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Felicia Williams

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Felicia Williams is no stranger to hard work. Managing the operations of a restaurant with locations throughout the Mississippi Delta, she finds herself on the road most days of the week visiting locations, working with employees, and helping to make the business thrive. However, she’s always happiest back home in Greenville, Miss., (pop. 30,686) with her family.

A mother and grandmother, Felicia wanted a home that she and her husband could call their own and that would serve as a family gathering spot for their growing numbers. And even though her credit was an issue, she wasn’t afraid to put in the work to make it a reality.

With poor credit, many prospective homeowners find that the dream of owning a home ends with a brief visit or call to the bank. However, as a community development bank with a mission to help everyone in the community build wealth, Southern Bancorp takes a different approach.

Rather than telling Williams no, Southern Bancorp’s Greenville-based lender Jason Giachelli instead said, “Not yet.”

For several years, Giachelli and Williams worked together to strengthen her credit and prepare for the home buying process.

First, Williams opened a Credit Builder CD, which is designed to help customers build credit through a safe and responsible process. Customers receive a small loan, usually in the amount of $500 or $1000, which is immediately placed into a CD (Certificate of Deposit). They then make regular payments on the loan which are reported to the credit bureaus. Once it has been paid in full, the customer receives the amount they saved as well as the interest accrued on the CD. The process creates a pattern of responsibility for the customer, develops a relationship with the bank, and can improve credit history.

Williams also took part in one-on-one financial counseling with Giachelli to develop a deeper understanding of how asset building and net worth can contribute to a strong financial foundation. Williams now sees her home as more than a place to live; she sees it as an asset to pass down to her children and grandchildren.

In 2018, after putting in the time and effort to prepare herself and her family, Williams and her husband closed on a property large enough to house her growing family—and their growing net worth.