Fordham University Plans to Invest $500K into Bronx Financial Institutions

by Brett Vetterlein, Community Investment Campaign Organizer

In May of 2010, a group of student activists and I got together in my apartment to talk about the possibility of community investment at our school, Fordham University. This meeting would not have happened if a month or so earlier I hadn’t met with Martin Bourqui, the National Organizer for REC. He contacted my roommate Michael and I because we had previously talked to REC about endowment transparency and other responsible investing topics we were interested in. Things had kind of fizzled out by this point, but Martin thought otherwise. I had heard about REC’s new community investment campaign from Martin's predecessor Cheyenna. It sounded good, but at the time I was too interested in what I had already learned about and didn't see what turned out to be the right thing to do

By the Spring of 2010, I had been a part of a few unsuccessful campaigns. When I heard what Martin had to say, I knew it was a good idea. Community investment just made sense at Fordham for so many reasons. We were a private university located in the middle of a poor urban area that everybody knows, the Bronx. Fordham also has a strong history of connections to the Bronx, spanning back to the 1960s and especially the 70s during the “Bronx is Burning” period. At that time, Fordham students, alumni, and Bronx community members got together and began organizing for a better Bronx. That legacy has continued with Fordham’s strong community service program. I thought I could make the connections to continue it further.

The unofficial slogan of our campaign was “the Bronx deserves better,” and with the help of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, I think we gave them something better.

The university plans to invest $500,000 into Bronx financial institutions over the summer: $250,000 in Bethex Federal Credit Union and $250,000 in the Burnside Ave., Morris Height Banking Development District of the Amalgamated Bank. This money will be used by Bronx community members to take out a mortgage on their first house, buy a car, go to school, and start small businesses - all things that would help lead to economic empowerment for one of the country’s poorest areas.

Our group, Fordham for the Bronx, isn’t ready to stop either. Although I will have graduated, the group is looking into ways that we could get other large institutions in the Bronx to begin investing in Bethex and Amalgamated. The Responsible Endowments Coalition really helped us create strategy and implement the tactics necessary to our successful campaign. Personally, REC has allowed me to take on leadership and supported my decisions throughout the campaign, giving me the tools to be successful. I couldn’t have done it without the other members of Fordham for the Bronx, or without the Responsible Endowments Coalition.

Way to go!

Ed. note: Congratulations to Brett and Fordham for the Bronx for your amazing work!

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