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Community First Fund to merge with Philly-based Finanta

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

When Kristen Snyder and Michael Polye bought Bair's Fried Chicken in June 2018, it was Community First Fund, a financial lending institution serving southeastern Pennsylvania, that made the purchase possible.

Nearly two years later, Community First Fund helped the West York couple again, this time processing a loan through the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses struggling due to the coronavirus shutdown.

"They’ve been extraordinary through all this," Snyder said.

Community First Fund is a private community development financial institution, or CDFI, that provides loans and financing for businesses or projects that, for one reason or another, wouldn't qualify at traditional banks or lending institutions.

The organization works predominantly with entrepreneurs and business owners in low-income and disadvantaged communities.

Effective July 1, the organization will merge with Finanta, a Philadelphia-based CDFI, to expand the reach of both nonprofits, and the new organization will take the name of Community First Fund.

Merger talks began about a year ago, said Daniel Betancourt, president and CEO of Community First Fund.

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Betancourt will continue as president and CEO of the new organization after the merger.

"This merger will only enhance the services that we’ve been providing to our small towns in southeastern Pennsylvania," he said.

One of the first initiatives of the newly merged organization will be to start the Community First Fund Federal Credit Union to support consumer financing.

The organization is about halfway through the process of acquiring the credit union charter, and Betancourt said he expects to have it within a year.

"We see the credit union charter as a tool to build wealth for families," he said. "And the number one way families build wealth is through home ownership and through consumer lending and the ability to buy a car to drive to a job."

Daniel Betancourt, president and CEO of Community First Fund, a Community Development Financial Institution serving southeastern Pennsylvania that will soon merge with Finanta, a Philadelphia-based CDFI.

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The pending merger hasn't stopped Community First Fund from helping its clients secure much-needed loans while their businesses are shut down during the COVID-19 crisis.

As of Monday, the organization had processed 458 PPP loans for clients, totaling $16.5 million, said spokesman Jay Scott.

Bair's Fried Chicken has stands at York Central Market in York City and New Eastern Market in Springettsbury Township.

Before the coronavirus hit Pennsylvania, Snyder said she and Polye were expecting to see a boost in sales over the St. Patrick's Day weekend, and they were looking forward to the start of the busy season.

"It took a nosedive instead," she said.

Cook Wajid Bashir fries chicken at Bair's Fried Chicken at Central Market in York City, Tuesday, May 5, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The PPP loan has allowed the couple to continue paying their five employees, two of whom are older women who work part-time and rely on their jobs at Bair's Fried Chicken to supplement their Social Security payments, Snyder said.

When the federal loan program became available, Snyder said they didn't even have to ask for help because Community First Fund had already reached out to them with information.

On Tuesday, they opened their stand at York Central Market for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak hit York County.

"We want everyone in York to continue to hope for the future and, you know, not give up," Polye said. "Continue to support the small businesses and the places that aren’t in the market."

Before COVID-19, Community First Fund helped several York County businesses get off the ground, including Leg Up Farmers Market in Manchester Township and Royal Square Development & Construction, Grace Manor Bed and Breakfast, York Academy Regional Charter School, P&P Grocery and the Green Bean Roasting Co. in York City.

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