HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation/Hope Credit Union) has been named a finalist in The Wall Street Journal Financial Inclusion Challenge for its work to bring opportunity to small towns in the Mississippi Delta.
HOPE is one of three finalists from more than 120 entries in the first U.S. iteration of the Journal’s Financial Inclusion Challenge. A winner will be selected in New York City on May 9.
“Over the coming weeks, the WSJ will shine a light on the importance of financial inclusion in America. We are proud to be part of this effort,” said HOPE CEO Bill Bynum.
After acquiring donated bank branches, HOPE opened locations, from 2014 to 2015, in Drew, Itta Bena, Moorhead and Shaw – all severely distressed Mississippi towns with populations of approximately 2,000 people. All four communities are located in counties where the poverty rate has eclipsed 20 percent for more than three decades. In three of the four towns, HOPE is the only financial institution.
Within a short period, HOPE has dramatically expanded the range of financial products and services available to area residents, and now serves more than 50 percent of the population, far exceeding the former bank’s market penetration.
“These communities have long been neglected. The entire region is on the wrong side of all indicators of well-being. We are committed to bringing opportunity to where it is needed most,” Bynum said.
Nearly 25 years ago, the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta began pursuing its mission of strengthening communities, building assets and improving lives in 55 Delta counties. Today, HOPE serves distressed people and places throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee – a region that is home to more than one-third of the most impoverished counties in the nation.
“While we have changed our name, broadened our services, and expanded our territory, our mission remains the same,” Bynum said. “So does our commitment to the Delta.”
HOPE serves more than 44,000 member-owners across its five-state Deep South region. Of those members, 69 percent were previously unbanked or underbanked. Nearly half of HOPE’s locations are in persistent poverty counties, where the poverty rate has exceeded 20 percent for more than three decades.
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