September 14, 2011 | 5:43 AM
A few weeks ago, as many NYC residence battened down the hatches in anticipation of Hurricane Irene, GA Project Manager, Nicole Meyers, spent two days at the main GA branch in Queens along with a professional photographer. The purpose of the trip was to talk to a few borrowers, sit in on some of the meetings and try to capture, in pictures and words, how the branches run.
The atmosphere of the Queens branch was hectic due to the heavy traffic of borrowers who had brought their children with them as they waited for new loans. One by one, borrowers would meet with loan officers, receive loans and hand over their blue ledgers so their balance could be updated. Despite the crowded space, the GA Credit Officers were very excited because it had been their most successful week to date.
One GA borrower who was interviewed had recently joined the program and talked about the importance of credit history and savings which she now had for the first time. Her fear of default fees and high interest rates prevented her from having a bank account or credit card but her loan from GA had given her the financial flexibility to start a business.
Nicole had hoped to meet a borrower who lived nearby so that she might ask to see her business. She lucked out in meeting Lucia, who ran a cosmetics business out of her basement. The next day Nicole was able to catch a small meeting in Lucia's house and witnessed first hand how borrowers help each other. Even though the other three members of her group also sold cosmetics, they worked together to find profitable parts of the neighborhood where each would have success.
There was also a new member of the group at the meeting, who was invited in when a former member left. Now a full group, the women seemed to share a bond both in business and in their personal lives, as each worked to send money back to their families in Mexico in the hope of improving their lives and one day bringing them to the US.
Lucia told Nicole that she would ideally like to set up an eveningcare center for children and salon store, so that mothers could come and get dressed for a night out while dropping off their children all in one spot. This is a great example of how GA borrowers create and adjust their businesses based on the needs of their community.
We wish Lucia and all the members of her group success and look forward to updating you with more news and pictures from the branch soon!