ESL helps build a better Rochester


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The ESL Federal Credit Union is working with community groups to build a better Rochester.

Ajamu Kitwana, the Vice President/Director for Community Impact at ESL, discussed how the organization is collaborating during the pandemic Wednesday during our Greater Rochester Enterprise Why ROC conversation.

“During the pandemic ESL and in particular ESL’s Community Impact Team which I lead has worked closely with our partners in the community to do what we can to help our community respond to and endure this period,” Kitwana said. “We’ve worked with the United Way, the Rochester Area Community Foundation, other funders, as well as local, state, and federal government leaders in the Community Crisis Fund among other things. The creation of this fund was really a great example of what is needed and the best of greater Rochester – that is people and organizations coming together across sectors to really address critical and immediate needs in our community.”

Back in August, ESL gave $4 million that went through United Way to 20 nonprofit human service agencies to ensure the funds they would typically receive from workplace campaigns would remain whole.

Kitwana said the key elements driving meaningful community collaboration include establishing common goals, using data to better assess situations, and sharing that data to build better understanding and outcomes. “Really it comes down to the commitment to really have an impact at scale. So we do everything we can do as a foundation in partnership with our peers. So not to impose our will but to ask the community, ask our peers, about the challenges and needs moving forward.”

The collaboration today is building a roadmap for the future of Rochester. “I have to say the most profound challenges in our community – such as the concentration of poverty and wealth, such as disparities in education and education opportunities, racial inequities – these challenges are far too complex for any single organization to tackle whether it be philanthropy, government, even the biggest business,” said Kitwana. “So this collaborative approach, if we really are committed to solving these really tough challenges that face our communities, it is essential that we commit to such a cross-sector, collaborative approach. At ESL, we know that our success as a financial institution is intrinsically linked to the success of our community overall – individuals, families, businesses, and non-profits – as they are successful in greater Rochester, they help ESL to be successful and then we all succeed together.”

For more information about ESL Federal Credit Union, visit

For more information about Greater Rochester Enterprise, visit

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