On January 23rd, 2014, in Birmingham, Alabama, I was proud to stand with new friends Grayson Hall, CEO of Regions Bank, the only Fortune 500 company in the state of Alabama, and Johnny Johns, CEO of Protective Life Insurance, one of the largest insurance companies in the southern states, as we announced the first HOPE Inside location in and for Birmingham, Alabama.  

Our broader work of Operation HOPE, Alabama within the state is presently supported by Regions Bank, Protective Life Insurance Co., and the federal government through the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Our first HOPE Inside, Birmingham, located within the Five Points South location, is sponsored by and located within Regions Bank. The HOPE Inside model is an important part of our Project 5117 national initiative. It is my sincere hope that this first location in Bimingham actually represents the first of many more to come.  And I am told by my team that our efforts there are already producing results.


Already, we have launched the framework for our HOPE Alabama board of directors, which will be chaired by my friend Rick Swagler, executive vice president of Regions Bank. Internal support from Rick Swagler and friend Lajuana Bradford, senior vice president of Regions Bank, is the reason we have such strong backing from the bank as we roll out this localized version of our nation vision. A special thank you to both of them. Additionally, Art Faulkner, emergency manager for the Governor and the State of Alabama, will serve as our vice chairman for the new HOPE Alabama board of directors.  

Importantly, it was Birmingham Mayor William Bell who first invited me and Operation HOPE to roll-out our work in his city.  Glad he did, and honored we are now doing just that.  Without the mayor's original invitation, we would not be in the city.  The mayor and HOPE will remain strongly connected as partners moving forward.

Soon, we will stand up Alabama 2020 and Birmingham 2020, our 'actionable' initiative which will plant, seed, feed and soil our work on the ground in the region. All the boards will ultimately include a broad, rich and diverse group of recognized leaders and leadership from the area; including stakeholders from the private sector, government, community and faith.

I had an opportunity to tour the local area following our partnership announcement, and was most impressed with the future potential of the Woodlawn community, and specifically, some of the efforts underway with Sally Mackin and the Woodlawn Foundation there.  In order for Birmingham to rise, communities such as Woodlawn must rise also.  Most importantly for me, Sally and her backers seem to clearly understand this.

Within our first HOPE Inside location in Five Points, which will include a satellite operation serving the Woodlawn community, we will provide HUD approved mortgage counseling services, mortgage mitigation services, new home ownership counseling and funding support, small business and entrepreneurship counseling, training and funding support, certification and funding assistance for EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit), and a range of additional financial and economic empowerment support services, all leading to one goal: HOPE 700 Credit Score Communities.

Going forward, I see HOPE Inside, HOPE Inside Plus, and our HOPE Business In A Box Academies playing very important roles in the region. One step at a time.

Hope is on the move. And now, it is on the move in Alabama too.  View our journey in and for Operation HOPE Alabama in photos and images here.  As our work continues in the state, more images will be added.

Let's go.

John Hope Bryant is the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and is the only 2010-2012 bestselling business author in America who is also African-American. His newest book, due out May, 2014, is HOW THE POOR CAN SAVE CAPITALISM, and will be published byBerrett Koehler Publishing).

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