Truly, Keys Federal Credit Union’s origin story could only have happened in the Florida Keys. The financial institution was created over 80 years ago in Key West by a group of civil service employees pooling together $110 in a cigar box.

Its mission — and also its tagline “locals helping locals” — has been so successful that Keys FCU is now opening its sixth branch, in Tavernier. The location has been open since April 15 at the Tavernier Towne Center next to Winn Dixie.

“We love the relationships we’re able to build with our customers,” said Desiree Perez, member services director. “They’re like family.” Perez has worked for Keys FCU since August 2008. 

In the late 1930s, civil service workers came to Key West to reopen military bases and update infrastructure. At the time there was only one bank, and it was for business accounts only. So on Oct. 26, 1940, nine civil service employees gathered together their money to create NavSta Federal Employees Federal Credit Union.

Eventually the name was changed to Keys Federal Credit Union, and now it serves over 14,000 clients in six locations: two in Key West, one on Stock Island, one in Big Pine Key, one in Marathon and one in Tavernier. 

Keys FCU offers online banking and mobile banking, free person-to-person payments and financial management apps. “We do everything from personal loans to credit cards to auto loans, RV loans, motorcycle loans and mortgages,” said Perez. “And if we don’t, we try to figure out a way to do it.”

Perez’s favorite memory of helping out customers in a time of need was after Hurricane Irma. “Our branch in Big Pine Key was flooded and a lot of members lost their vehicles,” Perez remembered. “Our IT department gave me a laptop to help members get car loans, because they couldn’t get to Marathon or Key West. I sat on the bank’s porch with the laptop. We ran extension cords to the laptop until the beginning of December, when we were able to open the branch.”

Keys FCU now has a mobile branch in the form of a large RV in case there’s another storm like Hurricane Irma. “So we can go where we are needed,” said Perez. The vehicle has a teller window,  two ATM machines and customer service desks.

The new Keys FCU branch is at 91200 Overseas Hwy, Suite 15, to the right of Winn Dixie in the strip mall, Tavernier Towne Plaza. More information is at 305-294-6622 or keysfcu.org.

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Charlotte Twine fled her New York City corporate publishing life and happily moved to the Keys six years ago. She has written for Travel + Leisure, Allure, and Offshore magazines; Elle.com; and the Florida Keys Free Press. She loves her two elderly Pomeranians, writing stories that uplift and inspire, making children laugh, the color pink, tattoos, Johnny Cash, and her husband. Though not necessarily in that order.