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April 07 2010

Operation HOPE Breaks Ground on Home for New Financial Literacy and Empowerment Center

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair, Ambassador Andrew Young, Martin Luther King III,
HOPE Founder John Hope Bryant and others usher "silver rights"
to the top of the Atlanta's economic agenda

(ATLANTA) - April 7, 2010 - Operation HOPE, a Los Angeles based nonprofit that has successfully educated more than one million Americans about financial literacy and economic empowerment, broke ground today on the HOPE Financial Literacy Empowerment Center at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

"We are excited to bring the tools of financial literacy and economic empowerment to the cradle of the civil rights movement," said John Hope Bryant, the organization's founder, chairman and CEO. "Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that there was a relationship between civil rights and what I call ‘silver rights.' Simply put, the Silver Rights Movement works to make sure that underserved and low-income Americans have a chance to become a part of our free-market economy."

HOPE's ceremony at Ebenezer Baptist Church brought together leaders from banking, government, the community and clergy to celebrate the years of work and planning for a new financial resource center for Atlanta residents. Speakers included Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chairman Sheila Bair; HOPE Global Spokesman Ambassador Andrew Young; The King Center President and Chief Executive Officer Martin Luther King, III; Ebenezer Baptist Church Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock; SunTrust Bank Mid-Atlantic Banking Group President and Chief Executive Officer C.T. Hill; and Financial Services Roundtable President and Chief Executive officer Steve Bartlett, among others.  Distinguished podium guests included Reverend Bernice King and Ms. Christine King Farris, daughter and sister of Dr. Martin Luther King, respectively.

"For over 123 years, the Ebenezer Baptist Church has been directly engaged in leading the Atlanta community," said Rev. Warnock. "The Operation HOPE Financial Literacy Empowerment Center at the Martin Luther King, Sr. Resource Facility will become another one of those benchmarks. We welcome John Hope Bryant and the Operation HOPE team, who work tirelessly to provide those who feel that they are without power with a renewed vision, a feeling of hope, a sense of self-respect and dignity, and an opportunity to succeed.

The Operation HOPE shovel ceremony and press conference at the future site of the Martin Luther King, Sr. Community Resource Center Complex at Ebenezer Baptist Church, held Wednesday, April 7, attracted a wide cross-section of Atlantans who share HOPE's enthusiasm for financial literacy and economic empowerment. Sponsors for the center include founding signature partner SunTrust Bank, founding major partner Wachovia/Wells Fargo, along with supporting center partners Citizen's Trust Bank, Capitol City Bank, the Financial Services Roundtable and Ebenezer Baptist Church. The FDIC is a national partner with Operation HOPE.

Since its founding, Operation HOPE's mission has been to promote "silver rights" and make free enterprise and capitalism work for the poor, working class and the middle class, too. The nonprofit has raised more than $500 million in its pursuit of educating, assisting and inspiring the next generation of global stakeholders. Last year, HOPE Centers helped clients improve their credit score on average 130 points. The organization has provided credit counseling to thousands, helped raise more than $578 million in loans, invested in 2,651 first time home buyers and business owners and has provided a hand up, not a handout to thousands more.

Operation HOPE's Banking on Our Future program has taught financial literacy to 450,000 schoolchildren, so they'll know better than to seek stifling, high-interest loans from payday lenders. HOPE Coalition America helps prepare people for financial emergencies so they don't have to rely on rent-to-own schemes and check cashers who prey on economically underserved communities. Since its inception, HOPE has provided financial literacy assistance to more than 1.2 million people.

Operation HOPE partners with FDIC-insured banks and other leading financial institutions and major corporations to convert check cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners and entrepreneurs, and helping to lift individuals from the poverty rolls to the payrolls. It helps people learn the importance of economic empowerment for themselves, their families and communities.

"We can't fully enjoy our hard-won civil rights without economic rights," says Bryant. "Our goal is to ensure that every individual has access to the mainstream economy and no communities are locked out or preyed upon. We are doing all we can to eliminate the need for what I call ghettoized financial services, from payday lenders to check cashers to rent-to-own schemes that do little more than keep poor people poor. And there's no better place to teach these life-giving lessons than in the cradle of the civil rights movement."