From left: Victor Burrola, Kenrick Thomas, T.C. Caviness, Donna Greene, Shannon McQueen and Scott Willis pose with a replica of a Wells Fargo check presented to MANNA, Inc. for $50,000. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
From left: Victor Burrola, Kenrick Thomas, T.C. Caviness, Donna Greene, Shannon McQueen and Scott Willis pose with a replica of a Wells Fargo check presented to MANNA, Inc. for $50,000. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

The philanthropic arm of Wells Fargo Bank recently donated $300,000 in grants to six nonprofits in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area for the purpose of supporting efforts to increase African American and Latino homeownership in caravan style.

Donna Greene, vice president of diverse segments and home lending for Wells Fargo, was joined by colleagues Victor Burrola, senior community impact and sustainability specialist and Kenrick Thomas, senior communications consultant for the Atlantic region that covers the District, Maryland and Virginia as they traveled to the home offices of the nonprofits in the District, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties to deliver a check replica of the $50,000 each received on behalf of the bank’s foundation on June 30.

“Wells Fargo has a commitment to serve underserved communities,” Greene said. “Using mortgage housing, we want to close the gaps of disparity of wealth with paths to homeownership. These six $50,000 grants will make a difference in those organizations dedicated to expanding homeownership.”

The Wells Fargo Foundation donated the funds to the nonprofits during June, known as National Homeownership Month. The recipients are U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved nonprofit housing counseling organizations. With the financial support of Wells Fargo, the six organizations are projected to aid over 1,000 households interested in homeownership and 150 of them are slated to become new homeowners. Wells Fargo officials reported that 77% of the households assisted are Black, 18% Latino and 90% are from the low-to-moderate income range.

The Caravan

The first nonprofit to receive their $50,000 grant was Housing Options and Planning Enterprises (H.O.P.E.) located in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Donna Hurley, the president, and CEO of H.O.P.E., was pleased to receive the grant.

“This $50,000 will be essential to our operation,” Hurley, 67, said. “It will go to the livelihood of the organization by providing funds for overhead and salary and helping to keep our team in place.”

H.O.P.E. offers a wide range of services for its clients from housing counseling to aiding seniors to age in place in their homes. Hurley said she hopes the Wells Fargo grant will encourage other banks to support them, also. 

From Oxon Hill, the Wells Fargo officials went to the office of University Legal Services (ULS) in Northeast, a block east of Union Station. Jane M. Brown, ULS’s executive director, greeted the officials and thanked them for the grant.

“This money will help us embrace our housing counseling services for first time homebuyers in D.C.,” Brown, 63, said. “It will also be used to help assist tenants in buying their buildings that are up for sale.”

The bank officials left Northeast to travel back to Prince George’s County to Centro de Apoyo Familiar (CAF) in Riverdale, Maryland. CAF primarily assists Latino and immigrant families purchase homes and work to prevent foreclosures. Walkira Pool, the president and founder of CAF, said her organization is no stranger to Wells Fargo.

“Wells Fargo was our first funder,” Pool, 47, said of her founding in 2009.

In addition to housing and foreclosure prevention counseling, Pool said she will use the grant to educate her clients on good financial management techniques ultimately leading to homeownership.

“In our program, we walk you through the homebuying process and if you stick with us, you will own a home in two years,” she said.

 The caravan stayed in Prince George’s County, venturing west to the offices of the Housing Initiative Partnership Inc., (HIP) in Hyattsville, Maryland. HIP has offices in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties and offers homebuyer education, foreclosure prevention and financial capacity to its clients. Maryanne Dillon, HIP’s executive director, said the grant will be used to support primarily the housing counseling program.

“We operate on a $2 million budget,” Dillon, 71, said. “We need resources to pay for what we do. The good thing about the Wells Fargo grant is that it is unrestricted money, and we can use it as we see fit.”

Dillon echoed the concerns of the nonprofit leaders, saying Wells Fargo’s support comes as funding from the public sector becomes questionable.

“It is really important that corporate America steps up,” she said. “Government support comes and goes so we need multiple sources to continue our work.”

The Wells Fargo group left Prince George’s County to go into the District on Eastern Avenue in Northwest to the offices of Manna Homes. Manna has been widely credited for creating the concept of the homebuying club decades ago, where people assembled on a regular basis to discuss the process.

Scott Willis, the chief operating officer of Manna, said the Wells Fargo grant will be used for its home ownership programs.

“We will use it to fund the Home Ownership Center,” Willis, 55, said. “We help people with their full cycle journey experience. Our goal is to turn renters into homeowners.”

The last stop on the caravan was the offices of First Home Alliance, Inc., (FHA) in Rockville, Maryland in Montgomery County. FHA has offices in Virginia, Maryland and Chicago and specializes in assisting military veterans find permanent housing.

“We will use the grant to continue our outreach and increase our social media presence,” said Larry Laws, founder, and president of FHA. “Also, the money will help us to develop more programs. I thank Wells Fargo for this grant because it says a lot when a major bank backs you.”

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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