By Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times
Regions Bank, and nonprofit Operation HOPE on Friday announced the opening of two financial empowerment offices that will offer free money-management training for people across the Birmingham area.
Regions will provide workspace facilities in branches at 9178 Parkway East in Roebuck and 5701 Valley Road in Fairfield where certified Operation HOPE financial wellbeing coaches will be based full time.
The financial education centers will provide cost-free, one-on-one counseling designed to help people build their credit scores, reduce debts, increase their savings, avoid foreclosure and reach other personal financial goals.
“Our vision is to create a stronger, more inclusive economy through financial empowerment – and financial dignity,” said Operation HOPE Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hope Bryant. “Imagine the difference we can make for people who improve their credit scores by 100 points or more. Think about the impact on families and communities as more people succeed financially.”
Operation HOPE is an organization working to disrupt poverty and empower inclusion for low and moderate-income youth and adults.
The announcement was made at the new UAB Collat School of Business, which also houses the Regions Institute for Financial Education.
In addition to Bryant a number of officials were in attendance including Ed May II, mayor of Fairfield, Leroy Abrahams, Head of Community Affairs – Regions Bank, Alan Register, Birmingham Market Executive – Regions Bank and Shante Ross, Financial Wellbeing Coach – Operation HOPE.
Danita Porter, a client of the program, was also there and told her story of how she benefitted from the Hope program.
“I get choked up every time I even think about it, I didn’t know where to go, I didn’t know where to start,” Porter said. “When it says ‘Hope Inside’, it was my hope inside, it turned my hopelessness into hopefulness.”
Porter’s success is one reason May said he was ecstatic to have the empowerment office in his city which will provide opportunities for his citizens.
“Financial empowerment is one of the best ways for our people to get ahead and gain real freedom, then we’ll know what to do . . . once we understand how we can amass the kind of resources we need,” said May.
May wants his citizens to take advantage of the opportunity now. “We don’t start 20 years from now (raising children), we have to start today and what we don’t know can hurt us or prevent us from achieving our goals,” she said.
Ross said Operation Hope also offers monthly workshops centered around entrepreneurship, credit money management and homeownership, and they also work with their clients one on one.
“We help our clients create a budget, that’s the foundation. If you don’t know what you’re doing with your money or how much money you have a month, you cannot be successful,” said Ross.
Regions began working with HOPE Inside with one branch in Birmingham in 2014, in the Five Points West area, said Jeremy King, Senior Vice President, Public Relations and Publishing Manager of Regions Bank.
Because of the success, the bank decided to expand program to locations in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama; Missouri; Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi; Selma.
“Financial education leads to financial empowerment,” said Leroy Abrahams, head of Community Affairs for Regions Bank. “We started working with Operation HOPE in 2014, and we immediately saw the impact on people across Birmingham and beyond. There are people living in their own homes today because HOPE Inside showed them how to take charge of their finances and achieve their goals.” Abraham said there are people whose credit scores are over 700 today because HOPE Inside helped them reduce their debts, build their savings and manage their money in a more productive way.
“The result of Regions and Operation HOPE building on our partnership is that more people will have access to the tools they need for financial growth and success,” Abraham said.
Counseling appointments are now available at the Roebuck and Fairfield HOPE Inside offices. To schedule an appointment in Roebuck, contact counselor Penny Southward at 205-683-5204 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Counselor Charmaine Chatman can be reached at 205-766-8136 or email@example.com to schedule an appointment in Fairfield. Additionally, Ross can be reached at Five Points South at 205-478-0557 or firstname.lastname@example.org.