In the summer of 1974, the Firestone Plant opened in Wilson, North Carolina. By the end of the next year, employees had organized a credit union for themselves.
A Firestone employee named Betty Marinakis led the organizing efforts of Wilson’s Firestone Credit Union, which was located next to the company lunchroom. James Smith, longtime Firestone employee and former Firestone Credit Union Board Member, explained, “She started it in the plant and she went around to all the departments and started telling the employees that she was going to start a credit union … it caught on like wildfire.” The original branch was located across the street from the tire plant and so was very convenient for employees.
In the early 2000s, as the credit union continued to grow and expanded its products and membership, it evolved into Wilson Community Credit Union and moved to a new location on Madison Drive. As local economic conditions declined, the credit union hit hard times and Self-Help was approached as a potential merger partner. In 2004, Wilson Community Credit Union joined Self-Help Credit Union. This partnership profoundly transformed how SHCU previously operated and that shift continues to expand the organization’s impact today.
In this short video, we hear from longtime Firestone workers who remain loyal to the credit union today. We also hear from one woman who began working with Firestone Credit Union in 1995 and retired in 2019 as Self-Help Credit Union staff member. This video highlights the evolution of a worker-led and company-based credit union into a larger and more inclusive organization serving to help many more families receive access to fair and affordable credit and other financial services.