LGBTQ+ activists Andrew Tasakos and Philip Endicott are heading into pioneering territory just days away from their first major fundraiser to create a credit union they will call Equality Financial. Tasakos and Endicott started their effort to build a financial center serving LGBTQ+ communities four years ago.
Their next move begins Friday, February 16th with a “Party for Equality” fundraiser. The rallying cry of the movement is “Equality for All.” “You don’t have to be a gay, you just need to believe in equality to be a member,” Tasakos says.
“I’ve been very fortunate to live in a region that does not discriminate, but 37% of our community live in the South,” he said. “If we can teach our community to tithe back to ourselves, and teach each other, then we can have a safety net in this country.”
Community organizer and financial advisor Noemi Chaparro agrees. “It’s time that we show-up and stand-up, and create a physical manifestation of this portion of society,” she said.
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Credit unions are member-owned, nonprofit financial institutions that serve specific communities and, occasionally, underserved populations. According to Equality Washington, the nonprofit formed to create the new credit union, traditional banks are not meeting the special financial needs of LGBTQ+ customers, especially when it comes to same-sex couples trying to obtain mortgages and other financing.
Equity Financial is hoped to become part of what the organizers are calling a full-on offensive strategy for foundational banking equality. Tasakos hopes contributions from donors will reach at least $50,000 of the total $375,000 funding needed for their first phase of forming the effort.
A donation of $100 online, or $125 at the door, will buy you a ticket to the fundraising event at Hotel Sorrento on First Hill with live music, a silent auction, food and drinks, and, Tasakos hints, a few surprises.
With the early days of planning behind them, Endicott and Tasakos have expanded the scope of the concept for Equity Financial. “We’re not talking about opening a community bank, we’re building a national credit union,” Tasakos said, “and the National Credit Union Association, just like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, guarantees each person’s account up to $250,000.”
The EW team has shifted their plans to facilitate national access, away from physical branches to an online model.
To get there, Tasakos and Endicott hope to leap forward without having to develop their own banking tools with a boost from an already established credit union. Tasakos said the plan is to team with the Florist Federal Credit Union, a nonprofit “serving businesses and individuals connected to the floral industry,” to offer their future members a “comprehensive suite of established banking products.”
“We are figuring out a way to white-label their charter,” Tasakos said. Tasakos currently works for credit union as a mortgage loan originator.
Supporting underserved individuals within the LGBTQ+ communities is at the heart of the Equality Financial vision. “I see this credit union as a mechanism to help,” Tasakos said, “like taking care of the elderly in our community and educational opportunities to increase financial intelligence within the community for those who never had the benefit of being taught those skills.”
A special guest at Friday’s party will be Alison Arngrim, who played TV’s original “Prairie Bitch,” Nellie Oleson, on Little House on the Prairie. Arngrim is an LGBTQ+ ally and activist who Tasakos says is “super funny, brilliant in finance.”
Tasakos and Endicott must have watched a lot of Little House growing up. “We’d never get anything fixed to suit us,” Ma says, “if we waited for things to suit us before we started.”
Tasakos recalls being inspired to act on that sentiment, when cofounder Endicott said to him: “This is the time.”
The Party for Equality fundraiser is Friday, February 16th at the Sorrento Hotel. You can buy tickets or learn more about the effort to build a LGBTQ+ credit union at equalitywashington.org.