First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to Lacey Township Middle School Teacher

Press Release


Pictured above: Lacey Township Middle School Teacher Kathleen Cafiero (far left) receives a check from First Financial President & CEO Issa Stephan (far right), and other members of the Foundation Committee – Graham Stevens (JFAC Managing Director), Jessica Revoir (Marketing Manager), Helga Britton (VP of Human Resources), and Megan Shull (Business Development Officer).

Lacey Township, NJ (12/13/12) – Lacey Township Middle School Teacher Kathleen Cafiero, a resident of Forked River, was delighted when she received a surprise visit to her classroom by First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan, who brought her a $500 classroom grant for the 2012-2013 school year.


Ms. Cafiero submitted a grant application to benefit a select group of students who were placed in a new program for autistic children and in need of material that would optimize their learning potential. She suggested that the use of laptops would greatly assist these autistic students to a better understanding of how education is best suited to their specific needs.

“This use of technology would allow our students to direct and monitor their own learning and allow our teachers to assess their individual progress,” said Cafiero.  “A student whether they have special needs or not, should have control over parts of their education.”

Since First Financial began with a group of Asbury Park schoolteachers back in 1936, the credit union has not forgotten its educational roots.  That is why its Foundation offered current Monmouth and Ocean County educators four classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2012-2013 school year.



First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to Freehold Township High School Teacher

Press Release


Pictured above: Freehold Township High School Teacher, Laura Vannauker (right) receives a check from First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.

Freehold Township, NJ (12/6/12) – Freehold Township High School Animal Science Teacher Laura Vannauker, a resident of New Egypt, was delighted when she received a surprise visit to her classroom by First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan, who brought her a $500 classroom grant for the 2012-2013 school year.

Ms. Vannauker submitted a grant application to purchase supplies for the pets kept in her classroom as part of the Animal and Botanical Sciences Academy at the school.  Specifically, the grant money will help to care for Bucky the rabbit and Bear the ferret (pictured below along with two students).  Both animals were donated to the class and require constant care and feeding.  Part of the grant money will be used to build a hutch so they can both live comfortably.


“I would also like to spend part of the grant money on an egg incubator,” said Vannauker.   ”We have hatched eggs in the past and it is always a highlight of the year for the students!”

Since First Financial began with a group of Asbury Park schoolteachers back in 1936, the credit union has not forgotten its educational roots. That is why its Foundation offered current Monmouth and Ocean County educators four classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2012-2013 school year.

“Education remains a guiding principal for our organization, and we’re delighted to help our local educators enhance their classroom experience,” noted First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.

Stephan also noted that the Foundation committee had a difficult job of choosing just four winning teachers out of the numerous outstanding applications it received this year. “We received dozens of heartwarming essays from educators hoping to use the grant money to implement a variety of creative programs in their schools such as anti-bullying and character education, building a greenhouse on school grounds, integrating iPads, iPods, and laptops for educational use, and starting a classroom library to motivate and inspire students to read – to name a few,” said Stephan. “We wish we could have rewarded each and every one of our participants, and after extremely careful consideration we selected the four classrooms in which we felt the grant money would have the largest impact.”


First Financial Approves Student Loan for Determined Student

Press Release










Pictured above: Matthew Durst, Rutgers University Student

The staff at First Financial Federal Credit Union had their heartstrings tugged when student Matthew Durst, a current member, shared his story about his determination to receive a student loan to attend Rutgers University this fall. Although Durst received multiple student loan application denials from various financial institutions, he was not about to give up. The First Financial Loan Department suggested to Durst that although his application was initially not approved, that he should send an email on his behalf to have his application re-evaluated. With his continued effort and exceedingly positive financial relationship with First Financial, his application was re-evaluated and approved with the help of First Financial’s President and CEO, Issa Stephan, and Chief Operating Officer, Alice Stevens.

“I knew three years ago it was time for me to establish my own independence with regard to building a credit history of my own. When it came time for me to transfer from the community college and go to Rutgers University, I wanted to be able to apply (on my own) for a student loan to offset the remaining costs of attendance – minus the minimal financial aid that had been awarded to me,” explained Durst.

Durst obtains “light credit” due to his age and student status, which is typically not enough to apply for a student loan independently.  Due to the struggling economy, the past five years have been hard for Durst and his family, as his mother was laid off from three jobs in two years. At the time of the loan application – she was employed, but had taken a substantial pay cut, which left her unable to co-sign any of her son’s student loan applications.

Yet, Durst was not about to give up on obtaining a student loan for himself – and after he was initially declined by First Financial, he decided to send the Loan Department an email (as suggested), which explained why he was deserving of a student loan and about his family’s financial situation.  Durst’s email reached the desk of Alice Stevens, First Financial’s Chief Operating Officer.

“We know that times are tough financially for many people out there, and that it can be a great challenge financing a college education.  Initially, when we reviewed Matthew’s student loan application, his light credit wasn’t enough for us to be able to fund his entire college education – even though we wanted to be able to assist,” said Stevens.  “After we received Matthew’s email, we decided to invite Matthew and his mother to our office to hear their story in person and see how we could help this family – after all, isn’t that what the credit union movement is all about?”

Durst and his mother came to First Financial’s Corporate Headquarters in Wall Township in August, and met with both Issa Stephan and Alice Stevens.  Durst explained both in his initial email and in person, “I am in my fifth season of working for a catering company where I handle parties and weddings.  This entails working 12-plus hour shifts, and in between I work at an Italian family restaurant delivering food, pizza, and servicing customers. I am a dedicated, hardworking person who will continue to work while enrolled full-time in school.”

Taking his email, application, and the face-to-face meeting into careful consideration, First Financial decided to approve Durst for a student loan – even if it meant they had to bend the rules a little. “Matthew’s maturity and commitment to his future were very impressive – and that couldn’t be overlooked,” said Stevens.

“Everyone deserves a second chance and sometimes that second chance can change an individual’s life,” said Issa Stephan, President and CEO.  “First Financial stands by our promise to be a long-time financial partner with our members, make a difference in our members’ lives, and put member needs first to provide a trustworthy and value added solution, and we felt we needed to do the same for Matthew to help him achieve his important goal of receiving a college education.”

If you have any questions regarding a loan product, an account, or would like to talk to a representative about the important financial decisions in your life - give us a call at 866.750.0100, live chat at, comment below, or stop by and see us!


Business Spotlight and Upcoming Events: Wall Stadium Speedway

Down at the Jersey Shore, the Wall Stadium Speedway is home to great racing and family fun for the surrounding communities and fans of all ages.  From the time the Speedway first began racing in 1950, they have continued to provide a great experience for the fans who flock to the stadium.

Wall Speedway Photo - Racecars

Above Photo Credit: Ace Lane, featured on from 7/28/12

Since it opened, the Wall Speedway was created on 47 acres with the future and safety in mind, featuring banked turns and a one-third mile track.  The track design was developed based on allowing racing car speeds to increase, but also providing a margin of safety.  Over time, the Speedway was altered and updated a few times, adding more safety precautions such as a flat inner loop and a metal guard rail.  Now it hosts many racing events throughout the year.  One of the most recognized races held is the annual Turkey Derby, which takes place each Thanksgiving weekend.  This year will be the 39thrunning of the popular event.

As a family operated business, the Krause family works hard to make sure the needs of the fans are met.  Stated Co-Owner Diane Krause, “Since our family began managing the Speedway in 2011 – we have really placed an emphasis on making sure our fans experience our family friendly, family fun atmosphere.  We want them to have a great time, right in their own backyard!”  And that they will, as Wall Stadium Speedway prides itself on its ability to provide family fun, offering entertainment not just for the diehard fans – but for kids too!  In addition to the races, the Speedway also has a dunk tank, bounce house, face painting, and mini train rides.  The Wall Stadium Speedway also has a new Kid’s Klub, where young racing fans can spend some time playing games, doing arts and crafts, and having all sorts of fun.  The Speedway even has a personal party area for young fans to host birthday parties at the track!

Over the years, the Wall Stadium Speedway has added new equipment, seating, a new sound system and lighting, among other amenities, and has renovated in order to keep the stadium up to date.  They also have plans for a few more new additions in the future – so stay tuned!

Wall Speedway currently races stock cars on Saturday nights in season.  They have two Open Wheel Divisions – Modified and Sportsman Class, as well as Legends, and two Classic Divisions – Factory Stock and Street Stock.  You can view this year’s racing schedule at

With the Corporate Office being right across the street from the Speedway, First Financial partnered with the stadium by sponsoring a #88 Senior Champ Kart in late 2011. Caroline Nickerson (First Financial member since 1965), and mother of driver Roger Nickerson (built the Speedway’s Sunday Go Cart Series Program), approached the credit union’s Business Development team and mentioned her husband, Charles Nickerson was a former First Financial CEO and Speedway enthusiast. She hoped that Mr. Nickerson’s former two vested interests could be combined into developing a partnership.  The credit union couldn’t have been happier to oblige and in addition to sponsoring the company branded Senior Champ Kart for the 2011-2012 season, also sponsored some additional event nights at the stadium in 2012.

1st Financial FCU - Annual Mtg.

Pictured above: Roger Nickerson (center) with First Financial’s Senior Champ Kart, along with Caroline Nickerson (left) and Chris Gall (right).

Please visit Wall Speedway’s website for more information and event schedules.  To contact the Speedway, call 732-681-6400 or e-mail them at



The First Financial Foundation Awards 2012 Scholarships

Press Release


Pictured left to right: First Financial Board Member Elizabeth White, Luke Pasick, Jennifer Retzer, First Financial President/CEO Issa Stephan, Taylor Van Zile, Kevin Rogers, and Jim Boyle. Not pictured, scholarship winner Michelle Cottrell.

The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation awarded $750 Erma Dorrer Literary scholarships to six deserving undergraduate students in August 2012.

This year’s winners included: Jim Boyle, Manasquan, University of Notre Dame (Fall 2012); Luke Pasick, Wall Township, College of New Jersey (Fall 2012); Kevin Rogers, Ocean Township, Monmouth University (started Fall 2011); Jennifer Retzer, Manalapan, University of Pennsylvania (started Fall 2011); Taylor Van Zile, Pine Beach, Wentworth Institute of Technology (Fall 2012), and Michelle Cottrell, Manahawkin, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey (Fall 2012).

This year, there were two scholarship topics.  Applicants choose to answer one of the following questions:

  1. How have the recent financial events of 2011 (Wall Street Protest and Bank Transfer Day) affected your opinion of credit unions? What is your perspective in regard to First Financial Federal Credit Union?
  2. Compare and contrast commercial banks to First Financial and the Credit Union movement.

Applicants submitted a written essay or video clip to answer the question of their choice, and either had to be a member of the credit union attending a 2 or 4 year college anywhere in the country, or a non-member attending a 2 or 4 year college within Monmouth or Ocean Counties, to be considered for the scholarship.

“We are delighted to assist in furthering the educational aspirations of these worthy young men and women,” said First Financial President and CEO, Issa Stephan.  “Our credit union puts a high priority on education, after all – that’s how First Financial began 76 years ago, with a group of schoolteachers in Asbury Park.”


New First Scoop Contributor – Nicole Andretta

We are excited to announce that we’ll be bringing you a new First Scoop contributor, our new E-Marketing Specialist – Nicole Andretta.


Nicole Andretta of Clarksburg, NJ, was hired as E-Marketing Specialist at First Financial Federal Credit Union’s Wall Headquarters in Summer 2012.

She will be responsible for planning and executing special events, developing printed materials, managing e-channel aspects including First Financial’s Web site, blog, email marketing, and social media sites, graphic design, performing web data analysis including search engine optimization (SEO), and managing other special marketing projects.

Nicole is a recent graduate of Monmouth University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication (Public Relations/Journalism). While in school, she was an active member of the National Public Relations Student Society of America for 3 years.  She was also a member of the Study Abroad Club at Monmouth University, where she spent the summer of 2010 studying in Italy.  In her spare time she likes to travel, draw, read, and cook.

Prior to graduating from Monmouth University, Nicole had several internships at leading public relations and marketing companies including Push the Envelope PR in Millstone, Shadow PR in West Long Branch, and Utopia Communications in Eatontown.

We welcome Nicole to First Financial, and stay tuned for her upcoming blog posts here on First Scoop!