NEW CASTLE AREA Credit unions merge

The Ellwood City credit union will have a new office and extended hours.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- First Choice Federal Credit Union of New Castle and A S Ellwood Credit Union of Ellwood City have merged, said Marilyn Wehr, chief executive of First Choice Federal Credit Union.
Both will be called First Choice Federal Credit Union with membership of about 4,000, she said. The credit union charter lists it as a community credit union, which means that anyone with any affiliation to Lawrence County can join.
"It's open to anyone who lives, works or worships in Lawrence County. Even if you go to school here, its open membership," Wehr said.
The merger, done last week, will help the former A S Ellwood Credit Union which has seen membership decline over the last few years, said Dianne Daubenspeck, a member of the former A S Ellwood Credit Union board of directors and now a board member for First Choice.
Main factor: A S Ellwood Credit Union opened in 1957 for the employees of the former Aetna Standard Engineering Corp. Over the year other businesses were admitted, but that still didn't help declining membership, Daubenspeck said.
"As far as capital, we are a very strong credit union, but the ... [membership decline] was starting to hurt us. And every year we would open the floor for new board members and we never got any new board members," she said.
The average age of the board members was 72 years old, Daubenspeck added.
Merger benefits: The merger will mean a new office and extended office hours for the Ellwood City branch of the credit union.
The office has moved about a block to 305 Fifth St. and will be open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
First Choice in New Castle is also building a new office at 2209 W. State St. in Union Township, which should be opened sometime in the spring, Wehr said.
They are now temporarily in the Cascade Galleria downtown.

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