They are calling from Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Washington, D.C. Clyde White, president of South Shore Bank's church program in Chicago, has been on the phone since May, when the financial institution began gaining a national reputation for saying yes to churches that had repeatedly been turned down for loans.

"There's a need out there that is not being satisfied," White says. "The need for better relationships between financial institutions and churches is greater than even we anticipated."

South Shore Bank has loaned more than $20 million to local churches this year. They have serviced almost 600 congregations. According to White, in poorer neighborhoods most banks cater to the 15 percent of the population that meets criteria for wise investment opportunities. White says South Shore is focusing on the other 85 percent.

"Our mission is to provide the religious community with the financial resources necessary for them to carry out the ordained work of the kingdom of God," White says.

CHURCH LOANS: Vernon Park Church of God has been a South Shore Bank customer for more than 20 years. When its youth program expanded beyond 120 participants and they began turning kids away, pastors Addie L. Wyatt and Claude S. Wyatt, Jr., decided the community needed a family life center. The church turned to South Shore to help with financing.

"They helped us with the original mortgage we took out on the church," says church treasurer Charles E. Sawyer. "They knew we paid that off in 11 years, and that is why it was so easy to get more help from them when we realized we needed $1.2 million to complete the community center instead of our original $600,000 bond."

Sawyer also credits White's sensitivity to the church. "Clyde White understands that you gauge church tithes and giving in a different way than business sales figures," Sawyer says. "Church finances are full of peaks and valleys."

Other congregations say South Shore's church-friendly mentality helped them move forward with projects as well.

"We went to two other banks before South Shore Bank," says Miguel Perez, a minister at Tabernaculo Cristo Es La Victoria in Cicero, Illinois. "South Shore came to us with solutions instead of problems when we were trying to extend daycare and after-school services to meet our families' needs."

"They do seem to be more concerned about how you will impact the community, not just bank business itself," says John Digby, pastor of Progressive Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago's south side. "Most institutions will cover only 70 percent of the cost of construction in a loan, but South Shore gave us 80 percent so we could get started right away."

INDIVIDUAL FINANCE: Besides the loans, South Shore has developed financial stewardship classes that teach individuals how to handle money in a biblical way. Melvonne Lackette of South Holland, Illinois, is a single mother with two boys, 7 and 12. Lackette took a course through South Shore that encourages savings by matching every dollar each participant puts away.

"The courses came at a time in my life when I couldn't figure out how to put something aside for me and my children," Lackette says. "They taught me how to step back and re-evaluate where my money was going."

Lackette saved almost $7,000 in the past year. In May, she purchased her first home. "Now I'm teaching my kids to save," she says. "They tithe their allowance, and they save half of what remains."

NATIONAL EXPANSION: South Shore has received awards from groups ranging from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to the Woodstock Institute for pioneering loan programs for community development. White also recently was appointed to the new Economic Education for Clergy board that the Federal Reserve is forming.

"I've been a banker for 30 years and a minister for 22, and it has long been my feeling that something was missing between these two institutions," White says.

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