According to city data.com, the median household income for the Vine City area in 2016 was $25,130, well below the median income for Atlanta recorded as $49,398. Operation HOPE, SunTrust Bank, and Chick-Fil-A announced a new partnership meant to address this disparity through providing credit and money management coaching to residents of the Vine City community.

Offered at no cost to participants, the program included an Operation HOPE financial wellbeing coach providing workshops and one-on-one coaching to participants. More than 15 community residents participated in the first workshop, hosted June 7 in the multipurpose space at the Chick-fil-A, located in the Historic Westside Village.

Participants of the workshop were taught the basics of making a budget, reading a credit report, and how to address credit errors. Leaders of the three organizations also hosted a pre-workshop meet and greet session.

“I decided to join this workshop today because I am a culinary art student from Westside Works. On completion of my class I plan on opening up a food truck, I want to be a business owner and this workshop will help me fix my credit and, one day, I will be able to do that,” explained Cecilia Rudrow, an English Avenue resident. “In this particular community, we don’t have much, it’s a great feeling to know that this program is giving the community a glimpse of hope. I’m 51 years old now and never thought I’d get this far, I never thought I’d be sitting here talking to a financial advisor to help me turn my dreams into reality.”

The Credit and Money Management program, a core focus of HOPE Inside, a financial empowerment model developed by Operation HOPE, is designed to transform disabling financial mindsets—teaching people the language of money, how to navigate credit, and make better decisions with the money they have. Programming in the community will be expanded to include small business development and homeownership coaching in the coming months.

“We are proud to partner with Chick-fil-A and SunTrust, to bring meaningful impact to the residents of the Vine City community and beyond. Our vision is to create a stronger, more inclusive economy through financial empowerment – and financial dignity,” said John Hope Bryant, the founder and CEO of Operation HOPE. “Think of the difference our programs make in people’s lives as they improve their credit scores by 100 points or more. Think about the impact on families and communities as more people and more local businesses succeed. And consider the new investments and jobs that come to communities where people are financially secure. ”

Quincy Springs IV, the franchisee and operator of theVine City Chick-fil-A, is a graduate of the small business development program offered at over 100 HOPE Inside locations across the nation, including three in Atlanta.

 “One of the most important things that I understand is exposure, once people have an opportunity to see what’s available and that they can attain what’s available, I think they will gravitate towards it,” Springs said. “This particular workshop provides that exposure to knowledge and the practical applications for the things that people want to access, so I think on the Westside, where a lot of individual people haven’t had that exposure or that access, this workshop is extremely important.”

SunTrust, a pioneer in offering HOPE Inside in its branches currently sponsors financial wellbeing coaches in 17 HOPE Inside branch locations throughout Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, with a commitment for a total of 200 locations by 2020, including HOPE Inside SunTrust Bank in the Historic Westside Village.

 “All three of our brands — HOPE, SunTrust, and Chick-fil-A — and purpose align so nicely, it’s the perfect triangle,” said Dana Barry, vice president for consumer banking at SunTrust Bank. “I think with the upcoming community reinvestment in Vine City, this is a great opportunity for all three of us to come together to deliver something so important like financial literacy to the community.”

(Photo: Natrawn Maxwell / DTU / NNPA)

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