The African American Credit Union Coalition has presented its Pete Crear Lifetime Achievement Award for 2017 to Bill Bynum, CEO of Hope Federal Credit Union, a $238 million institution based in Jackson, Miss.

A release from the credit union noted that Bynum has fought against “entrenched poverty and pursued economic equity and justice” for more than thirty years. The award comes in recognition of Bynum having “provided assistance to credit unions in need” and having “impacted the infrastructure, growth, regulation or service delivery capacity of the financial institutions.”

Bynum’s actions, the credit union explained, 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.”

Bynum has operated through a number of related entities, the Hope Enterprise Corp., the aforementioned credit union; and the Hope Policy Institute, which are collectively known as “HOPE.”

HOPE began in 1994 as the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta with a fund designed to provide capital and technical assistance to businesses in the poverty-stricken Mississippi Delta region. Around that 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.

By 2001 ECD became the credit union’s primary sponsor.

HOPE has since grown into a $300 million community development financial institution with more than 38,500 members, providing more than $406 million in business loans.

Bill Bynum, center, CEO of Hope Credit Union, holding the Pete Crear Lifetime Achievement Award from the African-American Credit Union Coalition. Bynum is pictured alongside AACUC's board.
Bill Bynum, center, CEO of Hope Credit Union, holding the Pete Crear Lifetime Achievement Award from the African-American Credit Union Coalition. Bynum is pictured alongside AACUC's board. Photo by Carol Payne, California and Nevada CU Leagues

Moreover, since 2007, HOPE has provided more than $163.3 million in mortgage loans and has also 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,” Bynum said in a statement. “HOPE fills the gap."

Bynum added that for some people, 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 contrast to many other financial institutions which served poor areas across the country, HOPE has actually been growing. 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, the credit union said.

HOPE also played a 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 by the hurricane, HOPE responded by launching a financial recovery counseling program that benefitted nearly 9,000 residents.

Prior to joining HOPE, 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.

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. It later grew it into the largest micro enterprise loan fund in the U.S.

In 2016 Bynum received the Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement from the National Credit Union Foundation.

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