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Bank Finds Mortgage Originations Through Low Income Workshops

Dollar Bank holds Mortgages for Mothers workshops

Aug. 1, 2012

By KIM LEONARD The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

When Dollar Bank held its first Mortgages for Mothers workshop in 1999, Mona N. Generett hoped that a couple hundred lower-income women interested in buying homes would show up.

As it turned out, the bank had to limit attendance to 400 women for that first session in Downtown Pittsburg, after 700 responded.

Generett created the annual free workshops that, for interested women, lead to individual meetings with a banker, a credit analysis, classes and other steps toward securing a mortgage.

She'll retire Tuesday after 18 years as Dollar Bank's vice president for community development, a post that followed almost three decades of work in education, government services, nonprofit administration and other fields.

"It's been a wonderful way to end a beautiful career, my work at Dollar Bank," said Generett, who continues to serve on the boards of several civic and education entities.

At Dollar, Generett was responsible for the bank's Credit Enhancement Program that offers credit counseling and restoration services to low- and moderate-income people, to help them work toward buying a home. Enrollment grew from about 50 when she joined the bank in 1994 to 400 now, she said, and the program remains the only bank in-house credit counseling and restoration service in Western Pennsylvania.

Both the credit program and Mortgages for Mothers have helped thousands of participants move into their homes, with a low default rate on loans, Generett said.

"Most of the people we deal with, but for us, wouldn't be able to get a loan," she said. "They often have poor credit, little in the bank and know nothing about how to budget. We also motivate them, because they are people who have been told all their lives that they 'can't.'" The bank provides help toward closing costs, she said.

There's more to be done. "We continue to make progress with rebuilding communities in terms of how they look, such as East Liberty and the South Side," Generett said.

"But a focus nowadays has to be in terms of wealth generation, making sure the people in the communities benefit in terms of the right kinds of jobs and job skills." Banks have a role, through business lending and other investments she said.

And government could do more, after the mortgage and credit crisis, to smooth the path toward home ownership, she said.

"The federal government years and years ago was a party to a lot of the discrimination that caused the decay of our cities," she said, referring to practices such as redlining, or limiting insurance, banking and other services to inner-city areas, and pumping money into roads to new suburbs.

Generett grew up in Baltimore and worked in Albany, N.Y., Washington, D.C., before arriving in Pittsburgh in 1970 as a newlywed.

Her husband, William, was a student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and by the time he graduated she was in the midst of studying for a doctorate in higher education administration, and they decided to stay.

Dr. William Generett, an obstetrician and gynecologist who practiced in East Liberty and Bellevue, died in 1996. They have two children.

Mona Generett worked as director of financial aid at Point Park College, then dean of students at Chatham College, before becoming a management and human relations consultant and executive director of the Greater Pittsburgh Campfire Council.

She was assistant director of Pittsburgh's Parks and Recreation department for six years before Dollar Bank recruited her, in part for her experience in dealing with people from a wide range of backgrounds, she said.

"I was told the bank would teach me the banking part," she said, "and I learned from some of the best." At the time, federal regulators had begun checking banks' mortgage and small business lending practices more closely, she said.

Generett came up with the mothers' workshops, after noticing many single mothers in waiting rooms for the bank's credit counseling services, and realizing they face special challenges.

Mortgages for Mothers seminars have been held each spring for 300 to 400 women, for 13 years. Each time, four people who have purchased homes in the past year are invited to speak.

They talk about working for years to improve their credit, being the first in their family to buy a house and inspiring relatives to do the same. "They are beautiful, beautiful stories," she said.

e-mail writer: [email protected]

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