Dsc_0015Meetings and Visit to Red Cross Recovery Centers Further Project Restore HOPE’s Objectives

BATON ROUGE, La.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Oct. 31, 2005– Operation HOPE Founder and CEO John Bryant and Ambassador Andrew Young traveled to Louisiana last week to meet with and advise the governor and other key officials, tour areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and discuss a plan to incorporate local communities, government, businesses and organizations into the national economic recovery initiative for hurricane survivors — Project Restore HOPE.

Dsc_0001Bryant and Young met with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco in Baton Rouge on Monday to offer Project Restore HOPE as a second phase of recovery solution for the devastation from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The initiative, created by Operation HOPE’s economic emergency response division — and FEMA partner — HOPE Coalition America (HCA), provides disaster survivors with free financial counseling facilitating their return to normalcy. Bryant provided Blanco historical perspective and strategies for mid- to long-term "economic triage" for helping survivors recoup equity lost in property, other assets, and housing as well as their return to work. Bryant also cited that more than 2,200 survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have already received help from Project Restore HOPE.

Governor Blanco encouraged Bryant to work with her staff and the newly created Louisiana Recovery Authority — the governor’s relief effort for hurricane victims — to secure ways to make HCA services available to residents. Also attending the meeting from Operation HOPE were HOPE Coalition America Managing Director Fred Smith and Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jena Roscoe.

"We know that many of our families are facing tough economic hardships. Living through a catastrophic disaster is bad enough. Dealing with a financial disaster complicates things even more. Tens of thousands have lost their homes, their jobs, and their communities. I am encouraged that Operation HOPE under the leadership of Ambassador Young and John Bryant will help bring financial recovery to the survivors," said Governor Blanco. "It’s only through one-on-one counseling with financial advisors that people will start to return to financial wholeness."

Following the meeting, Young and Bryant met with key Louisiana businessmen to generate possible volunteers for HCA and expand Project Restore HOPE services at a luncheon hosted by Rolfe McCollister, chairman publisher of the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report. HOPE representatives were introduced to Peter Gwaltney, CEO of the Louisiana Bankers Association, Dan Digby and Buck Moyse from the Community Bankers of Louisiana and Don Powers from Representative Richard Baker’s office amongst others, who expressed keen interest in building strategic relationships.

Later that day, the American Red Cross CEO Vic Howell provided the group with a tour. Bryant visited the ARC shelter in the City of Baker, and a FEMA mobile home park where they also met with City of Baker Mayor Harold M. Rideau. The ARC Louisiana Capital Area Chapter has processed the majority of Katrina affected residents in the state and is the largest temporary settlement in Louisiana for people displaced by Katrina.

The trip was a part of HOPE’s efforts to strengthen its delivery of services and awareness campaign for Project Restore HOPE in areas most damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Bryant and HOPE vow to return to the state with expansive implementation plans and a commitment of services announcement in November.

About HOPE Coalition America

As a partner with FEMA, HOPE Coalition America — HOPE’s economic emergency preparedness and recovery division — represents the type of organization that will be integral in these rebuilding efforts. Project Restore HOPE was created to provide free financial counseling and resources, economic assistance and budgeting advice necessary to facilitate the reconstruction and recovery of hurricane victims. The program uses one-on-one counseling in disaster-affected communities, at FEMA disaster recovery centers, online and over the phone from call centers.

About Operation HOPE, Inc.

Operation HOPE, Inc. (HOPE) is America’s first nonprofit social investment bank and a national provider of financial literacy and economic empowerment programs. Through ongoing collaborations and long-term partnerships with leading government, private sector, and community interests, HOPE works to bring self-sufficiency and a sustained spirit of revitalization to America’s inner-city communities. At the core of HOPE’s mission to eradicate poverty and empower the wealthless is a movement to establish "silver rights" or the right to financial literacy, access to capital, and equality of opportunity for the underserved. Three key initiatives work to fulfill HOPE’s goals: Banking on Our Future, HOPE Coalition America (HCA) and HOPE Centers.

HOPE Centers are responsible for more than 800 new homeowners and small business owners, over $125 million in funded loans, and an excess of $240 million in commitments for homeownership and small business loans. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and a network of private and community partners, HOPE Coalition America is HOPE’s disaster recovery and financial reconstruction pre- and post-emergency division. It has provided free financial counseling and casework services to Americans affected by natural disasters and national emergencies in 125 cities in 35 states to date. HOPE’s financial literacy program BOOF, winner of Oprah’s Angel Network Award, teaches money management basics to students nationwide through classrooms and online. Taken together, these programs make HOPE the national leader in economic empowerment tools and services for the under-served in America. HOPE and its programs can be found online at www.operationhope.org, www.bankingonourfuture.org, and www.hopecoalitionamerica.org.

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