Charting a community’s course to financial empowerment

Charting a community’s course to financial empowerment

 

It’s not unusual these days for banks to invite their customers to a financial education workshop— Banking 101, if you will. Since 2001, banks have led more than 3 million consumers through a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-created program called Money Smart.

It’s not unusual these days for banks to invite their customers to a financial education workshop— Banking 101, if you will. Since 2001, banks have led more than 3 million consumers through a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-created program called Money Smart.1

Thanks to a relationship with the Detroit-based Arab American and Chaldean Council, Huntington Bank has helped take financial education one step further.

As part of the council’s workforce development and English as a Second Language programs, Huntington has shared Money Smart and financial literacy’s building blocks with people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to them. It might be a single mother from Yemen learning to manage a family budget, a couple from Sudan understanding how to save toward their first home or a man from Somalia learning to balance a checkbook.

“These were people new to the U.S.,” said Renee Williams, vice president, community development, Michigan market manager. “We were excited … to help them make a new start, a new beginning.”2

The council was launched in 1979 by Haifa Fakhouri, a Jordanian immigrant who came to Detroit with her family in 1968 and eventually earned her Ph.D. in educational sociology. She also served as a former international advisor for the U.N. Fund for Developing Countries, working on issues related to policies and women’s issues. Fakhouri’s organization offered Arab-Americans, many fleeing war-torn homelands due to political instability and living in abject poverty in and around Detroit, essential human services such as health care; counseling; job training and placement; and youth services.3

Since Huntington colleagues joined the council’s staff in leading the financial education classes in 2014, nearly 150 Arabic-speaking students in Detroit and Hamtramck have participated.4

“That’s why it’s such a great partnership,” Williams said of Huntington’s collaboration with the council. “We can not only do what banks typically do, but make sure that it’s getting to different pockets in the community that normally would not be touched.”5

As Huntington colleagues help with the financial education class, Susan Brueckman, senior vice president, regional manager corporate affairs, chief of staff, sits on the council’s board. Many Huntington colleagues volunteer to work with the council in other capacities, such as in its summer and after-school youth programs.

As the need for social services in and around Detroit has grown, the council has expanded, going from one office in 1979 to 40 offices today; the group now extends more than 500,000 services annually.6 The council’s clients extend far beyond Detroit’s Arab-American and Chaldean community; Williams said she can see this by watching people walk into and out of the council’s offices.

“What I love about this organization,” Williams said, “is that it serves the community as a whole. I’m a native Detroiter and was so impressed to see people from all walks of life, all demographics, being helped by the ACC. They definitely reach the entire community.”7

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Founding organizers of the Arab American and Chaldean Council. Today, Huntington partners with the organization to provide financial literacy courses to Arab-American immigrants in Detroit. Photo Credit: Arab American and Chaldean Council

ACC 7 Mile Project Pics

The Arab American and Chaldean Council offers social services and community programs at its Seven Mile campus, and many other locations throughout the Detroit area. Photo Credit: Arab American and Chaldean Council