine, CEO
Photo credit: Thomas Hoebbel
01 CEO Announcement

By: Robert Brown, Board of Directors

Following a vigorous 15-month national search, Alternatives is pleased to announce the hire of Eric Levine, Esq. as Chief Executive Officer. Since joining the credit union as its first in-house attorney in 2005, Eric has been an invaluable contributor to the institution's success and a tireless champion of our mission to build wealth and create economic opportunity for underserved people and communities. As acting CEO since June 2017, Eric has continually demonstrated excellence as a leader who embraces and uplifts Alternatives' culture of inclusion for all members and staff, including leading the collaborative creation of the credit union's ambitious new strategic plan.

The CEO search committee, comprised both of members of Alternatives' Board of Directors and staff, worked with Erickson-Pearson Search to review candidates from throughout the U.S. This process underscored the exceptional talent present at Alternatives and how uniquely positioned Eric is to continue Alternatives’ history of innovation and lead the credit union's growth in the years to come.

To Alternatives' members and community, Eric says, “I am immeasurably honored and ecstatic that the Alternatives Board has chosen me to lead the credit union into its next era. We are excited to strategically grow capacity to deliver our mission and serve the community through a collaborative process between our inspiring staff, board and membership. We are committed to continually communicate and reach out to learn new and changing community needs because we know that cooperatively developing products and services to meet those needs is the key to innovation. Alternatives is an innovator, a disrupter, and leader in the community development arena, and we are always looking for community partners with which to collaborate, leverage resources, and share successes.”


02 Mobility+

By: Tammy S. Drost

With the holidays coming, don't forget to take advantage of the many free Mobility+ digital services that come with your Alternatives' membership. This year, give yourself the gift of the convenience with Online Banking, our Mobile Access app (available in App and Google Play stores), Digital Wallets, and Transaction alerts.
Need to deposit a check but can't make it to the credit union? With Alternatives Mobile Access members can deposit checks to their accounts any time! It's simple! Endorse the back of the check and include your account number with the words “For Deposit Only,” take pictures of the front and back with your smartphone camera, and follow any additional instructions to submit your deposit. The deposit is now in your account (make sure to hold on to that check until you get the confirmation email that the check has been accepted and the funds are available) To make Remote Deposit Capture even more convenient, we recently increased our daily maximum from $3000 to $5000. 
Are you still getting a paper statement? With Mobile Access and Online Access, you can see transactions every day. To stop the paper, log in to Online Access and choose Statements (top tab), Change Statement Delivery Method (right under the tab), and make your choice. 
While you are online checking out our mobile convenience services, please take a moment to review your contact information. It is essential for us to be able to reach you, for instance, if there is a problem with your Alternatives Visa Debit Card. Log in to Online Access and choose Profile (top tab on the right, next to Sign Out). Please note, if you have more than one account you have to log into each separately for this process, even if the accounts are linked.

So this holiday season, treat yourself to convenience. To learn more about our Mobility+ services, visit
03 Partnering with Renovus Solar

By: Eric Levine and Carol Chernikoff

Alternatives has supported renewable energy and energy efficiency products and services for many years. For the last several years, we have done this by creating affordable and innovative solar loan products, including home equity and personal consumer loans. These loan products offer reduced rates which are attractive and affordable to make solar power accessible to more people. The Home Equity product offers the option of paying interest-only for 18 months, to keep payments low while waiting for tax credits and other incentives. The consumer loan product has special low rates as well, is quicker, and is not based on the equity in a house.  
As we have expanded solar consumer lending, we have worked closely with installers to learn what solar consumers are looking for in financing, to make solar projects more practical. Renovus is an installer which has worked closely with Alternatives to innovate a top-rated solar loan program, by which Renovus pays one year of interest on the tax credit portion of the financing. Borrowers generally take out an additional loan for the balance of the project cost above the tax credit. The popularity of this financing– either for solar installations at home or on a solar farm – has fostered a close working relationship between Alternatives and Renovus which has led to development and expansion of our combined goal of creating greater accessibility and affordability for solar power in various ways and forms. 
Through working together toward the common goal of renewable energy, Renovus has become interested in Alternatives’ mission of building wealth and creating economic opportunity for underserved people and communities. To further that, Renovus has generously committed to contributing financially toward Alternatives’ mission as we partner to leverage our common community base, both to reduce carbon footprint and to promote economic justice. Going forward, for each solar project originating from an Alternatives referral, Renovus will make a donation to Alternatives Impact, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit which supports Alternatives’ Community Programs. These non-profit financial wellness programs provide the community with free financial and credit counseling, financial education and coaching, technical assistance for small businesses, and asset building programs with grant-matched savings for home and business ownership. Since 2003, our volunteer Free Tax Preparation Program has prepared more than 24,000 tax returns and returned more than $44 million in refunds to taxpayers who support our local economy. Our Student Credit Union not only teaches kids the value of a savings habit but demonstrates it by providing high-interest savings accounts for college.  
Alternatives is excited to leverage solar installation and lending with Renovus, to fund asset building and poverty-fighting programs that support the local economy, and make a significant difference in the lives of many people. While Alternatives works with and supports the great work of other solar installers, we will be jointly marketing with Renovus to leverage further the innovative work we have done together for the good of the environment and the local economy, expanding renewable energy and reach for Alternatives’ impactful Community Programs.
04 Ithaca cupcake baking contest

By: Grace Rychwalski


Support mental health initiatives in Ithaca! It’s Alternatives’ second year sponsoring The Sophie Fund’s Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest, and we could not be more excited for the event.
The Cupcake Contest, which is open to amateur bakers of all ages, raises funds to grant to mental health organizations and projects in Tompkins County. The contest also supports the mental health advocacy that The Sophie Fund itself carries out every day.
The Third Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest will take place on Saturday, October 13, from 10:00am to 4:00pm at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on The Commons.
If you’re interested in entering your cupcakes in the contest, visit for instructions on how to register. The contest encourages individuals and groups to submit cupcakes, which are judged on taste, appearance, and originality.
The grand prize winner will receive a $250 prize for their cupcakes, and runners-up will also be rewarded with other prizes and certificates. Plus, there’s a special award for youth entries, valued at $100!
Join Alternatives and other community organizations on the day of the event, as we celebrate mental health advocacy and highlight the ways mental health impacts our lives—including financially. We hope to see you there!
Make sure to follow The Sophie Fund on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to date on the contest and the work they do throughout our community.
05 Holiday Market vendors, sign-up today! 

By: Tammy S. Drost

Each December since 2008, the credit union has held a Holiday Market in the lobby. The Holiday Market is an excellent opportunity for business members of the credit union to promote themselves and sell their wares to fellow credit union members. Each year vendors sell a wide range of items, from baked goods to jewelry, photographs, candles, herbs, honey products, toys, art, and crafts. There have even been therapists offering chair massages.

The Holiday Market is held in our lobby, with no charge to the vendors.

Holiday Market hours:

  • Mondays 10:00am to 3:00pm
  • Fridays 10:00am to 5:00pm
  • Saturdays 10:00am to 1:00pm

The 2018 Market begins on Monday, December 3 and ends on Friday, December 21. Vendors must apply by October 30 and are assigned dates on a first come, first serve basis. If you are interested, contact:

Karl Graham
(607) 216-3422


06 Ithaca is Local Business Expo

By: Kathleen Clark 

Alternatives is proud to co-sponsor and co-host Ithaca is Local Business Expo taking place at

The Space @ GreenStar
Sunday, October 21, 2018
1:00pm - 4:00pm

We are committed to supporting local small businesses and look forward to this exciting event showcasing a variety of services and products.

This free event is open to the public. The expo will feature Ithaca businesses including marketing, design, childcare and education, food services, entertainment, health and wellness, the arts, music and literature and more! Get to know the business owners, see demonstrations and try delicious samples.

If you are a member business interested in registering as a vendor, contact Kathleen Clark at

07 She Means Business

By: Tyler Lucas

This July, Business CENTS was excited to put on its second year of She Means Business, a week-long entrepreneurship summer camp for young women. Designed by Alternatives’ own Kathleen Clark and Beverly Wallenstein of Girls Mean Business, this workshop teaches participants how to define a consumer demographic, reach their customers via marketing, establish monthly operating costs, and finance their growing business. 
While some enter the course with product or business ideas they’ve partially developed, none of the girls are required to already be pursuing entrepreneurial goals. With this in mind, the beginning of the workshop consists mainly of the group brainstorming ideas together. Then, participants get to work, drilling down on all the details an entrepreneur must take into account as they launch a business or product.
She Means Business also serves as a networking opportunity for everyone involved. Several local female entrepreneurs are invited to teach and provide feedback to participants. This past year, the speakers included Samantha Abrams from Emmy’s Organics, local restaurateur Kate Conroy, and freelance photographer Jamie Love
In the final day of the program, participants give a presentation about their business concept before a panel of Alternatives staff members, in the form of a formal sales pitch. This pitch includes projected startup costs and first-year sales, as well as an interactive demonstration of the product, if possible. 
This past year, the She Means Business program was proud to help support and develop a range of programs that brought greater awareness to social issues, especially from participants as young as thirteen years old. Alternatives would like to thank the local businesses and organizations who have made this unique opportunity possible and look forward to guiding next year’s ambitious young women through this workshop.
Selling merchandise to support Alternatives youth initiatives.
Photo credit: Grace Rychwalski
08 Thursday Night Ithaca Farmers Market

By: Grace Rychwalksi

As the summer has come to an end, Alternatives looks back on its second year of sponsoring the Thursday Night Ithaca Farmers Market, which runs from the end of June through August each year. The Thursday Night Market has provided yet another day of shopping for locally-minded community members—and Alternatives is continuously excited to be a part of the fun! 

Not only does the Thursday Night Market have live music, awesome local goods, delicious food, and more, but it also has a special focus to support our business-minded youth. The last Thursday of each month at the Market features youth vendors selling their wares at their own booths, giving them first-hand experience in creating goods, handling transactions, and speaking about their products. 

Each Thursday night throughout the summer, Alternatives staff worked our vendor booth, selling merchandise to raise money for our own youth entrepreneurship initiatives, like our Student Credit Union and She Means Business. Our wares included Alternatives baseball caps, t-shirts, wrist bands, and more, all of which show your support for Alternatives’ mission, vision, and the work we do to improve our community every day. 

Our staff had a blast spending time with other vendors at Steamboat Landing, all while supporting entrepreneurial skill building in our community’s youth. We want to thank all of our members who came to the market and stopped by our booth to say hello. We couldn’t do it without you! 

Although the Thursday Night Market has ended for this year, be sure to check out the other Ithaca Farmers Market dates and locations by heading to their website: And if you’d like to support our ongoing efforts to educate youth (and adults!) about entrepreneurship and all things financial, consider making a gift to Alternatives Impact today.
Donna Acquavella, Member Experience Associate and Liz Hudson, Director of Development.
Photo credit: Irene Case
09 Pride Block Party 2018

By: Grace Rychwalski
As part of Alternatives’ ongoing partnership with our neighbor, Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes (PPSFL), we were proud to participate in the first annual Pride Block Party on July 7, 2018.
Along with House of Merlot, Circus Culture, the Multicultural Resource Center, Ithaca League of Women Rollers, the Rhine House, and many more individuals and groups, Alternatives joined in the party to celebrate LGBTQ culture and diversity.
To combine fun with financial education, we asked those who visited our table to write a financial goal or dream—no matter how big or small—on our “Dream board.” Then, they were able to spin our wheel for a prize! Throughout the day, we saw many different dreams from community members young and old. They ranged from paying off debt, to taking a trip to Europe, to finally starting up a dream business, and many more. Luckily, Alternatives can help achieve all of these dreams and more through our products, services, and Community Programs!
As Alternatives continues our partnership with PPSFL, we look forward to more LGBTQ-centered activities and ways to celebrate diversity in our Ithaca community and beyond.
Couldn’t make it to the Pride Block Party this year? Don’t worry—there’s much more to come! Keep your eye out for more events in the coming months by following us onFacebook, Twitter, and Instagram! And be sure to follow PPSFL’s Out for Health Facebook page for important news, education, and other events happening in our neighborhood.

10 Volunteer and make a difference

By: Brian Zapf

Do you have people, computer and reading skills that you would like to put to good use? If so, consider volunteering for our friendly, supportive and fast-paced Free Tax Preparation Program

From January through April, Alternatives Federal Credit Union hosts a Free Tax Preparation Program or VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) site. Our program serves low- and moderate-income taxpayers, regardless of whether they're members of Alternatives. As a volunteer, you will learn valuable skills, make a marked difference in people’s lives, and volunteer in a positive, well-managed environment. No prior experience is necessary, just a desire to learn how to prepare tax returns, help taxpayers access financial opportunities or assist with the operation of the site. This volunteer opportunity is a great match for anyone interested in tax law, accounting, business, economics, social justice, community development, public policy, or counseling. Last year, our volunteers prepared over 2,700 returns, resulting in over $5.3 million in refunds!
There are many work supports, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), that help working families afford food, rent, education, and now health care, that are only accessible if you file a proper tax return. Given the complexities, it is nearly impossible for anyone to file a proper tax return without extensive computer skills or by paying a disproportionately high fee to professional preparers. That’s where you come in. Each year we recruit and train community volunteers to help our clients prepare proper tax returns. Many volunteers return every year, but we always need more–both to expand the program and to replace retiring volunteers. We think we've got one of the best volunteer gigs in town.

Volunteers are never bored, you learn things about taxes that you can use for yourself, we have a
well-managed operation, and every hour of work you put in makes a real, measurable, and evident difference in the lives of the people we're working with.

The tax season runs from mid-January through April 13, 2019.

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
Volunteers are asked to work an average of three or more hours per week. We also have satellite sites in Brooktondale, Dryden, Groton, and Newfield with occasional pop-up site(s) in Danby.

To get involved, you should fill out the short application formFor more information, contact Free Tax Preparation Program Director, Brian Zapf at

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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