Jackson, MS (BlackNews.com) -- HOPE CEO Bill Bynum, who for more than 30 years has fought against entrenched poverty and pursued economic equity and justice in the region that birthed the Civil Rights Movement, is the recipient of the 2017 Pete Crear Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the African American Credit Union Coalition.
The award, which will be presented during a reception on Thursday, Aug. 10, in Raleigh, N.C., recognizes a credit union professional who has demonstrably embraced the credit union philosophy of “people helping people,” provided assistance to credit unions in need and has impacted the infrastructure, growth, regulation or service delivery capacity of the financial institutions.
After growing up in Bynum, N.C., where he witnessed Ku Klux Klan members intimidate black people in a community where many residents eked out a living at a cotton mill, Bynum made a lifelong commitment to changing systems that perpetuate poverty and inequality. Whether he’s presenting testimony to congressional leaders against unfair financial practices or leveraging partnerships to eliminate a community’s food desert or welcoming a 100-year-old black woman as she opens her first bank account, Bynum’s actions are rooted in the belief that solutions to entrenched poverty and economic inequity lie in comprehensive community development, access to affordable financial services and the creation of opportunities for economic self- sufficiency. This mission is accomplished through Hope Enterprise Corporation, Hope Credit Union and the Hope Policy Institute, collectively known as HOPE.
HOPE began in 1994 as the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta with a fund originally designed to provide capital and technical assistance to businesses in the Mississippi Delta region. Around the same time, Bynum was approached by his church pastor to start a credit union for the congregation in response to lenders who preyed on low-income neighborhoods. Recognizing a need to innovate, Bynum worked to bring the two entities together, and in 2001 ECD became the credit union’s primary sponsor. In the two decades since, HOPE has grown into a $300 million community development financial institution with more than 38,500 members, providing more than $406 million in business loans. Since 2007, HOPE has provided more than $163.3 million in mortgage loans. HOPE has financed medical centers, schools and manufacturing facility expansions. Most importantly, these doors were opened in a region where 37 percent of its members were unbanked before they joined HOPE.
“The region we serve has a painful past of racial injustice with vestiges that continue to deny too many people the tools they need for economic mobility. HOPE fills the gap,” Bynum said. “For some, a car loan may not seem significant, but in a persistently poor community, where there is no public transportation, receiving a car loan can help a person keep a job or see a doctor or purchase healthy food. It makes all the difference.”
In the impoverished Delta regions of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and parts of Tennessee, HOPE has touched the lives of more than 1 million people, offering them access to capital to start or expand businesses or to build wealth through homeownership. In the Delta, where the scarcity of resources hampers economic growth, HOPE has invested in the creation of an infrastructure designed to place dying communities on a path to revitalization.
While other financial institutions across the nation are closing in low-income communities, particularly communities of color, HOPE has bucked the trend. In 2015, HOPE completed an expansion into the Mississippi Delta that included the opening of four full service branches in small towns facing significant economic distress. The move immediately expanded access to financial services and served as a catalyst for local engagement and community infrastructure development.
HOPE also played a crucial role in the Hurricane Katrina recovery in New Orleans and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In New Orleans, HOPE opened thousands of accounts that enabled people to access insurance, public and philanthropic support for immediate needs. On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where thousands of homes were destroyed, HOPE responded by launching a financial recovery counseling program that benefitted nearly 9,000 residents.
Prior to his arrival in Mississippi, Bynum was a founding member of Center for Community Self- Help in the 1980s, where he directed legislative relations, community outreach and fundraising in the organization’s early years. He was also the principal organizer of Self-Help Credit Union, which would become the nation’s first statewide development bank. Bynum later founded the North Carolina Microenterprise Loan Fund, a statewide network for providing financing and technical assistance to entrepreneurs who lacked access to capital and grew it into the largest micro enterprise loan fund in the U.S.
Bynum is a member of the US Partnership for Mobility from Poverty, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and serves on the boards of the Aspen Institute, Corporation for Enterprise Development, Fannie Mae Affordable Housing Advisory Council, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. Bynum previously chaired the Treasury Department’s Community Development Advisory Board (as a Presidential appointee), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Consumer Advisory Board.
Among his honors are the Aspen Global Leadership Network John P. McNulty Prize, Credit Union National Association Herb Wegner Award, Opportunity Finance Network Ned Gramlich Award, National Rural Assembly Rural Hero Award, National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions Annie Vamper Award and Ernst & Young/Kauffman Foundation National Entrepreneur of the Year.
HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation, Hope Credit Union and Hope Policy Institute) provides affordable financial services; leverages private, public and philanthropic resources; and engages in policy analysis to fulfill its mission of strengthening communities, building assets, and improving lives in economically distressed parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Since 1994, HOPE has generated over $2 billion in financing that has benefitted more than one million in of the nation’s most impoverished regions. For more details, visit www.hope-ec.org