Operation Hope works to disrupt poverty and empower inclusion for low and moderate-income youth and adults.
With the focus on financial dignity and inclusion, the organization equips young people and adults with the financial tools and education to lay the foundation for a better future. Trained Operation Hope coaches guide participants through their personal aspirations and life’s challenges, and facilitates their journey to financial independence.
Joy Easterling, an Operation Hope financial-wellness coach, faced her own financial hurdles.
At one point in her life, as a single mom trying to get through college, she had no idea how a credit score could affect her future choices or the implications of credit card debt. As Easterling learned how to work with her own finances, she felt more confident and in control of her money and her life. Now she is passionate about helping others make better decisions about their money.
Easterling said she understands how guarded people are about their finances. She shares her story with them and says that when a person or a family begins to trust her, they can work together to create a road map toward financial independence.
There’s a big need for Operation Hope’s services in our community. About 57,000 Greensboro residents — including 1 of every 4 children — live in poverty, according the local chapter of the United Way. The federal government defines poverty as a family of four earning $24,600 per year. Many four-member households in our community need to earn around $60,000 to meet basic needs without subsidized assistance, according to local self-sufficiency standards.
Gin Reid Hall is the director at Partnership Village on Greenbriar Street in Greensboro, which provides transitional housing for formerly homeless people. Operation Hope’s financial coaching helps households qualify for conventional housing.
“Operation Hope is committed to working with residents to work through budget challenges, particularly related, but certainly not limited to, credit repair,” Hall said.
When Lanier Warner moved into Partnership Village in 2018, his credit score was low and creditors were trailing him.
“I had nowhere to go and had no idea what to do about my financial situation.” Warner said.
Larry King, a case manager at Partnership Village, suggested he make an appointment with Easterling from Operation Hope to create a plan of action.
Warner said he came to the first appointment with a pile of bills and statements. Together, Warner and Easterling created a step-by-step process to move toward financial wellness. Easterling showed him how to call creditors and negotiate a new payment plan, and he did this for many months.
As he saw his credit score go up, Warner became motivated to keep going. Just last month, Warner got his new credit score of 663 and said that without the help and accountability of his Operation Hope coach, this would have been almost impossible to do on his own.
Easterling starts the financial-wellness program by asking the client “to write down everything” so that the person has a clearer idea of what money is coming in and what is going out. She helps people look at their income and expenses with new eyes. Then she shows them how to create a realistic budget. She teaches them about automatic payments and other online banking tools.
“I share with them my mistakes and keep it real with them so they can feel comfortable with the process,” she said.
Operation Hope connects the legacy of the Freedman’s Bank, established by President Abraham Lincoln more than 150 years ago to integrate all Americans into our nation’s economic life, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s advocacy for equity of opportunity for all.
Operation Hope’s Project 5117, a multiyear, four-pronged approach to combating economic inequality, aims to improve financial literacy, increase business role models and business internships for youth in underserved communities, and stabilize the American dream by boosting people’s credit scores.
Warner said he now has the potential to buy a small house, his dream for many years.
He recently paid off his car and can’t wait until that information “hits” and improves his credit score.
“I encourage anyone to call Operation Hope and get on the right track with their money,” Warner said. “I am blessed to be where I am today.”