custody, renewed national attention to a city fraught with economic and racial tensions.
These sobering events are a
reminder of the city’s issues: Baltimore has a high crime rate and
higher unemployment than the
national average – 5.6% versus the
national average of 3.8%, according to the June 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median income
is also lower than the national
average. A 2016 article by the
Baltimore Sun said the city came in
dead last in a CreditCards.com
report that evaluated how well
residents of 25 metropolitan areas
manage their credit.
However, the $63 million Destinations Credit Union in Baltimore
is doing something to change
some of these statistics.
President/CEO Brian Vittek said
Destinations has been working to
improve the credit
scores and financial standings of his
he joined the organization 19 years
ago, but it’s been a
he heard about Operation Hope – a
non-profit organization working
to disrupt poverty and empower
inclusion for low and moderate-income youth and adults, he felt a
renewed sense of optimism.
After getting approval from his
board, Destinations partnered
with Operation Hope to help
credit union members and members of the community get back on
track and stay on track financially.
Through the credit union’s part-
nership with Operation Hope, a
financial well-being coach sits on-
site at the credit union’s Parkville
branch, and provides free credit
and money management educa-
tion and coaching. The program
is available to the entire Greater
Baltimore community, not just
members of Destinations.
“With our official industry mantra of ‘people helping people,’ this is
the work credit unions need to do.
All members and local residents
deserve the opportunity to receive
financial dignity,” Vittek said.
Operation Hope is the brainchild of notable entrepreneur
John Hope Bryant, founder, chairman and CEO of the organization.
Bryant believes financial literacy
is one of the keys to breaking the
cycle of poverty.
Thus far his organization “has
aided over 2. 8 million individu-
als worldwide and directed more
than $2.7 billion in economic
activity for the disenfranchised –
turning check-cashing customers
into banking customers, renters
into homeowners, small busi-
ness dreamers into small busi-
ness owners and minimum wage
workers into living wage con-
sumers,” according to Operation
At Destinations, Yolanda
Hobbs, the financial well-being
coach for Operation Hope, is
helping Destinations members
and community members get
back on track. Hobbs and the
credit union’s onsite collector
work together to identify members in need of financial coaching.
“One of the things people say
is that they felt like they had no
hope. There’s a lot of shame that
comes with having bad credit.
There are a lot of dreams that
aren’t thought about, dreams
are undreamt with bad credit. So
people treat themselves very bad
based on that score, so when they
walk into my office I give them
hope,” Hobbs said.
Hobbs recalled that when clients
come into her office, she always
tries to identify their why or purpose
for wanting to have better credit
and financial well-being. “Just for
the sake of having good credit is a
beautiful why, but for most of the
people I see it’s deeper than that. [It
may be,] ‘I want to be the first one to
own a home in my family. I want to
be the first one to send my children
to college,’” she said. She emphasized that having a purpose gives
clients motivation and something
tangible to work toward.
She helps clients develop a budget to accomplish three main financial goals: Reduce debt, increase
their credit score and increase
savings. Hobbs will often sit down
with clients and contact creditors
to make payment arrangements or
arrange for settlements. She’s also
helped with loan consolidation,
credit report disputes and a variety
of other matters. She does this so
clients can learn and know how to
do it themselves should they need
to in the future.
According to Destinations, in
just the first quarter since open-
ing the HOPE Inside office at the
credit union, Destinations has
seen the following results:
• A client’s home was prevented
from going into foreclosure.
• Clients’ average credit scores
went up by 56 points.
• Savings balances went up an
average of $382.
• Average debt went down by
Hobbs also goes into the com-
munity to teach workshops and
meet with clients. Since January,
she’s taught approximately 222
people via financial education
workshops and has provided one-
on-one financial counseling to 65
She said she enjoys seeing the
snowball effect of helping people.
For example, she helped a woman
who was behind on her mortgage
and car payment. The stress of
her financial situation was mak-
ing her physically ill. Hobbs sat
down with the woman to help her
develop a budget and payment
cycle for each of her bills. Through
the coaching Hobbs provided, the
woman was able to get current on
her payments and even put some
money in savings. In turn, the
woman’s health has improved and
her blood pressure is lower. Now
the woman wants Hobbs to come
to her church to provide quarterly
financial education workshops so
others can get the help she did.
“Think of the difference our pro-
grams make in people’s lives as
they improve their FICO scores by
100 points or more, think about the
impact on families and communi-
ties as more people and more local
businesses succeed … We are proud
to partner with Destinations Credit
Union to bring meaningful impact
to the residents of this community
and beyond,” Bryant emphasized.
Baltimore has character, history and a dynamic story to tell.
Through the partnership with Operation Hope and Destinations,
these two organizations are aiming to tell a story of how they renewed hope and improved credit
scores in Charm City. n
CONT. FROM PAGE 1
Y Destinations CU partnered with Operation
Hope to help CU and community members
get back on track financially.
Y A financial well-being coach sits onsite at
the CU’s Parkville branch, and provides free
credit and money management education
Y The well-being coach and the CU’s onsite
collector work together to identify members
in need of financial coaching.
Ribbon cutting ceremony for the HOPE Inside office at Destinations CU in
From left, Rodney Hood, chairman of the NCUA; John Hope Bryant,
founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE; Brian Vittek, president/
CEO of Destinations CU and John Bratsakis, president of the MD & DC
Credit Union Association.