Danita Porter and her family will spend the holidays together in her newly built home. It’s the fulfillment of a dream she could not have imagined a year ago.

“The best part of my home is that it is mine, and I was able to be involved in the specifics of building it the way I wanted,” Porter said.

Porter had lost all hope of ever owning a home, much less being able to build a brand-new one, following a series of disappointing home loan rejections. Recently divorced and a survivor of domestic abuse, she wanted a new beginning and an opportunity to move beyond struggles she refused to let define her.

In early February, she walked into the Regions Bank Five Points South branch in Birmingham and met Shante’ Ross, a financial wellbeing coach, with Operation HOPE.

A global financial dignity nonprofit organization founded by John Hope Bryant, Operation HOPE provides access to financial education through individual counseling and workshops aimed at entrepreneurship, credit, money management and homeownership. Through its “HOPE Inside” partnership model, the nonprofit works inside retail locations, like banks or grocery stores, to meet with clients and help put them on a path to financial success. All services are delivered free of charge to anyone interested, regardless of whether the recipient has a Regions account.

Regions opened its first HOPE Inside office at the Five Points South branch in 2014. Since that time, hundreds of clients have been served and provided financial counseling to get on the road to financial empowerment.

“This is about access and opportunities – and compassion,” Ross said. “Through HOPE Inside at Regions Bank, we’re leveling the playing field. We’re connecting people with the insights they need to reach their financial goals. And we’re doing this in a way that’s welcoming, understanding and custom-built around individual needs. It’s incredibly rewarding when we see people achieve financial security. For each person, the journey is different. But we’re committed to serving and supporting our HOPE Inside clients in every way possible.”

After an initial consultation to review Porter’s financial history, Ross and Porter developed a plan for homeownership, starting with a credit score check and establishing a budget. The two met monthly to discuss how the plan was working, and their meetings gave Porter the confidence she needed to follow through with her desire to build a new home for her family.

“Shante’ gave me the hope that I needed to press forward,” said Porter. “She listened to everything I had to say, cried with me and created a plan for me to follow.”

The financial plan that Porter followed throughout 2018 to get her finances in order led to an important day that made all her hard work worth the effort.

Oct. 11 holds special memories for the Porter family. It is the day Porter’s parents were married, the day her father passed away and the day she finalized the closing on her new house. In fact, she specifically chose Oct. 11 for her closing day to celebrate her accomplishment on a day that meant so much to her family.

The financial foundation that Operation HOPE provides clients like Danita is one of the main reasons behind the Regions partnership with the nonprofit. On Nov. 16, Regions formally expanded the number of branches offering HOPE Inside services to include the bank’s Roebuck and Fairfield locations in metro Birmingham. Further, Regions is committed to supporting a total of 100 HOPE Inside locations throughout the bank’s branch network by 2021.

“I appreciate Regions bringing this program to Fairfield and providing an opportunity for our citizens to have access to financial education that can put them on a stronger path forward,” said Fairfield Mayor Ed May II. “Saving money under a mattress no longer works, and this program can equip those in our community with the resources they need for financial empowerment.”

Danita Porter hopes her story will inspire others to take advantage of the services provided by Operation HOPE.

“I love it. It is freedom, and I hope others can be encouraged to turn their dreams of homeownership into a reality,” she said.

Fairfield Mayor Ed May II speaks at the HOPE Inside Regions Bank grand opening announcement in November.