A preschool teacher in Jacksonville, Florida. A lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama. An unemployed city clerk and community volunteer in Paducah, Kentucky.
All single moms. All wanting the best for their children. All with financial challenges standing in the way of their futures.
Each turned to HOPE Inside, a community partnership between Operation HOPE and Regions Bank, to redefine their financial futures.
Through HOPE Inside, Regions provides workspace facilities within bank branches or other public locations, along with additional support, to enable a certified financial wellbeing coach from Operation HOPE to help clients build their credit scores, strengthen their overall financial management skills and become better prepared to achieve homeownership, avoid foreclosure or accomplish other financial goals.
The cost for clients: $0.
“We are proud to partner with Regions Bank to bring much-needed financial recovery coaching and guidance to Regions customers who have been impacted during the pandemic,” said John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE. “At Operation HOPE, we have been able to provide tens of thousands of free services to help individuals and small businesses navigate this financial crisis since the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdowns, including helping HOPE clients secure more than $1.3 million in PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans and other pandemic relief funds.”
For Regions, the work with Operation HOPE is a key component of the bank’s focus on financial wellness.
Financial wellness is one of our top priorities for community engagement, and Operation HOPE is on the forefront with us.
Leroy Abrahams, head of Community Affairs for Regions
“Financial education through HOPE Inside leads to financial empowerment, and that can change the course of someone’s life,” said Leroy Abrahams, head of Community Affairs for Regions. “Financial wellness is one of our top priorities for community engagement, and Operation HOPE is on the forefront with us. The success they create contributes to prosperity across our communities.”
Success stories? There are many – just like these.
The Power of Blue Ink in Jacksonville, Florida
Preschool teacher Gleynnzella Williams was tired of renting. Tired of the burden of credit card debt. And tired of the stress from collection calls.
Williams turned to Jackie Thompson, a HOPE Inside financial coach at Regions Bank in Jacksonville, for help. Together, they created a plan to improve Williams’ credit score so she could qualify for a mortgage. That plan included creating a more steady stream of income, working to pay down credit card debt and addressing a bill collection that put a stain on her credit report.
Thompson told Williams to dispute the collection to the credit bureau in writing. Thompson also encouraged her to write in blue ink because black ink can be processed with a computer-generated response. Blue ink, Thompson said, can’t always be read by a computer and needs a human review. It was an important nugget of advice that paid off.
“I started with nothing, but with the help of Jackie and Operation HOPE, the financial coaching helped me get to where I am today,” Williams said.
Williams and her three children will move into a new house this summer.
“Owning a home is like giving birth. It’s a new creation, and I’m excited to finally have a home of my own,” Williams said.
HOPE Inside the Workplace in Birmingham, Alabama
Regions’ commitment to supporting Operation HOPE goes beyond its branch network. Recently, the bank worked with the City of Birmingham, where Regions is headquartered, to make a full-time HOPE financial coach available to the city’s workforce.
City Attorney Holly Clemente is recently divorced and learned about the program through a weekly newsletter to city employees. She contacted HOPE financial coach Shante’ Ross, and the two identified resources Clemente needed to apply for a mortgage for the first time.
“Many of our HOPE clients are like Holly, who think they are doing okay financially by paying bills on time and putting money into savings,” Ross said. “But when a major life change happens, their credit score doesn’t reflect what they think it should.”
Ross helped Clemente with a workable budget, recommended multiple lenders to consider for a home loan, addressed ways to pay down debt and identified steps to optimize her credit score. In addition, Ross provided advice on how to increase the balance in Clemente’s savings account. Working with Operation HOPE, Clemente increased her credit score by 134 points.
“Holly took action immediately because she was having a major life change, and she made some important leaps in how she manages her money,” Ross said. “Operation HOPE is about meeting people where they are and helping them become more financially educated.”
“I’m doing things on my own for the first time,” Clemente said. “I was frightened about starting this process because I didn’t know what I needed to do to be able to qualify for a mortgage by myself. Operation HOPE gave me important, practical advice on how to manage my money better.”
Like Williams, Clemente will soon close on a house, and she and her daughter, Giuliana, will have a fresh start.
“You can never have enough financial knowledge to plan for the future, and Operation HOPE provides that knowledge to all of our city employees,” Clemente said. “It is a great resource for everyone.”
A Financial Overhaul in Paducah, Kentucky
Tracy Jones didn’t know what she didn’t know. Scared of a budget and unaware of the power of saving for a rainy day, Jones connected with Operation HOPE for help. Active in her hometown for many years, Jones spends a lot of her time volunteering with organizations like Kiwanis, Community Kitchen, Hope Unlimited, Paducah Public Schools System and the McCracken County Public Schools District. Her work with these organizations helps people with the challenges they face.
“I realized that I needed financial help myself,” Jones said.
HOPE financial coach Tiffini Clemons created a plan to improve Jones’ credit score. Clemons said she helped Jones realize she needed a “complete financial overhaul” so her money could work for her.
That concept was new to Jones. When she was growing up, Jones’ family lived paycheck to paycheck. She didn’t know much about saving or the importance of having an emergency fund. Operation HOPE provided a foundation Jones is now sharing with her son.
“I’m teaching my son about the importance of money that I wish I had known at his age,” Jones said.
Jones and Clemons met monthly to review the work plan. The two often saw each other at community events where, Clemons said, they would end up “off to the side in a coaching session.” Within a year, Jones’ credit score increased more than 100 points.
“Tracy was ready. She jumped in with both feet, was dedicated to the task at hand and got to work paying down her debt,” Clemons said. “Within the first four months, her credit score increased almost 30 points.”
The foundation Clemons gave Jones proved to be especially important in her decision to become a homeowner three years ago. Jones is currently unemployed, but she is now working on becoming a life coach and motivational speaker – a new occupation that can help others overcome obstacles, just like she has.
“Operation HOPE helped me understand financial control,” Jones said.
To learn more about HOPE Inside, check out these stories below.