Bright gold T-shirts boldly proclaimed, “Sharks Beware!” April 17 at Rainbow Park Baptist Church on Decatur’s Columbia Drive. While Decatur is a good 350 miles from the ocean, those wearing the shirts know that sharks can be a major concern there and across the metro Atlanta area.
The sharks in this case are predatory lenders, those who bamboozle would-be homeowners with deals that are highly profitable for the lenders, but often leave the buyers stripped of their savings and still without a home.
The Saturday event was a series of information sessions for people interested in buying a home and those in danger of losing their homes through foreclosure. Hosted by non-profit organization Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), the sessions are part of a nationwide program to help people purchase homes they can afford and keep their homes.
In an economy characterized by avalanches of foreclosures, business has never been better for 22-year-old NACA. “Many of our workshops are filled to capacity weeks ahead,” said Charles Ashley, office manager at NACA’s Decatur/Atlanta office. Of NACA’s 40 offices across that country, the Decatur/Atlanta office on Clairemont Avenue is the largest.
Ashley estimated the crowd at the main Rainbow Park Church morning session at 500 with another 500 expected for the afternoon session; a simultaneous session in Spanish had about 750 attendees.
NACA was started by Bruce Marks, a former Federal Reserve employee, who, according to a 1994 Wall Street Journal article, zealously took on the banking industry “armed with the idealism of the 1970s and a master’s in business administration from New York University.” Marks, who remains as the organization’s CEO, states in a letter in NACA’s Home Buyer’s Workbook, “The tremendous benefits that you receive through NACA are the result of an ongoing and tireless struggle by your brothers and sisters to end predatory and discriminatory lending.”
After years in the mortgage banking business, Ashley last week joined NACA, which he calls “the best mortgage in America. We offer zero closing costs, zero down payment and below market interest rates. All those things you normally have to pay upfront to buy a home—attorneys fees, application fees, appraisal fees, document preparation fees—our members don’t pay any of that. We work with people with less than perfect credit. When others say no, we say yes.”
Membership, he explained, requires a commitment, but very little of it is a financial commitment. There is a $20 annual fee and a $7 fee for a credit report. Members must attend workshops, work with a counselor and adhere to NACA’s policies and procedures.
NACA members are also strongly encouraged to volunteer with the organization. Many—like the people in the bright gold T-shirts—do so by helping with workshops. “We give people volunteer opportunities wherever their talents are, whether it’s designing documents or speaking at an information session, but it’s important for people to volunteer. We can’t survive without our volunteers.”
Even employees at NACA must have a passion for the organization that goes far beyond what most jobs require, according to Ashley. “There’s no such thing there as an eight-hour day. Most of us put in 10 to 14 hours every day. It’s not unusual for someone to work until 2 in the morning, then be at their desk at 8 a.m. ready to work,” he said.
For more information about NACA, Visit www.naca.com or call 1-888-302-6222. The phone number at the Decatur/Atlanta office is (404) 377-4545.