Everence joining Philly neighborhood
Financial services office is about to open
Philadelphia is home to Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Eagles, Phillies, 76ers and Flyers, and cheesesteaks.
The nation’s sixth-most-populous city also soon will be home to an Everence® office that will offer services designed to help people reach their financial goals.
The Philadelphia center is part of a commitment to “grow who, how and where we serve,” said Everence President and CEO Ken Hochstetler, drawing from a 2020 strategic plan.
Placing offices and staff in a city of 1.6 million people is new territory for a company that’s more accustomed to rural areas and small cities and towns.
But as Hochstetler said, “Increasingly, the next generation of the people and churches we look to serve are in urban settings, so going where the people are means going to the city.”
“This does not change our core mission,” said Hochstetler. “We’re doing what we’ve always done – helping more people make financial decisions based on their faith and values.”
Addressing a need
The new Everence office is about to open in a low- and moderate-income neighborhood in North Philadelphia.
Everence is moving into the neighborhood, known as Kensington, because residents need the services Everence offers, Hochstetler said.
The neighborhood is like many others in metropolitan areas that banks often don’t serve well, said Bill Hartman, J.D., Everence Vice President of Organizational and Congregational Services. (Check out The Unbanking of America by Lisa Servon.)
“There are growing churches and growing communities in the urban centers, and in many cases, those communities are underserved,” Hartman said.
For Everence, then, “Banking is our entry point,” said Leonard Dow, Stewardship and Development Specialist for Everence in Philadelphia. “We’re starting to engage folks with financial services – people who’ve been left out of that world.”
Dow said, “The underbanked community can also be underinsured,” so those needs will be addressed too.
Even before the new office opens, some Philly residents – usually because of their church affiliations – knew about the Everence mission of helping people integrate their faith with their financial decisions.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Dow said. “Because of our faith-based focus and our strategy to work in a historically underserved community, we’re already starting to attract people from nonprofits – people in professional positions.”
Valued community partners
The close relationship Everence has with churches gives it an edge that many financial services/credit union companies don’t have.
“We’re positioned far better than some larger, for-profit institutions would be” to start serving a new metropolitan area, Dow said.
He added that it wouldn’t make sense for Everence to jump into a new urban environment strictly on its own. “We didn’t want to enter into a new market with just a storefront – open our shop and pray that people come,” Dow said.
And that’s where a valued partner, Esperanza Health Center – which operates three facilities in Philadelphia – fits into the picture.
The Everence office will be in a former bank building at Kensington and Allegheny avenues. Esperanza, which provides holistic care without regard for economic or social status, is renovating the building.
Although Everence is new to Philadelphia in terms of a physical presence, Dow is not. Before joining Everence in 2017, he served for about 20 years as pastor of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, also on the north side of Philly.
He was a founder of Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association, which launched programs to benefit children and adults.
Dow said an urban office complements the enduring Everence involvement in smaller cities and rural areas.
“We don’t have to just do one or the other – rural or urban,” he said. “I think we can do both. We’ll keep maturing and be of excellent service to our existing members, but we can broaden that.”
Compelled by the love of God
Esperanza Health Center’s mission is: Compelled by the love of God in Christ Jesus, in cooperation with the Church and others, Esperanza Health Center is a multi-cultural ministry providing holistic health care to the Latino and underserved communities of Philadelphia.
Everence has been a neighbor of another Esperanza Health Canter since spring 2018, when Everence opened an administrative office in the Hunting Park neighborhood. That’s 3 miles northwest of the new Kensington neighborhood office.
Working cooperatively with churches and Esperanza is vital to what Everence is doing in Philadelphia, said Natalie Martinez, M.Div., Stewardship Consultant.
Martinez helped present a financial wellness course with Esperanza last spring. Topics included budgeting, retirement planning and goal setting. Stewardship Consultant Randy Nyce of the Everence office in Souderton also helped with the course.
“Our association with Esperanza provides opportunities for us to engage with different groups,” Martinez said.
Building relationships, spreading the word
Martinez and others have been building relationships with Philadelphia churches too, some of which haven’t had a historical connection to Everence.
She said, “We’ve done presentations at churches, had one-on-one meetings with pastors” to talk about mortgages, car loans and other topics.
“The word is spreading” about Everence, Martinez said. “We’ve heard feedback that a lot of college students are talking about us. We’ve been talking with schools and nonprofits.” Philadelphia is home to the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and several other universities and colleges.
Bryant Keal, Community Development Officer for Everence Federal Credit Union in Philly, has been talking with people about their lending needs. “I’m excited about it,” Keal said. “We’re building relationships within the community.”
Keal also has been making contacts with members of the Millennial generation. “I’ve been connecting with Millennials in local organizations, churches, youth pastors, community and civic groups, community development corporations – a lot of those are run by Millennials.”
Diversity inside, as well as outside
Diversity is an internal as well as an external emphasis at Everence, Hochstetler said. The first priority of the 2020 strategic plan is “to be an employer of choice with a workforce that reflects growing diversity.”
Hochstetler said, “If we, as Everence, want to serve a more diverse body of people well, we’re also going to need to learn and change, and become more diverse.”
As Dow says, “We’re broadening who we are.” The effort to make the Everence workforce more representative of the communities it serves can be seen in Philadelphia.
“That’s also impacting Everence – the people we hire, not just the people we serve,” Dow said.
“We’re hiring more bilingual people,” he said, which benefits Everence everywhere – not just Philly
Philly’s proximity to strong Everence markets in Souderton and Central Penn also makes the city a logical place to do business, Hochstetler said.
Hartman said the commitment to helping people connect their faith with their financial decisions is striking a chord with Philadelphia residents who’ve talked with Everence representatives.
In fact, Hartman said several Philly residents have said, “Where have you guys been? Because it makes so much sense.”
Photography by Matthew Lester. Jim Miller is a writer and editor at Everence and managing editor of Everyday Stewardship.