fifth third to roll mobile bank into underserved communities

Fifth Third Bank wants Northeast Ohioans who might be anxious about walking into a financial institution to get on the bus.

The bank has partnered with local community organizations to bring the Financial Empowerment Mobile, or eBus, to nine locations in the region from June 19 to June 29. The eBus is a rolling classroom providing credit counseling, financial literacy, home ownership assistance, and access to banking services directly to where people live, says Rob Soroka, retail executive at Fifth Third.

"People coming on the bus are struggling with their finances," says Soroka. "This is a place where they can get unbiased advice and direction to improve their financial life."

The mobile classroom is equipped with computer terminals for instructor-led or self-directed home ownership and credit counseling programs. Fifth Third community development officers, mortgage professionals and retail banking staff will be riding along to offer financial advice in a relaxed atmosphere.

Now in its ninth year, the theme of this year's program is realizing financial dreams, be it owning a house or starting a business, says Laura Passerallo, Fifth Third director of marketing. The eBus venture, which counts the Call & Post Foundation and The Word Church among its partners, will serve upwards of 1,600 people this summer.

Fifth Third will also hold large community events to introduce people to the eBus. A June 28 get-together at the Hispanic Business Center aims to provide a festive atmosphere for folks curious about what the 40-foot-long bank-on-wheels provides.

"People who need help may be intimated to come into a traditional financial center," says Soroka. "With the eBus, that intimidation goes away. That does some good for the community."

SOURCES: Rob Soroka, Laura Passerallo
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
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