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Bank on the Road

BB&T goes mobile to promote its mortgages in a 26-community tour

By Richard Craver

BB&T Corp. is taking its homeownership program on the road in a modified transit bus to reach low- to moderate-income families closer to where they live.

BB&T will begin a six-state campaign in Winston-Salem today aimed at raising the awareness of mortgage and retail services at the bank.

The 40-foot bus has 10 computers linked to the Internet. Visitors will be given free access to credit reports, BB&T banking and mortgage services, and online guides to finding a home.

The bus will be staffed by local BB&T mortgage, retail and human-resource officials in the 26 communities it visits in Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington.

Cantey Alexander, the president of the Triad region for BB&T, said that the bank is going the extra mile with the bus "to take the mystery out of the mortgage-lending business and provide people with the facts about and the benefits of homeownership."

The bus will be at the Alive After Five concert from 5 to 8:30 p.m. today at Corpening Plaza in downtown Winston-Salem, as well as the Fourth Street Jazz and Blues conert from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday. It also will make stops in Burlington, Greensboro, High Point, Lexington and Mount Airy through Sept. 19.

The bank has been joined in the effort by Freddie Mac and The Community College Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Sacramento, Calif. The bank is leasing the bus, which is covered by BB&T signs in English and Spanish, from the foundation.

"This initiative underscores Freddie Mac's commitment to working with innovative lenders and identifying unconventional ways to help families own homes," said Mark Spates, the director of expanding markets and national initiatives for Freddie Mac.

The foundation owns and operates 10 financial transit buses, with six dedicated to homeownership programs, said Aimee Sherman, the group's director of community contact. It's the first homeownership bus operating in the mid-Atlantic region, she said.

"What's great is that the people we're trying to reach will go on the bus for information, whereas they might be intimidated walking into a branch and talking to someone in a suit," Sherman said.

"With the one-on-one attention they'll receive on the bus, even if the initial answer is no for a mortgage, they can receive assistance in how to improve their chances for the next time they apply," she said.

The groups have consulted with local community-advocacy groups to determine the best high-traffic areas frequented by low- to moderate-income families.

For instance, the bus will spend three days at the Kmart at 1302 Bridford Parkway in Greensboro, as well as at Hispanic soccer league games on a Sunday in High Point and Greensboro.

"We're also giving the community groups information to take back to the people they represent to spread the word about the program," said Jean Wiles, an assistant vice president for mortgage lending for BB&T.

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