By Courtney Ingle
Financial hardships can make it seem like there isn’t any hope out there at all. When you’re being hit left, right and center with every bill and expense imaginable, it can feel like you’re drowning. It’s even worse if you have no one to turn to – or at least nobody who doesn’t pack a predatory interest rate.
That’s why Hope Credit Union exists. The credit union ministry, originally of Anderson United Methodist Church in Jackson, was brought forth out of a desire to strengthen the financial health of a community that had very few banks — and very few financial opportunities.
“Hope Credit Union started in 1995, as part of Anderson Methodist Church,” said Bill Bynum, CEO of Hope Credit Union. “When I moved from Atlanta to Mississippi in 1994, Anderson became my church home.”
Bynum said it was a “get to know you” style conversation with Pastor Stallworth that led to the beginning of the ministry.
“I mentioned I had a history of working with credit unions, and he said he had a desire to organize a credit union in the community around the church,” said Bynum.
The congregation, meeting then on Northside Drive in Jackson, was what Bynum called an “underbanked” community, with many people turning to pawn shops and payday advance loan establishments for help.
“Next thing I know, we agreed that (Hope Credit Union) would be my ministry,” Bynum said. “We didn’t realize at the time how rare it was to start a new credit union this way. So we rallied a bunch of volunteers, we got it off the ground, and that was the start of Hope Credit Union.”
A church-sponsored credit union is uncommon but not necessarily rare, according to Bynum. “Hope was and may still be the only church-sponsored credit union in Mississippi.”
Running a church-sponsored credit union isn’t easy. All of the high-regulated protocols are still in place, and a regulatory environment has to be maintained. The volunteers have to be trained. It is a ministry, but it is a business as well.
But as Hope Credit Union grew, so did the support from the community, and not just at Anderson.
“You can only do so much with volunteers who don’t have training in the banking industry,” said Bynum. “People from other congregations throughout Jackson started to recognize the need for more banking options and more responsible financial services.”
This is where the Lord started opening doors.
“There was The Amos Network, which was a group of churches that was doing great work in low-income communities,” said Bynum. “There was another group of pastors that had considered creating their own credit union but instead chose to support ours.”
Hope Credit Union grew to be such a large inter-denominational, cross-racial organization, that it outgrew its space at Anderson. Hope Credit Union, named for Bynum’s late wife, provided Hope to more and more people each and every week.
“We opened the first branch at the medical mall,” said Bynum. “And we were able to branch out and serve the community, but we were still not yet a full-service credit union.”
God opened another door for Hope Credit Union, through Bynum’s “day job” at Enterprise Corporation of the Delta.
“(Enterprise was) a loan fund, started by several leaders … across Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana to provide support for businesses and help create jobs in the Delta,” Bynum said.
However, Enterprise needed more access to capital, and Hope Credit Union needed more access to professional staff.
“So, we knitted the two together. The credit union could provide federally secured deposits for lending, and the Enterprise Corporation could provide the credit union with the staff,” said Bynum.
From there, Hope Credit Union has continued to grow, with its roots growing deeper in the faith community in the region.
One of the original founding board members, Bishop Ronnie Crudup of Jackson’s New Horizon Church International, can attest to the body of faith supporting Hope Credit Union.
“One of the most significant accomplishments of the faith community in Jackson, Mississippi, over the last (30) years was and is the creation and growth of Hope Community Credit Union,” said Crudup. “From its inception, the credit union was a dream from faith institutions for community empowerment.”
Crudup said Hope Credit Union is an example of the scriptures being lived out in the community.
“Hope (Credit Union) was the belief in financial viability for all, especially those whom society makes the least. Our faith institutions’ beliefs and efforts to fight financial injustice were bolstered beyond our imagination with the merger of our little credit union with the Enterprise Corporation Of the Delta. God really can do as the scripture says, exceedingly abundantly above what we can ask or think,” said Crudup.
“Faith is still central in the mission of what has become Hope Enterprise Corporation and Hope Credit Union, which now covers five states. With faith, we believe all things are possible,” Crudup added.
“A proof point of that belief coming to fruition is this institution we now just call HOPE! Strong faith, wonderful management, and excellent people have helped cause a miracle.”
As Hope Credit Union has continued to flourish, the commitment to providing solid financial services to underserved communities has not wavered.
“Our mission is the same, as are our Christian values,” said Bynum. “It is very consistent with the Gospel. We’ve done something to help our fellow man and woman and make the world a little better. It’s what we’re all here to do.”
Bynum said over the 30 years of the credit union, his faith has been bolstered tremendously.
“We’ve confronted many challenges,” said Bynum. “Every day, we see people who struggle to make ends meet, to support their families …. And they don’t have a lot of hope, honestly. But where the challenge is, our faith in God grows. And we see change for them, and that continues to bring hope for everyone.”
For more information about Hope Credit Union, visit HopeCU.org.
Courtney and her husband, Jeremy, live in Brandon and are members at Park Place Baptist Church in Pearl. They have a daughter, Taylor, and a son, Jacob. Courtney is a full-time homemaker and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.