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NORCROSS, Ga. – Twenty-two years ago, Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church was the place of worship for 200 members. Today, the church boasts more than 17,000 members, has reinvested in the community through start-up businesses, including bolstering savings here through its newly-opened credit union. The City of Hope Credit Union officially opened its doors for business Aug. 18 at a grand opening ceremony attended by more than 100 church, state and federal officials including those from NCUA and the Georgia Central Credit Union, the state’s corporate. Greg Moore, president/CEO of Georgia Central Credit Union was just one of many who attended City of Hope’s ceremony, saying the new institution is a clear reminder of the movement’s philosophy. “The opening of a new credit union further heightens the excitement of being a part of such a dynamic movement, where people come together to meet and serve a need,” Moore said. “We are really looking forward to having a new member to serve as well.” “At one point, years ago, we didn’t have a sense of community, there weren’t a lot of businesses here,” said William Sheals, pastor of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church. “As we continue to strive forward, we are attempting to turn around the stigma that a faith-based credit union can’t be successful.” The federally chartered credit union will serve members of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, the City of Hope Community Development Corp., employees of the Hopewell Christian Academy and their immediate families. Since receiving its charter in May and a soft launch among board members in July, more than 150 members have opened share accounts, the credit union’s first product offering. By mid-September, the credit union plans to have an ATM, direct deposit, money orders and travelers’ checks. Signature loans will be available by October and car loans in January. By 2005, the credit union is expected to offer a complete array of products and services, said Sheals said. Tametha Hughes was hired in July as the manager of the credit union and said the emphasis is on savings and wealth-building. “The lending process can be successful and we can do business in a practical manner,” Hughes said. “Once we have the financial knowledge, we can move on to the next step.” Talk of a credit union has been on the “back burner” for some time but after a Sunday-service survey was distributed to the church’s congregation, more than 80% said they would open a checking account there. The church is located 20 miles north of Atlanta and its congregation come from as far away as a 50-mile radius, Sheals said. The past two years have been spent assembling a team to put the credit union concept on paper, writing a business plan and securing initial capital. The credit union is just the latest slice of economic development the church has ventured into. Since 2000, the Christianomics Mall – a name that combines “Christian” and “economics” – has been the foundation for a number of church-owned business ventures including a pre-K through eighth grade school, restaurant, barber shop, beauty salon, bookstore, fitness center and senior citizens’ center. Construction for a middle and high school are well underway and is expected to be completed by next fall. A career and small business training center will also open soon. The mall is more than impressive considering the 30-acre complex was previously a junkyard. Meanwhile, the credit union joins a growing list of faith-based credit unions in the state. Of the 219 CUs in Georgia, nine are faith-based credit unions, according to the Georgia Credit Union League. -

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