Toledo Opera and Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union Expand Partnership with New Investment

(L-R) Suzette Cowell, Maureen Brown, Suzanne Rorick, Zahra Collins, Tom Gagnet

Toledo Opera and Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union (TUFCU) are expanding their longstanding partnership that aims to open up economic, educational and cultural opportunities for residents of Toledo.

The Toledo Opera’s Endowment Committee, independent from Toledo Opera’s larger Board of Trustees, recently approved a $100,000 investment at the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union to initiate strategic financing as well as programming collaboration and outreach to benefit the greater community.

“Toledo Opera’s relationship with the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union began several years ago when Dick LaValley introduced us to Suzette Cowell, chief executive officer of TUFCU,” recalled Toledo Opera Executive Director Suzanne Rorick. “Five years ago, Toledo Opera also began working more closely with the Junction neighborhood, at the Mott Library and other locations, to bring accessible opera programming to Central Toledo. We are pleased to make this investment coinciding with TUFCU’s 25th anniversary in the community.”

“I am so excited about the relationship that TUFCU and Toledo Opera has established over the years. The work that both our institutions do is vital within the Toledo community and our partnership is important to the cultivation of our community,” said Suzette Cowell, CEO and treasurer of Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union. “The missions and values of our organizations run parallel; I am confident that by furthering our partnership the work we accomplish together will only add to the
strengthening of our Toledo Community.”

In 2019, Toledo Opera Executive Director Suzanne Rorick invited TUFCU’s CEO Suzette Cowell to speak at the opera’s Community Conversations Speaker Series held at the ProMedica Ebeid Center. In 2020, TUFCU’s Program Manager Zahra Aprili Collins joined the Toledo Opera Community Engagement Advisory Committee. Later that year, Collins was appointed to the Toledo Opera Board of Trustees.

“We strongly believe this investment with Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union will yield tremendous opportunities for both organizations to collaborate in outreach and programming to new audiences,” said Maureen Brown, chair of the Toledo Opera Endowment Committee. “This partnership speaks directly to Toledo Opera’s values of sound stewardship, co-creation with community stakeholders and partners, innovation, and diversity. We look forward to expanding our partnership with Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union.”

Rorick continues, “This partnership represents our joint history and furthers Toledo Opera’s commitment to opening up arts opportunities for everyone in the community. We are proud to formalize our partnership with Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union, and we look optimistically to the future.”

For more information regarding this partnership, please contact Suzanne Rorick, executive director of Toledo Opera at or Suzette Cowell, CEO of Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union at

Founded in 1959, Toledo Opera produces high quality operas and programming, reaching 30,000 people annually through mainstage performances, educational programs, and community outreach.

Each year, Toledo Opera presents three, fully-staged operas at the 900-seat Valentine Theatre, located at the heart of Downtown Toledo. Toledo Opera partners with the Toledo Symphony for its productions, and the Toledo Opera Chorus and Toledo Opera Children’s Chorus participate as needed.

A cornerstone of Toledo Opera’s mission, Toledo Opera’s educational and community programs serve all ages and demographics, including preschool students (An Opera is a Story), elementary school students (Opera on Wheels), middle school and high school students (Student Night at the Opera), and the greater community (Opera Outdoors).

In 2018, Toledo Opera renewed its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and community work through the Toledo premiere of Douglas Tappin’s *I Dream*, a contemporary opera recounting the final days of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. In 2020, Toledo Opera convened a Community Engagement Advisory Committee, previously piloted for *I Dream*, to co-create programs centered on the relevance of opera to contemporary issues, as Toledo-area residents experience them. This season, Toledo Opera will present Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson’s contemporary opera *Blue*, named Best New Opera of 2020 by the Music Critics Association of North America.

Toledo Opera is at a critical turning point in its history. This year, new mission, vision, and values were written and approved by Toledo Opera’s Board of Trustees. They will serve as guidance for Toledo Opera’s strategy and ongoing work to further the opera art form in the region through artistry of the highest caliber and authentic community connections.

On July 21, 1996, the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union (TUFCU) opened its doors as the first credit union in the Toledo area to be chartered as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) which is a credit union designated to serve the low to moderate income members of the community and surrounding areas.

The mission of TUFCU is to offer financial services and educational programs to people living in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods so they can improve their economic wellbeing and achieve economic empowerment while being an active partner in and for community.

TUFCU offers many products and services that have proven to be beneficial and exceptional service is provided to everyone who walks through their doors along with customized programs and services to meet the requirements of its members. In addition, programs are offered to members such as the Second Chance Program and free tax preparation services. TUFCU has demonstrated leadership in that it was the first credit union in the United States to partner with the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in 2004 and TUFCU was the lead-organizing agency for the VITA program in Toledo.

TUFCU offers a safe place to save, multiple financial services at reasonable cost, and financial, small business and homebuyer education for its members. TUFCU provides access to non-predatory priced loans, even to members with imperfect, limited or no credit history. TUFCU is an anchor of hope to individual members and to the neighborhood.

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union is thriving, with assets of over $13 million and growing. TUFCU is proud to be named one of the fastest growing financial institutions of its kind in the country. Since its inception, Toledo Urban has been BUILDING BETTER FUTURES for its members and the Toledo central city community.