Meet the Banker: Credit Building Workshop | June 2022

Watch the recording!

Are you interested in improving your credit? Do you know your credit score but can’t seem to make it budge? Do you want to learn how to use your credit score to get better rates on loans or other credit products?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, join HFLA of Northeast Ohio for a free, virtual workshop on credit building with our community partners at Citizens Bank. HFLA will bring two credit specialists from Citizens who will walk us through the basics to understanding your credit score all the way through to the complexities around leveraging your credit when applying for future loans or purchasing a car.

What you’ll get: time with an expert, an applied activity, and an opportunity to voice your concerns and questions about personal credit and credit building in a safe environment.

We know how important your credit is and we are here to bring you the resources you need to reach your financial goals. We hope you are able to take advantage of this awesome program that will keep you on track to success!

Thursday, June 30, 2022 || 6:00 p.m.

Virtual, via Zoom, you will receive the link after registering

Meet our Credit Expert!

Kiesha Wilson is a Vice President and Multiple-Site Branch Manager at Citizens. With 25 years in the financial services industry, Kiesha has vast working experience in personal banking, credit cards and home mortgage.

Kiesha loves helping people meet their financial goals by increasing their financial education, confidence and knowledge of financials services that can assist them.

Kiesha is a proud mom of two children, ages 21 and 19.  She enjoys riding her new Peloton and is a diehard Cleveland sports fan.

HFLA Credit Building Loan

HFLA Credit Building Loan

Updated February 17, 2022

Opportunities to build credit are crucial to being able to build wealth and achieve financial freedom. HFLA of Northeast Ohio recognizes that one of the largest obstacles our loan recipients face is a credit score that is deemed ineligible for conventional loans. To address this, HFLA has launched a credit building program to help Northeast Ohioans boost their credit scores and open the door to more financial opportunities in the future.

HFLA is now offering a credit building loan for those seeking to establish a positive payment history. This secured loan is for a non-negotiable $400 that will be paid in 12 equal, monthly installments. The loan dollars will not be disbursed to the borrower upon execution of the loan, but upon completion of repayment. In other words, the borrower will pay HFLA $400 before HFLA will release $400 to the borrower. If for some reason the loan is defaulted on (not paid as agreed), HFLA will return all money paid by the borrower. HFLA cannot guarantee any specific positive credit outcome for the borrower. All things being equal, the only way this loan can positively impact the borrower’s credit profile is for the borrower to make 12 consecutive, on-time payments according to the terms agreed upon in the promissory note.

In order to be eligible to apply, the interested party must first complete financial counseling with one of our partner agencies. More information can be found within the application. 

This tool is different from secured credit cards in that the debtor does not have to come up with the entirety of the credit limit at one time. As this loan is reported as a secured installment loan, it will contribute to the mix of accounts if the borrower also holds a secured or other credit card.

Upon successful completion of the loan, an additional $200 will be issued to the borrower as an emergency seed fund.

Request more information or an application:

(216)-378-9042 Option #1

HFLA Auto Loan Program

HFLA Used Car Loan Program

Updated December 22, 2021

In the face of a volatile used car market, HFLA of Northeast Ohio launches new Auto Loan Program to help Northeast Ohioans make affordable purchases.

HFLA believes that personal vehicles are crucial for an individual’s personal autonomy and ability to maintain financial security and a steady income. With the current state of the new and used car market, auto loans have seen some of the highest spikes in interest rates, causing financial hardship for many in our region, making ownership of transportation nearly impossible. 

To address the increase in used car interest rates, HFLA of Northeast Ohio has developed a sub-type of our Standard Loan to specifically address the purchase of a used car when the interest rate that is accessible is deemed to be burdensome. 

Auto Loan qualifications are the same as any other Standard Loan. The applicant will need to first apply for a traditional auto loan (at their bank, credit union, etc.) and prove that they have no access or that the terms that were offered to them are predatory or excessively burdensome. Applicants must apply with a guarantor. The two most important factors in being approved are the applicant’s ability to afford a loan repayment and evidence that they will meet this obligation based on their credit history and the interview process.

HFLA will offer a higher maximum loan amount of $15,000 and longer loan terms up to 60 months for Auto Loans making loan repayment no more than $250 a month. HFLA often sees car payments of $500-$700 with interest rates at or above 17% with excessive loan terms of 72 months. This can be detrimental to a household’s monthly cash flow and short and long term savings. Additionally, sale prices for used vehicles have been heavily inflated in 2020 and 2021.

HFLA will work closely with applicants to emphasize key information throughout the application process. It is our goal to make sure that a potential borrower is considering the additional costs that come with a car such as: fuel, tires, oil changes, insurance, repairs, etc as part of the projected monthly budget. Other introductory information about vehicle shopping and ownership may also be offered to clients throughout the application process or after approval to aid and benefit first time drivers in particular.

Ideally, HFLA will be able to capture interested applicants early in their search for a vehicle so that they can shop and negotiate with the confidence and readiness of a pre-approval. By applying with HFLA quickly after pursuing traditional financing, the individual’s hard credit inquiries will be less impactful.


This loan is available now. Inquiries can be made by email or phone.

216-378-9042 Option #1

What Does Female Financial Empowerment Look Like?

HFLA & Common Ground

A Conversation about "People, Place, and Shared Power."

What does Female Financial Empowerment Look Like and How Do We Achieve It?

Assistant Director, Carrie Miller

HFLA of Northeast Ohio (HFLA) has been providing interest-free loans to residents in Northeast Ohio who would not otherwise have access to traditional capital for 117 years. We lend to those that are facing short-term financial emergencies (a car repair or utility shut-off, for example), those needing to close the gap on tuition for higher education, or those starting their own business.

In July, HFLA hosted a Common Ground conversation about Female Financial Empowerment as part of the broader theme of “People, Place, and Shared Power.” Several members of the HFLA staff and board had recently watched an early screening of the documentary, $avvy. This film explores the fact that women have abdicated ownership of their finances to other people and why this is happening. This made us re-evaluate our loan history. It shed new light on the fact that the majority of borrowers–current and in recent history–are a majority women. It also got us thinking that we needed to bring our conversation to the broader community. 

As we considered these numbers in the context of $avvy, we began to better understand these numbers in their environmental context.

There were things we already knew: women typically earn less and live longer than men. They are often shepherded into careers with lower earning potential and are often the ones in and out of the workforce to care for children or other family members (hello, 2020). The things we didn’t know, or didn’t immediately consider were (among many other things) that the largest group of women least engaged in their personal financial futures are Millennial women.

Women receive less financial education than their male counterparts and are given social cues that things like investing and finance are not “for them.”

We asked the group of mostly women, what financial empowerment looked like to them and the responses were varied, and led to a robust conversation.

  • It means the daily needs are met. 
  • One is able to plan for the future.
  • Have a vision for the future and act upon it of your own will.
  • Being able to have conversations about money free of shame. 
    • There is the curated, social media picture of how people are doing vs. the reality.
    • The perception of one being financially secure and independent.
    • Being able to ask for help free of shame.
    • For example, it is important to share information about income in order to understand how you are valued as compared to others.
  • Empowerment is also about knowing your finances, being self-sufficient, and independent. 

The conversation that continued from this discussion emphasized the need for us, as a community, to remove the shame associated with financial conversations. In doing so, we are able to find ways to better support women as a community. If we remove the stigma around asking for help–financial or otherwise–we are able to develop creative ways to support each other. The thing I most appreciated about this conversation was the intergenerational aspect. It was interesting to hear about the different experiences of women of different ages and experiences as well as the sharing of sage advice. The other thing that was interesting was the universal sense of community and the desire to continue building on this feeling. HFLA plans to continue this conversation in order to continue building on these feelings and relationships.

Part of this will be hosting smaller conversations over the coming months. We will also be hosting a free screening of $avvy. The message of this documentary is important and we want as many people as possible to see it. Here is the link to the trailer. We hope that you will join us in October. We will also be hosting a panel discussion with the film’s director and local experts. Learn more and register for one, or both events here. In the meantime, please stay tuned as we work with the community to find ways to keep the conversation-and the support-going.

Broadway and Credit Checks?

Credit scores and credit checks hold many back when it comes to fulfilling their “sueñitas” (dreams).

While I was watching In the Heights, the newest Broadway Musical turned movie from Lin-Manuel Miranda, there was one scene in particular that stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t one of the beautifully choreographed dance scenes, which were also heart stopping. It was a scene that gets to the heart of what HFLA of Northeast Ohio does–help people with bad or no credit. Here is a brief synopsis: SPOILER ALERT!

Vanessa is a young Latina woman living in Washington Heights, in New York City. She works at a salon, but dreams of moving downtown and becoming a fashion designer. She sees this move as a way of elevating herself and moving up from her neighborhood which she thinks is holding her back.

When submitting her rental application, she is rejected due to a poor credit check and is told that she would need to apply with a co-signer.

Realtor: Ah, Ms. Morales.

Vanessa: Yes.

Realtor: I’m sorry honey, I meant to call you.

Vanessa: Oh, I’ve got bank checks. First month, last month, and security, good as cash. 

Realtor: It’s just without a solid credit check, there’s not much I can do. Maybe your parents could co-sign, assuming they can prove income 4 times the rent? You know what, get it to me by 5, I’ll see what I can do. 

Despite the fact that Vanessa can prove that she can afford and reliably pay for this apartment, the credit check automatically excludes her from being able to lease the apartment independently. Vanessa does not have any family to ask that could act as a co-signer, and is either too embarrassed to ask someone else or doesn’t think anyone in her community would even be able to co-sign for her.

Seeing this scene unfold is so crucial; it authentically illustrates a real issue that many people face.

As an HFLA staff member, I was shocked to see this plot point in a popular movie, let alone a groundbreaking Broadway musical. We live in a world that does not like to talk about money in a real sense. The narratives we typically see in movies and TV emphasize the character’s poverty and “struggle” more than the systemic barriers that keep them in this cycle and prevent financial growth.

The Difference HFLA Makes

While we do not rent apartments, HFLA of Northeast Ohio has been providing 0% interest loans since 1904. We have never considered a 3-digit credit score as an indicator of an individual’s ability to successfully repay a loan. Instead, we look deeper into the applicant’s repayment history, and more importantly, their current ability to repay a loan based on their income and expenses. We understand the difficulties surrounding building credit. For example, paying rent, utilities and cell phone bills on time does not add to your credit score, but evictions or being sent to collections for not paying bills does. More importantly, we understand the difficulties life can throw at a person, how events and unexpected circumstances can derail one’s dreams and have significant financial consequences.

Though HFLA does not rely on a credit score to determine loan eligibility, we do require that all loan applicants sign with a co-signer or guarantor. HFLA is a non-profit organization that charges 0% interest, we count on the loans we disburse being paid back so that these funds can be recycled and disbursed as new loans to others. For HFLA, co-signers provide security for our funds and lending model. However, we do see first hand how this is a barrier for many, even though we have the same standards for co-signers as we do for borrowers–the credit score alone is not a determining factor.

Co-signers do not have to be family. They can be trusted friends or even community leaders. Co-signers are people who step up, and believe in the dreams of their community. HFLA wants to take a moment to praise and acknowledge all of the co-signers who have stepped up and believed in our loan recipients. All of these individuals did so much more than provide security for HFLA, they played an important role in helping build someone’s personal credit and ability to grow wealth.

HFLA understands that it can be a risk to co-sign for someone, but this risk can uplift, support, and grow one’s community, helping our neighbors achieve their sueñitas.

As the plot of In the Heights unfolds (and I will try to not give too much away) Vanessa’s friend finds her rejected rental application. He takes it to Vanessa’s boss to ask her to co-sign, which she does. This allows Vanessa to live her sueñita, and get her dream apartment downtown.

Our Advice: Know What is in Your Credit Report!

Check out these tips from HFLA Program Director, Brady Gasser.

Find more tips at Nerd Wallet.

1. Know what is in your report and how it affects you.

2. Know immediate actions that you can take.

  • Pay down revolving accounts if possible (i.e. credit cards).
  • Pay off derogatory accounts if possible (i.e. collections, charge-offs).
  • Check for accuracy and report disputes when appropriate.

3. Know what habits you need to instill over the long-term.

  • Make on time payments.
  • Keep overall credit utilization low.
  • Be careful about taking on debt and look for alternatives.

$avvy: Women. Money. Freedom | Fall Event

Women. Money. Freedom.

Even in the earliest months of the pandemic, it was clear that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to wreak havoc on the economy. In April 2020 alone, 20.5 million jobs were lost. What was not anticipated was that 55% of those jobs lost were women. Women of color were hit hardest of all. Unemployment rates for Black women increased to 16.4% and Hispanic women to 20.2%. The numbers have not gotten much better since then, sending women back into precarious financial situations. 

Women in the United States were already financially vulnerable. In addition to the burden the pandemic put on individuals, many women were forced to serve as the caregivers for children or their parents. This put working women in a situation where they were unable to produce an income or were otherwise required to be financially dependent on another.

Persistent gender roles around money leave women particularly exposed. Eight in ten women in the US will be solely responsible for managing their finances at some point in their lives. Yet, 56% of women–61% of millennial women–abdicate major financial decisions to others. Women 65 and older are 80% more likely to be impoverished than men of the same age. Low-income women and women of color face heightened barriers to building and maintaining wealth.

The challenges that women face when it comes to personal finance are troubling. The reasons behind it are varied and often ingrained in society. In addition to being steered into lower-income careers and basic inequities in pay, women are less educated in basic financial management. 

In October 2021, HFLA of Northeast Ohio hosted a virtual screening of the 2021 documentary film, $avvy. $avvy questions why women often take a backseat to managing their money by investigating the historical, cultural, and societal norms around women and money in the United States. The virtual documentary screening for $avvy took place October 10, 2021 and was free for registered guests. Robin Hauser, the film’s director, joined a local panel of women to discuss the economic status of women in Northeast Ohio and how we can improve women’s financial empowerment. 

HFLA of Northeast Ohio’s mission is to provide interest-free loans to promote the economic self-sufficiency and growth of Northeast Ohioans who are unable to access safe and fair lending resources. We provide three loan types: Standard loans to address financial situations that may arise; Business loans to entrepreneurs starting a business; and Education loans to students in Northeast Ohio. Sixty percent of all of our loans go to women, with 70% of all COVID-19 Emergency Loans in 2020 going to women.

In hosting the viewing of this important documentary film, HFLA seeks to bring light to the lack of women’s financial literacy and autonomy and have actionable conversations on how community organizations can work together to strengthen Northeast Ohio women’s financial independence. Please join us for this important conversation. 


Watch the trailer here:

Stream the film! Available from December 1, 2021-December 21, 2021: Whistler Film Festival | $avvy

Get involved, contact us:

Assistant Director:

Development Manager:

Hear Our Stories: 2020 Loan Recipients

Hear Our Stories: 2020 Loan Recipients

Each year we highlight a group of HFLA loan recipients who embody the our mission through their personal story and character. This year, we have highlighted a group of extraordinary women, who through strength, resiliency, and resourcefulness, overcame obstacles and moved closer to achieving their dreams. HFLA is proud to have been a part of their journeys as a resource that provided the support they needed at a pivotal point in each of their lives.

The Carmens

HFLA helped three generations of Latina women on Cleveland’s near west side regain control of their finances. 

After Carmen Vazquez’s husband passed away, her family struggled to adjust to their new financial situation. She, her daughter, and her mother began living together and supporting each other financially.  However, when critical repairs needed to be done to their home, Carmen’s family did not have enough saved to cover the expenses, and they were unable to obtain a bank loan for the repairs. 

HFLA first met Carmen during open office hours at one of our partner organizations, Metro West CDO. Jose Colon of Community Financial Centers was working with her as her financial coach. He suggested that Carmen apply for a small, interest-free loan from HFLA to help consolidate some high-interest credit card debt that accrued after her husband’s passing, which would help her qualify for a home equity loan later on. Carmen and her mother applied for the loan, and her daughter stepped in to guarantee the loan for them.

HFLA’s interest-free loan allowed Carmen to move the credit card debt onto a short term, interest-free repayment schedule. She continued working with her financial coach and developed a very disciplined budget with new strategies to help her stay on top of her finances. Carmen no longer has high-interest credit card debt holding her back from accessing the funds she needs to repair her home and will soon re-apply for a conventional home equity loan through her bank.

Patti McSuley

HFLA helped a breast cancer survivor make a safe space for women battling cancer to feel beautiful.

Patti McSuley had been working as a cosmetologist for only a few years when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Medical bills quickly piled up from her treatment and, like many Americans, Patti filed bankruptcy due to the insurmountable debt. After the experience, Patti began Compassionate Wigs, a wig salon for women going through chemotherapy or hair loss. 

At its start, Patti’s business was a room within a larger salon. She realized that her business would quickly outgrow this space due to the amount of wig inventory needed to serve her clients. As she began to look for a new location for her business to grow within, she also began searching for funding sources. Patti received a small grant from the Youngstown Business Incubator and a low-interest loan from the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation to secure her space and make the necessary renovations.

Unfortunately this funding would not become available for Patti for a few months and she needed capital immediately to make the salon operable and obtain needed inventory. Because of Patti’s previous bankruptcy, she was ineligible for a traditional small business loan. It was at this point that Patti was referred to HFLA by the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation as a way to increase her stock of wigs, wig cleaner, and other specialty products that she needed for her new storefront business.

Today, Patti is the proud owner of Salon 224 in Boardman. She provides traditional salon services and operates Compassionate Wigs out of the salon in a private room large enough for women to come in with their own support team as they work with Patti to choose and style their wig. HFLA’s loan helped Patti achieve her dream of making each woman look and feel her best during cancer treatment,

Chika Morkah

HFLA was able to help an international student achieve her educational goals. 

Chika Morka is an international student from Nigeria who came to the U.S in the Spring of 2016 to further her studies at Cleveland State University. After her arrival, changes in laws made it impossible for her to receive money from her home in Nigeria, stranding her one semester away from graduation with no way to pay her tuition. Chika was introduced to HFLA by a classmate who had received an HFLA education loan previously. This education loan allowed Chika to not only pay for her tuition and register for her last semester for her at CSU, but allowed her to remain in the U.S. on her student Visa. Without this funding, Chika would not have been registered for classes and would have been forced to return home as she would have been out of compliance with her Visa.

Chika finished her Master’s of both Psychology and Diversity & Inclusion Management in Spring 2020, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Global Leadership and Change.

I was ecstatic when I received my education loan. I was worried that I wouldn’t qualify because I am an international student, but I was relieved and grateful. It was a life-changing moment for me. I have been spreading the news in my own little way to tell people about the positive impact an organization like HFLA is having in the Northeast Ohio community.” – Chika

DeLane Anthony-Loggins

HFLA helped a small business stay on track during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

DeLane Anthony-Loggins is an MBA graduate, licensed esthetician and the small business owner of The Wax Bar originally located in Woodmere Village.  She opened The Wax Bar and Beauty by LA at 25 years old. Through hard work, she has built her business to nearly 3,000 clients over 6 years.

In March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the state of Ohio mandated closures of “non-essential” businesses, including salons and spas, DeLane was forced to close. It could not have come at a worse time–she was in the middle of planning her salon’s expansion and relocation.  DeLane began the process of expanding her salon several years ago. The abrupt and indefinite closure of her business left her at a crossroads: should she move forward with her expansion plans or put her dream on hold? DeLane initially decided to put the move on hold.  Fortunately, a few weeks later, the landlord of the storefront where DeLane wanted to relocate the business sent her information on HFLA’s interest-free loan. 

DeLane’s Small Business Emergency Loan allowed her to order PPE and supplies to prepare herself and her business for reopening. This interest-free loan also allowed her to move forward with her plans to move and expand her business. “There’s always a silver-lining, even when you least expect it.  HFLA during the pandemic was my silver-lining.” – DeLane

Avoiding Financial Scams During COVID-19

Avoiding Financial Scams During the COVID-19 Pandemic

We are all trying to navigate a “new normal” in our daily lives. It has been inspiring to see how many individuals, small businesses, and families are coming together to lift up their community and strive to make a difference in the lives of those who are facing difficulties. 

Yet, despite this new “distant” community connection, we must still be wary of scams that try to take advantage of the vulnerability and generosity that we see today.

We have some basic tips to keep yourself safe from scammers during these times.

3 Essential Rules:

  1. Do not give your Social Security number, any bank account numbers, or credit/debit card numbers to someone over the phone. You have no way of guaranteeing the identity of whoever is on the other line. 
  2. If someone solicits you for something that you’ve “won,” an investment opportunity, or a “limited time offer,” walk away. If it seems too good to be true, IT IS
  3. If you are looking at financing or loan options, look for the Truth in Lending Act within the loan documents. If you are unable to find reasonable interest rates on a personal loan, contact HFLA of Northeast Ohio.

From the Ohio Department of Health: 

  • Robocalls – Never provide personal information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers, or credit card numbers to automated messages. If you think that the message is legitimate, call the organization via a local branch number and speak to a representative. 
  • Emails from the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Legitimate information is available from the CDC via and from the Ohio Department of Health at
  • Federal stimulus checks – Updates can be found on the Federal Trade Commission website: – You WILL NOT need to pay money in order to receive your stimulus check, you WILL NOT need to provide social security numbers, bank account numbers, or credit card numbers. DO NOT GIVE THIS INFORMATION OUT.
  • Research charities before donating (that includes us!) – Find a database of registered charities on the Ohio Attorney General’s website:

If you suspect unfair or deceptive sales practices, contact the office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost: – 1-800-282-0515

Keep up to date with the latest scam alerts on the Federal Trade Commission website:

COVID-19 Resources for Northeast Ohio

COVID-19 Resources for Northeast Ohio

HFLA of Northeast Ohio aims to bring resources that are relevant to the community it serves. This is not a replacement for 211 or existing community resource guides in your community. It is highly suggested you look at and support existing local resources. 
HFLA of Northeast Ohio has not vetted all of these organizations or offerings––these are provided as-is. If you have any comments, or contributions to this list please contact us at – subject: COVID-19 Resources. 

For the most accurate and up to date information on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ohio visit the Ohio Department of Health 

Ohio Department of Health | COVID-19 Testing and Community Health Centers

Ohio Vaccine Eligibility

FEMA funeral assistance for those whose deaths were caused by COVID-19

Rental & Housing Assistance

Energy & Utility Assistance Programs

Northeast Ohio Resources

Greater Ohio Resources

Food Resources: 

Small Business Resources

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Fund Press Release


Michal Marcus (HFLA)

Tel: 216-378-9042


Coronavirus interest-free loan fund

Cleveland, Ohio (March 12, 2020) –

By now we have all heard about the evolving impacts from the coronavirus (COVID-19) across the globe. For many of us, the effects have shifted from a piece of news to a part of life.

Along with health concerns, there are many unfortunate financial implications: events are being canceled, restaurants are left empty, and people unable to go to work as they live through their quarantine, to name a few. For many working people in Northeast Ohio and the surrounding this can quickly lead to financial crisis.

To meet this need, the HFLA of Northeast Ohio will be offering interest-free loans for those affected economically by the coronavirus who live in Northeast Ohio.

HFLA will provide expedited Interest-free loans of up to $1,500 for purposes including (but not limited to):

  • Lost wages due to being unable to go to work
  • Child care costs due to school closures
  • Related medical costs

To apply, borrowers should contact HFLA at 216-378-9042 or email specifying that the request is for coronavirus related needs.

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About HFLA of Northeast Ohio

HFLA of Northeast Ohio was founded in 1904 with $501 donated by Charles Ettinger, Morris Black, and their friends to help European refugees settle and begin productive lives in this country. They believed – as we do now – that if you give someone a chance to succeed, they will pay it back and we can continue this transformative cycle. The same principle guides the organization today. By providing interest-free loans to individuals, families, and small businesses in the Northeast Ohio area, we are able to help people help themselves. The association has drastically increased its lending capital in the past few years from individual gifts, bequests, endowments, foundation grants, memorials and honorariums and is now operating with a loan fund of over $1 million. HFLA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Learn more about HFLA.