Now expected to open by January, CORE Credit Union’s new headquarters on Bermuda Run in Statesboro’s Market District will be the financial institution’s seventh home office in its 45-year history, counting a couple of schools in the first decade.
Meanwhile, the credit union’s mission has grown and evolved, from originally serving only Bulloch County school system employees to serving members in all lines of work in Bulloch County, and others in a region from the greater Statesboro area to metro Savannah.
Lisa Cox, who is CORE’s vice president of lending, and Kathy Clampett, who is a public historian and whose husband, Bob, is CORE’s president and CEO, shared a history of the organization with the Bulloch County Historical Society in September.
“This presentation would not have been possible without the employees of CORE Credit Union, and what’s so amazing is the extensive collection of archives and consumer-culture artifacts that this credit union has stockpiled over the last 45 years, and so it really demonstrates the pride that the employees of CORE Credit Union have in the institution,” Kathy Clampett said.
Clampett, who holds a public history certificate from Georgia Southern, credited Cox for doing the majority of the research for a Southeast Credit Union Management School project.
Besides photos and newspaper clippings, their compilation of the business’s history draws from CORE’s own newsletter, for many years entitled “Dollars & Sense.”
Bulloch schools roots
What is now CORE was founded in 1974 as the Bulloch County School Employees Credit Union.
Clampett and Cox noted that the late Hubert P. Tankersley Jr., then an elementary school principal, led the collective effort by teachers and other school employees. Jerry Brown, John W. Harris, Leffler H. Akins, Ginny Lockwood, Sarah Ayers Smith, Grace D. Smith and Louis M. Woodrum, who was superintendent of schools at the time, were the other members named with Tankersley in the June 21, 1974, state charter.
“We weren’t getting paid a lot in those days, and we were looking at a way we could offer teachers and other education employees and opportunity where they could save their money by payroll deduction,” Tankersley remembered for a May 4, 1993, story in the Statesboro Herald.
Previous home offices
The Bulloch County Schools provided office space for the credit union through its first 10 years of existence. The first location was Sallie Zetterower Elementary School, then on East Jones Avenue at Gentilly Road. That campus how hosts the Statesboro Family YMCA.
But the credit union’s address was soon relocated to a post office box and then to William James Junior High School on Williams Road. Tankersley apparently moved the still-small operation with him when he became principal at William James, Clampett said. The credit union remained at the old Williams James complex, which became William James Middle School now houses the Board of Education central office, through June 1984.
By 1984, the credit union had expanded its membership to include employees of Georgia Southern (then College) and the Candler County, Effingham County, Bryan County and Emanuel County school systems. That year the name was changed to Central Ogeechee River Educators, or C.O.R.E., Credit Union.
During the 1980s, the credit union also expanded its “field of membership” to include “Select Employee Groups” and non-educator organizations that partnered with it. This portion of the history is from CORE’s website, www.corecu.org.
As of 1986, the credit union shared offices with William F. Kelly Realty at 34 North Main St. In 1989, CORE celebrated its 15th anniversary in a home office at 104 Northside Drive West.
In the summer of 1993, the headquarters moved again, to 414 Northside Drive West. For the May 4, 1993 Herald story announcing the opening of that location, the full name and initials C.O.R.E. appeared on the sign in a photograph, but just “CORE,” without periods, was used in the article.
In CORE’s longest-lasting location choice yet, it opened its current home office at 43 North Main St. in the spring of 1997. CORE had purchased the former Statesboro Telephone Co. building there from Frontier Communications for $800,000 and remodeled it. A three-lane drive-thru was added in spring 2002.
The name “Central Ogeechee River Educators” was dropped by 1996 in favor of just CORE Credit Union, according to its online history.
Eventually the organization grew to have members from the workforces of eight school districts, as well as university and federal employees. In 2006, CORE became a community-chartered credit union.
“So that means any of you can become a member, not just educators,” Clampett told Historical Society members.
Membership is now open to anyone who is a resident of Bulloch County or employed in Bulloch County, and the webpage www.corecu.org/who-we-are notes membership categories for residents of other counties.
Also noted in the history, CORE opened its market district branch office in 2006. The Brooklet branch office opened in 2006 and moved into a new building in 2010. CORE also opened a Portal branch in 2012 but closed it in 2016.
Effective Oct. 1, 2018, CORE merged with Savanah Federal Credit Union, the second oldest credit union in Georgia, giving the combined institution that Statesboro-Savannah regional reach. Savannah Federal’s website now lists a Statesboro P.O. box as the institution’s mailing address and identifies the Oglethorpe Avenue, Savannah, location as the Savannah Federal Branch Office.
CORE broke ground last September for its all-new 10,000-square-foot home office on the corner of Bermuda Run and Brampton Avenue, Statesboro. Credit union officials said Monday that they hope to move in before the end of the calendar year but that this may be a soft-opening, with a ceremony later.
The current headquarters on North Main Street will continue in operation as a CORE branch and call center.
Bulloch County School Employees Credit Union concluded it first year, 1974, with net operating income of minus $33.64. CORE now reports assets of more than $100 million.