Advanced Financial FCU Board Member Jim Bressi Speaks to the Family Atmosphere of the Credit Union that Once Served Employees of Bell Labs and Continues to Make Impact Today

The credit union movement was founded on the philosophy of “people helping people”, with many of these financial institutions founded by working class citizens who saw a need amongst their colleagues for fair, convenient financial services.

IMG 1393Advanced Financial Federal Credit Union not only exists to serve its members through that philosophy, but they were born out of one of the largest and most innovative corporations in America, which was also operated with the “people helping people” frame of mind: Bell Labs.

Jim Bressi, an employee of Bell Labs, became a member of the credit union, then called Bell Telephone Labs Credit Union, in 1966, over 50 years ago. He has been on the board of the credit union, now named Advanced Financial FCU, for over 30 years.

Now a retired Bell Labs employee, he still serves on the board of the credit union that used to serve him and his colleagues exclusively.

In this edition of the Service Series, Jim speaks to the family atmosphere of the labs and the credit union, and what has kept him serving for over 30 years…

What brought you to the credit union industry?
I joined the credit union in 1966. As do a lot of people that were there at Bell Labs, I had a soft spot for the credit union. When I got married, I had to borrow money to pay for my honeymoon and furniture, etc., so I went to the credit union. They were very easy to deal with. My friends and colleagues were on the board there. They were doing a great job. Then they asked me to join the board as well. So I decided, “let's be a part of it.”

Why have you stayed involved for so long?
I enjoyed the people that I have worked with on the board then and now. Back then, I had a number of instances where members of the credit union actually worked for me or around me in the laboratories. On the board, I could help out and make sure that we're doing the right stuff as far as all these employees of Bell Labs are concerned.

They’ve had some terrific people on the board. Everyone was interested in making the credit union better for its members, for the employees, which we have done over the years. It is a family. It was great to have the people that work for me know that someone's looking out for them.

How would you say credit unions are different, why should people care about credit unions?
I felt that we always did more than a bank would do. We were very accessible. As a board member, you’d run into people in the hallway, ask them how they’re doing, what’s going on in their life. And you could relate. Whereas when you go to a bank, you just stand in line to see the teller who maybe doesn’t know who you are or what’s going on in your life. As opposed to walking through the hallway and meeting a board member.


Advanced Financial Federal Credit Union membership is available to anyone who lives, works, goes to school or worships in Union or Essex County, NJ. It offers members a full range of financial services, similar to banks. It offers residents an alternative to the costly services of mega-banks, and the option of a financial institution under local ownership. For more information, visit

It Runs in the Family: Service Series Spotlight on Bob Millard, President/CEO Thunderbolt Area FCU

Bob Millard has been working at Thunderbolt Area FCU for over 60 years, since the credit union was founded by his father back in 1951. The credit union is very active in serving its community, with food drives, Financial Reality Fairs for school, and more.

What brought you to the credit union industry?
My father was one of the seven founding members of Thunderbolt Area Federal Credit Union when it was called Airwork Employees Federal Credit Union. He and six other employees of Airwork Corporation put up five dollars each and were chartered effective May 1st, 1951 with the assistance of Jimmy “Shorty” Johnson from the New Jersey Credit Union League.

 Bob Millard sits down with a member to discuss financial options.
(Photo courtesy of Atlantic City Press)

I was always above average in mathematics and arithmetic, even at a young age. At the end of each year, I would help my dad calculate the dividends for each of the members--there were about 300 at the time. I ran the totals on the dividends using a hand crank adding machine. So, during my childhood, I spent my New Year's Eve and New Year's Day doing that so the credit union could open up on the first work day after the holiday. I liked that; it was kind of fun and I looked forward to doing it.

By the time I was in high school and taking Accounting classes, I became more involved. I helped them get their first electronic machine. At that time, my mom started working at the credit union as well.

It runs in the family, I guess you could say. There's always been somebody in my family at the helm of this place since 1951.

Why have you stayed involved for so long, over 60 years?
Once I got a little older and was eligible to serve on the board of directors, I started working directly with the members. I realized how sad it was in this area. It's a very depressed area. People would have their refrigerator go out and they didn't have $200 to buy another one, sometimes would get themselves into all kinds of financial trouble trying to make ends meet. I enjoyed working with them. I wouldn't call it official credit counseling because I hadn't really had any formal training in it, but I'd do it constantly. And that's what makes it rewarding, seeing somebody who thinks this is his last climb up out of the mud clean themselves off and have a future.

How would you describe credit unions as being different? Why should people care about credit unions and know about them?
If you're downtrodden and you make an attempt, this credit union will help you. I insist that that occur. In fact, I meet with every new member who joins and everyone who gets their first loan. We talk.

A couple months ago, for example, a member for 15 years or so was in trouble. She had gone through a divorce and her ex-husband took advantage of her. She had about 15 credit cards that were maxed out, and she was struggling to make payments. She was living in an apartment with her husband and three kids and needed to find a house. Nobody would lend her the money; both of them had low credit scores. She came to me as a last resort, we sat down, and I talked with her and her husband. I worked with her on her debt and in a couple months got two thirds of those cards paid down to zero and actually got some credit increases on the other one so she could build up credit.

We also found out that her husband was able to do construction. So, I encouraged them to find an affordable home in foreclosure that maybe needed some work that her husband could do himself. And they were able to do that. We were able to loan them the money for the home and for a few thousand dollars extra to fix it up. So, they got their first home. And their payments along with taxes and interest is about $400 a month less than what they were paying for an apartment that was falling down.

I had the cooperation of my board because this was extremely risky to lend to these members with a credit score just above 500. So, we took a chance, and they've been true. And excited that they’re moving ahead. That kind of stuff I enjoy most.


Thunderbolt Area FCU is a credit union chartered to serve the underserved in the southern part of New Jersey from Vineland to the Delaware Bay. For more information, visit the credit union at 1601 Cedar Street Millville, NJ 08332; call (856)-327-5755; or visit their Web site

Service Series: Spotlighting Margie Walker Horsch Keeping it All in the Family for Over 30 Years

Margie Walker Horsch became a member of Linden NJ Police & Firemen FCU as a child, when her father, a fireman, opened her an account. Since then, for over 30 years, Margie has helped her credit union - Linden NJ Police & Firemen FCU - as well as other credit unions across the country evolve with the times with technology solutions. She also serves on the board of a credit union here in New Jersey. Dedication to helping credit unions better serve their members is in her blood. Margie took some time recently to share her story and tell us why she’s continued to serve the credit union for over three decades…

MargieWhat brought you to the credit union industry?
My father was a big believer in credit unions and was a member of Linden NJ Police & Firemen FCU--he was a fireman. He spoke to me, my sister, and my entire family, and his fellow firemen, how important it was for them to be members of the credit union. He opened an account for me when I was born. I went there for my first loan.

Fast forward a few years, the Deputy Chief of Linden NJ Firemen, who was also the Treasurer of the credit union at the time, asked if I knew someone who wanted a part-time job. I raised my hand and said “Sure! I do.” And I haven't learned how to put that hand down since. That was back in 1981.

In the 80s, when everything was moving to computers, I went back to work in the “real world” for a software company that worked with credit unions.

Then, Raritan Bay FCU was looking for volunteers for its board of directors, so I’ve been on their board for almost six years now. 

Why have you stayed involved for so long, almost 30 years?
It's an industry I thoroughly believe in. They treat you like a person. It's about the relationships that are built; it's not about the profit. Credit unions exist for the people who, if they went anywhere else, they would be laughed at, turned away, and they would be stopped. You go to a bank and ask for a $2,000 loan…they're going to laugh at you.

Why is that? How would you say credit unions are different?
I’ve seen what difference credit unions make for members, not just here but across this country. In each case it's “people helping people.” You're not a number, you're a person. You walk in and I know you, I know your parents, your grandparents, especially those that have kids, because it is a close knit family. It is a family.

Sure, some of our members have become delinquent, but we will work with them to get them back on track. Even those who have low credit scores; if they’ve paid their loans back, we take that into consideration rather than writing them off. Linden NJ Police & Firemen FCU works with its members to ensure they get what they need and stay with them.

Credit union people, whether they're in New Jersey, South Dakota or Scotland, they're all about the people.


Linden NJ Police & Firemen FCU serves  Police and Firefighters in Union County and is located at 300 West Georges Ave in Linden, NJ. For more information, call 908-486-7249.

Service Series: Spotlighting Pam Elliott, Chairman of the Board, Lakehurst Naval FCU

Pam Elliott has been on the board of directors in various capacities for Lakehurst Naval FCU for almost 30 years. She’s involved in the Financial Reality Fair program for schools throughout the area and was the recipient of the 2016 Calvin Jackson Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award from the New Jersey Credit Union League. Pam took some time recently to share her story and tell us why she’s continued to serve the credit union for almost three decades…

Pam Elliott helping Ocean County College students
learn about budgeting at a Reality Fair.

What brought you to the credit union industry?
In 1965, my husband Rod and I needed a car. Rod was in the Navy at Lakehurst Naval Base, was teaching at the school there. Rod’s coworker, who was on the Supervisory Committee at the credit union right up the road, said, “For goodness sakes, don’t get the loan from the car dealership! Go down to credit union and join. That’s the only way.” And we did.

Over the years since, we continued to go to the credit union’s annual meetings and I realized the credit union really interested me. I don’t how long it or exactly how it happened, but here I am 27 years later, the Chairman of the Board of Lakehurst Naval FCU.

Why have you stayed involved for so long, almost 30 years?
I think what really has kept me in it is I believe in it. I don’t get along with banks; we don’t have any money in the bank. We don’t have any bank accounts. We did, but when I first came on the board of the credit union, I made the switch. I’m a member of four credit unions, but I only deal with credit unions. The more I became involved, the deeper the concept has sunk into me, and I believe that it is the only way to go.

Why is that? How would you say credit unions are different? And why should people care about credit unions? Why should people know about these differences?
When asked about the difference, the first thing we say--me and Rod--is credit unions are member-owned. They don’t pay their board, keep lower fees, and better interest. And the friendliness. Credit unions are friendly; they care about you as a member.


Lakehurst Naval FCU serves the military and civil service employees (active or retired) of Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst - Lakehurst area - and their families. It is located on the Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst at 60 Lansdowne Road JBMDL, Lakehurst, NJ 08733. For more information, call  732-323-1194; or visit their Web site

Service Series: Spotlighting Walter Tanalski, Chairman of the Board, Manville Area FCU

Since its founding in May of 1937, Manville Area Federal Credit Union has strived to offer convenient and affordable products and services to meet the financial needs of its members and their families. Walter Tanalski has been a credit union member for over 30 years and on the board of directors of Manville Area FCU in various capacities since 2014. Read on to hear from Walt about how he got started and why he’s continued to support the credit union movement for close to three decades. 

What brought you to the credit union industry?
The United States Army. When I went in the service, I went in June of 1964. We got paid on the 30th. I got paid $31.60, but I never got the 60 cents that came in July’s paycheck. You never got the pennies; it was always rounded down to the whole dollar. So, I got 31 dollars, and we were marched to the credit union, Army Federal Credit Union, and I had to save $3 into my credit union account; 10% of my paycheck. So, I opened an account and put 3 dollars in it. When left the tailor shop (because that’s where the credit union was at the time) to the government office and bought a bond for $6.25--a third of the total cost of $18.75. Then they took us up to the PX to buy the rest of our things. I think when we got all done with that I had something like $9 and something left out of my paycheck. That had to last me the whole month of July! I didn’t eat nothing! I think I spent 15 cents on a Coke, got caught, and I had to do 150 push-ups! So that’s why I hate Coke. I don’t drink Coke to this day!

How did you get involved with Manville Federal Credit Union?
When I left the Army, I couldn’t find another credit union to join through the VFW. So, I pushed for the credit union in Manville, N.J. to add the VFW to its membership because we had the biggest VFW in the state of New Jersey--when I joined we had 1,876 members --and we needed a credit union. When Manville Area FCU added the VFW to its membership, that’s when I became a part of the credit union. I joined the Supervisory Committee then eventually was voted in as Chairman.

Why have you stayed involved for so long, almost 30 years?
Because I think it’s one of the greatest things since sliced bread. You have better interest for both sides--lower rates on loans and higher rates on savings. You pay less for a loan and you get more for your money most of the time.

We can save you money. We can help you manage your money. If you don’t know how to budget, I can get you someone to do that for you.

We helped one of the members of our community keep his house and truck after declaring bankruptcy due to his wife passing away and being stuck with huge medical bills. He was qualified to be a member of the credit union; so I told him to come down and apply for a loan, but you will probably get denied--but I review all the refused loans. We approved the loan at a certain interest rate, but if he made 10 payments on time, we dropped down the interest rate, and if he made 10 more payments, we dropped it down again; 10 more payments, we dropped it down again. After he did that, we’d lock in the final interest rate on the loan until it was paid off. He requested that he was allowed to pay it off early. This allowed him to pay off his credit cards, keep his house, and his truck. We also set him up with a list of creditors to call to write off some of the medical debt. Three of five companies wrote it off and the others waived the interest fees.

That must be a big risk for the credit union…
Oh yeah, but he’s the type of guy who’ll walk 20 miles to pay back a penny. I knew that about him, so I took a chance on him when he needed it. Now his two kids joined the credit union as well.


Originally chartered in 1937 as the J-M Employees Federal Credit Union for employees of Johns-Manville, the Board of Directors changed the name to Manville Area Federal Credit Union in 1986. Now, anyone who lives, works or worships in the borough of Manville, N.J. is able to become a member and enjoy the benefits of Manville Area FCU. The credit union, which celebrated its 80th anniversary earlier this year, exists today, just as it did in 1937, to provide affordable services to help improve our members’ financial well-being. For more information, visit or call 908-526-8844.