Alternative Banks in the New Haven Area

There are a number of alternative banks in the New Haven area, and throughout Connecticut. They come in two forms:

(1) The credit union, which is a not-for-profit cooperative (you join and become a member, rather than opening an account);

(2) The Community Development Bank, that is, a bank certified as a Community Development Financial Institution, which has a mission to promote economic development by providing financial products and services to people and communities underserved by traditional financial institutions, particularly in low income communities.

There is only one Community Development Bank in the area (in fact, there are only 100 in the U.S.):  Start Community Bank, which unfortunately has only one branch, on Whalley Avenue in New Haven. I have an account there.

There are numerous local credit unions in the New Haven area, listed below (please let me know if I left any out). For credit unions elsewhere in the state, click here.

CT Federal Credit Union, North Haven
Connex CU, North Haven, Guilford, Meriden, Orange
East Haven Municipal Employees CU, East Haven
First CT CU, Wallingford
Healthcare Financial Federal CU, New Haven & Bridgeport
McKesson FCU, Stratford, Derby, Milford
Members First FCU, Meriden & Wallingford
Meriden Postal Employees FCU
New Haven County CU, North Haven
New Haven Firefighters CU
New Haven Police FCU
New Haven Teachers FCU
Regional Water Authority Employees CU, New Haven
Science Park FCU, New Haven
Sikorsky Financial CU, Stratford, Milford, Seymour et al
State Police CU, Meriden
Wepawaug-Flagg FCU, Hamden

Community Wealth Building Efforts in New Haven

Although New Haven is not as rich in alternative institutions as one would expect, considering the presence of so many universities, it does have more community wealth building efforts than most people realize. This can be seen by checking out’s New Haven page.

New Haven is strongest in Local Food Systems (City Seed, Common Ground, and New Haven Farms), Community Development Financial Institutions (Capital for Change (formerly Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund), Neighborhood Housing Services, and Start Community Bank) and, of course, University-Community Partnerships (only two are listed: Urban Resources Initiatives and Yale Urban Design Workshop).

It’s worth a look at this page to see what these valuable organizations do and visit links to their websites.

Unfortunately, New Haven is the only CT city with a page, so it’s hard to compare it to the other cities in the state.

Investing in Local Affordable Housing and Energy Efficiency Upgrades

We tend to think that there are three ways we can make a difference in our communities:  volunteer, engage in activism, and make charitable contributions. There is a fourth way:  social impact investment. Community organizations through which one makes investments in underserved markets are known as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). And the principal CDFI in Connecticut, a recent coming together of CDFIs in New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford, is called Capital for Change.

Capital for Change lends money to Connecticut businesses for affordable housing and for the introduction of energy efficiency upgrades to multi-family dwellings.  With horrific incidents occurring all around the world, such as in London and Honolulu, it is evident that many older buildings that house lower-income families not only lack energy efficiency features, but do not even meet current safety codes. Those who invest through Capital for Change help address these problems.

Social impact investments do good while providing an income stream to the investor. An investor with Captial for Change can, however, choose to receive no interest or a rate lower than the maximum for the length of the investment. Choosing a lower rate is effectively a contribution to the organization.

Capital for Change is seeking investments of as little as $1,000 from individuals and from foundations, faith-based organizations, and other entities. It pays interest annually for these investments, with longer-term investments receiving more favorable interest rates. They are as follows:

1 to 2 year investments: 0 to 2.5%

3 to 7 year investments: 0 to 3.0%

7 to 10 year investments: 0 to 3.5%

10 plus years: 0 to 4%

New Haven’s Project Youth Court Volunteer Opportunities

Project Youth Court is an exciting new community-based, restorative justice program in New Haven, founded by college students and with high school volunteers serving as attorneys, clerks, and jurors. The program deals with first- and second-time misdemeanor offenses by young people.

In this program, youth offenders learn civic responsibility. They directly repair the harm that they caused to their victim(s), while becoming more connected to the community, more remorseful, and more empathetic. They are also held directly accountable to their victim instead of to an abstract concept like “the State.” After their case is over, they also have the opportunity to serve on juries in future Youth Court hearings, allowing them to see the justice system from another perspective.

By removing criminal records, youth courts also offer youth offenders a second chance to realize their potential. This program removes a stigma that may otherwise limit future opportunities and drive them toward further, more serious crimes.

The Youth Court’s partners include New Haven Family Alliance, Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Educational Opportunities Juvenile Justice Law Clinic at the Yale Law School, Slifka Center at Yale, St. Thomas More, and Yale Club of the Suncoast.

Adults do play a role in the program, and adult volunteers, lawyers as well as others, are needed. In fact, it’s a busy summer. The Youth Court’s needs include:

  • Lawyers from the community to preside on cases
  • Grant writing
  • Fundraising
  • Marketing
  • Tuesday night supervision at a courthouse in New Haven
  • Recruiting new youth volunteers at local high schools
  • Training youth volunteers on restorative justice and the law

If you’d like to volunteer or learn more about volunteer opportunities, contact the executive director, Jane Michaud, at


Dining to Make a Difference

Sometimes, dining out can make a difference, and not just because a restaurant is offering to give a certain percentage of its profits to charity. Zest 280, a lunch-only, mission-based restaurant in West Hartford, has teamed up with Hartford-based Community Partners in Action on a Culinary Training Collaborative, which helps prepare former prisoners for careers in the culinary arts and hospitality fields. Not 5% or 10%, but 100% of Zest 280’s profits go back into the training program, and in June 26% of sales go the program.

Participants in the program spend ten paid weeks in structured, on-the-job culinary training while working at Zest 280. Trainees gain experience in both the back and front operations of the restaurant.

Besides having lunch at Zest 280, you can support the program by donating to the “Run Louis Run” fundraiser. Louis Lista, owner of Zest 280, is running his sixth marathon this fall to raise an additional $60,000 for the Culinary Training Program.

There is also a culinary pre-training program at Hartford’s Billings Forge Community Works, which is looking for volunteers for its farmers’ market, youth and community based programs, and fundraising events.