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Bank on Toledo celebrates first anniversary

By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa

June 22, 2012: A local, unified effort by banks and credit unions to encourage more people to learn financial literacy skills is celebrating its first year of operations. Bank on Toledo is set up to empower poor people to not rely on the high fees charged by check cashing outlets.

Norris Finley

Bank on Toledo set up outside One Government Center last Thursday, encouraging people to sign up for a low-cost bank or credit union account. More than 500 people have enrolled in banking services since the effort began last year.

“Typically, people who are adversely affected by this are very poor, do not understand, necessarily, the idea of being able to put their money in a bank,” said Mayor Mike Bell.

“Let me tell you, the system we have in place is a very trusting system and it’s actually insured. So the idea of putting money in the bank is very good for our community.”

“It is not just about opening a bank account,” said Norris Finley, executive director of Bank on Toledo. “It is about education and financial literacy, so that people can sustain the bank accounts and fully utilize them.”

Local bank officials acknowledge the unbanked and under-banked simply don’t trust traditional financial institutions. According to these officials, among Latinos, that “distrust is deeply rooted in the bad experiences they suffered with banks in their home countries, particularly in Mexico.”

Bank on Toledo officials emphasized that Nueva Esperanza Credit Union is one of the effort’s financial partners. The credit union is located in the Old South End and has bilingual staff to help Spanish-speaking customers.

“They are very, very familiar with that demographic, with that community,” said Finley. “So they have been very instrumental in taking care of that population.”

“We just need people to get involved,” said Mayor Bell. “Take your money out of your mattresses and places like that and put it a bank where it can not only help out you but our community.”

As a consequence, many people keep large sums of money—either stored in their home or carried with them—making them potential crime targets.

Bank on Toledo is a communitywide partnership involving the City of Toledo, United Way of Greater Toledo, area financial institutions, and others. Similar programs are offered across the country and grew from a successful “Bank on San Francisco” effort, which originated in 2006. The initiative is focused on assisting underserved populations in obtaining access to financial services.

Once someone visits a participating “Bank on Toledo” financial institution, a bank representative assists them to open a checking and/or savings account, learn the proper use of credit cards, and become informed about home ownership and other services. Additionally, financial education classes focusing on budgeting, managing a checking account, improving one’s credit rating, paying off debt and saving for the future are available through Bank on Toledo.

Seven banks and four credit unions with offices across Northwest Ohio are part of the cooperative effort. The program also is available in many suburban communities, including: Bowling Green, Holland, Maumee, Northwood, Oregon, Point Place, Perrysburg, Rossford, Sylvania, Toledo, and Walbridge.

To make it more convenient for low-income families to set up banking services, Fifth Third Bank is making its mobile resources available in neighborhoods across the community in June and July. The annual summer program kicked off last week when the eBus stopped at the Broadway Corridor Community Fair.

The eBus will return in mid-July, making stops at the Polish Festival in North Toledo on Friday, July 13 and the African-American Festival at the University of Toledo the following day. The e-Bus also will visit the Cordelia Martin Center on Nebraska Ave. on Tuesday, July 17, and the Perrysburg Heights Community Center on Wednesday, July 18 from 2-7 p.m.

The eBus “empowerment mobiles” are designed to meet the financial needs of underserved populations by bringing banking services directly to communities in need. The buses are equipped with Internet-accessible computer work stations to conduct credit counseling sessions, foreclosure prevention workshops and financial education seminars.

Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/26/12 19:47:29 -0700.





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