BELLINGHAM, WA (June 18, 2024)— WECU has partnered with the Whatcom Family YMCA to help finance the new Barkley Early Learning Center, marking a significant milestone in addressing the community’s critical childcare shortage.

CEO and Executive Director Bill Ziels announced the center’s opening as part of the board of directors’ strategic plan to expand childcare facilities in the area. “The new Barkley Center is a crucial part of our mission to help expand childcare access in our community” said Ziels. This state-of-the-art facility, built in collaboration with Mercy Housing Northwest, is on the ground floor of a newly constructed affordable housing complex, offering 84 housing units and seven classrooms.

Five years in the making, this project was realized with significant support from the Talbot Group and a grant from Whatcom County and the City of Bellingham.

The financing involved partnerships with The Washington County Reinvestment Association (WCRA) and WECU, which provided highly advantageous terms. “WECU provided great interest rates and has been a fantastic partner,” Ziels noted.

The upgraded facility now boasts over 8,000 square feet, including one extra classroom. This allows the center to serve 104 children daily, making it one of Bellingham’s largest early learning centers. The center also features three playgrounds, providing ample outdoor space for children’s activities.

The WECU Business Banking team has had a longstanding relationship with the YMCA, with notable contributions from Business Banking Loan Officer Ron Richardson and VP of Business Banking Kent Bouma, who currently serves on the board. Business Banking Loan Officer Ed Roddy played a crucial role in securing financing for a key project. According to Ziels, the WECU team has been indispensable to the YMCA’s growth and development.

The need for expanded childcare facilities in Whatcom County is urgent. Officially designated a childcare desert, the county has 8,000 children under five but only 5,000 licensed slots. This expansion marks a significant step forward in providing essential childcare services to Bellingham and Whatcom County, ensuring more families have access to the quality early education their children need.

About WECU

WECU, initially established in 1936 as Bellingham Teachers Credit Union, is a thriving credit union headquartered in Bellingham, Washington. With a rich history and commitment to the community, WECU extends its financial services to individuals and businesses across the entire state of Washington. Boasting a dedicated team of over 400 local professionals, WECU takes pride in serving a vast membership base exceeding 170,000 individuals. The credit union’s robust financial standing is reflected in its assets, surpassing $2.8 billion.