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HarborOne multicultural center a model says NCUF
BROCKTON, Mass. (1/30/09)--HarborOne CU’s Multicultural Banking Center had such a productive year in 2008 that the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) said it could be a model for credit unions nationwide to provide social and financial services.
A class of students attend a first-time homeowners workshop at Harbor One CU's Multicultural Banking Center in Brockton, Mass. (Photo provided by HarborOne CU)
NCUF became interested in the concept when the $1.7 billion asset, Brockton, Mass.-based credit union joined NCUF’s REAL Solutions program through the Massachusetts Credit Union League, said Steve Bosack, NCUF deputy director. The center opened in September 2007 in the former headquarters of the credit union in downtown Brockton. It was established to deal with the consequences of subprime mortgage lending and other predatory financial practices. Those most affected were low- and moderate-income residents, minorities and immigrants. The space was converted into two classrooms and a computer lab. Four HarborOne staff members were assigned there. Office space was made available free to non-profits offering complementary services. In September 2008, the NCUF Grants Committee approved a $100,000 Innovation Grant for HarborOne CU, the largest Innovation Grant approved by NCUF that year. The $100,000 will be paid by NCUF to HarborOne CU in installments throughout this year. After the grant expires in January 2010, HarborOne CU will provide a report outlining how it met its goals. The report also will feature personal success stories of people who attended classes and joined the credit union. NCUF will share the report with REAL Solutions league liaisons and the entire credit union movement. In 2008, the center offered six courses in English for Speakers of Other Languages, four in credit counseling, eight in financial literacy--in four languages. Five First-Time Home Buyer Workshops were conducted in four languages. It also offered eleven pre-foreclosure clinics, one for citizenship test preparation and one for computer literacy. A total of 569 students attended the 28 programs. Neighborhood Housing Services, one of the non-profit occupant partners, assisted 991 residents through home buying, foreclosure education and/or closing cost assistance. Through its efforts, Brockton’s rank in statewide foreclosures improved from first to fourth. South Shore Housing Development Corp. helped some residents with rental assistance, and Self Help Inc. provided fuel assistance. The center also received the Massachusetts league’s 2008 Maxwell Award for Social Responsibility. HarborOne also received a fifth consecutive highest “Outstanding” rating from the state Commissioner of Banks for performance under the Community Reinvestment Act. The commissioner’s report praised the credit union for its innovative practices at the center. January has seen these trends continue with new courses quickly filled to capacity. Recently, HarborOne announced that it was collaborating with Self Help Inc. to offer free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance at the center. “The city and the area still have a way to go, but it is gratifying to note the appreciation of these communities for providing these essential services,” said James W. Blake, HarborOne president/CEO. “Education is the great tool to fight financial predators. We want people to realize that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. The more trust we build, the greater the number of referrals we witness to our programs.”
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