Ebenezer Church believes its financial situation was misrepresented in a Reuters story earlier this year. This is part two of AFRO coverage about the mischaracterization.

When the perfect storm of economic disaster and real estate collapse happened, citizens, businesses and financial institutions were all searching for answers and assistance. Local communities and churches weren’t spared in the carnage.

While Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, Md., fared better than most, its surrounding community wasn’t so fortunate. Prince George’s County was one of the hardest hit communities in the country when the mortgage crisis topped out.

Some of the hardship was felt at Ebenezer, particularly after a mortgage forbearance agreement was arranged with former lender, Bank of America. However, Bank of America allowed Ebenezer to search for a new lender and it found Industrial Bank.

“We are very excited because the terms that Industrial Bank gave us are better than the terms we had with Bank of America,” the Rev. Grainger Browning, senior pastor at Ebenezer, told the AFRO. “We are excited about this partnership.”

In Industrial, Ebenezer not only found a new lender, but a partner to serve its membership in financial management.

Industrial will hold seminars on mortgage foreclosure prevention and intervention, investment products for college and retirement savings, qualifying for loans and maintaining good credit.

“From the older folks to the young students, we help them to understand how to manage personal finances,” Ramone Palmer, marketing director for Industrial Bank, told the AFRO recently. “The schools may teach economic theory. However, they don’t go into detail as to how to manage your financial house.”

Industrial recognizes that many Ebenezer members are not bank customers. However, Tina Carter, vice president of the bank’s commercial real estate loan department, said their goal is to prevent another financial disaster.

“It is very important for Industrial Bank to get this information out,” said Carter. “A lot of people don’t seem to be aware that community banks are here to meet those needs. When they got their mortgage loans they went to some of the larger financial institutions and some other mortgage companies without seeking the assistance of the community banks which did not have many of those predatory products.”

While community outreach is one of the bank’s fundamental values, officials say they hope more Ebenezer members will develop personal relationships with Industrial.

“As an officer at Industrial Bank, you are required to go out and participate in promoting financial literacy,” said Palmer. “That goes from older folks, to the young students and kids in elementary school. We want to make sure that our community is vibrant, it thrives and is educated such that it can realize its dreams.”

For that reason, Browning believes it has found the right teammate to tackle these difficult economic times. “The mission of Industrial Bank and Ebenezer are the same and that’s economic empowerment and better financial literacy in Black communities,” said Browning. “Especially, during these economic times we’re glad we’re with someone who has the same goals.”


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO