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Busey Bank Bridge space aims to foster financial literacy and economic growth on Peoria’s South Side

Residents of Peoria’s South Side have a new place to go for financial information, education, and guidance.

A grand opening ceremony Wednesday afternoon touted the Busey Bank Bridge, a community space intended to improve the area’s financial literacy and access to economic opportunities.

“It means so much to Busey to be able to invest back into the South Side community, to open up a financial resource center, to provide education for individuals to learn more about how to manage their credit, how to fix their credit, how to become homeowners,” said Briggett Meachem, senior vice president treasury management executive. “Even as simple as how to actually manage a checkbook and how to manage your checking account. We're so excited to be able to do this for the community.”

Formerly a loan processing office, the bridge space at 2120 Southwest Adams Street will offer resources and outreach programs to help individuals, families and small-business owners in the neighborhood.

“We have partnered with several nonprofit organizations in the Peoria area to make sure that we're providing those resources and those educational seminars,” said Meachem. “Everything won't actually happen here in the bridge; we're going to push that information out. We're going to be going to the nonprofit organizations and hosting classes as well. So we're really looking forward to getting our boots on the ground.”

Andy Cave, Busey’s Peoria market president, said the intent is to bridge a gap between “the unbanked and the banked.”

“We're trying to reach a segment of our population that doesn't currently utilize banking services, and get them comfortable with that, and teaching them the principles and the value that the bank brings to the table,” said Cave.

Busey actually began operating the bridge facility in January, and has gradually worked on building relationships with other community organizations, as well as government agencies and private businesses. The site has already hosted a handful of seminars and workshops, with the next event scheduled for Wednesday focusing on types of credit available for small businesses.

“I'm very appreciative of the investment they're making in the South Side of Peoria, an area that has a lot of needs, certainly financial literacy needs,” said Peoria Mayor Rita Ali. “This is really what I would consider an equity investment, meaning they're investing in the people. They're removing some barriers that people often have in terms of applying for loans, whether it's a personal credit loan or whether it was a small business entrepreneurship opportunity.”

Busey regional president Martin O’Donnell said the bridge program was designed to increase inclusion within the community’s economic development, and he’s eager to see how those efforts develop.

“There's been a long history of community involvement and service here in the Greater Peoria area, so this facility is really just going to build upon that and help enhance everything,” said O’Donnell. “We're really committed to helping the greater Peoria area continue to grow and help to service the community that we live in and that we're all a part of.”

Meachem said some of the organizations the bridge will work with include the Black Business Alliance, the Tri-County Urban League, Phoenix Community Development Services (formerly the South Side Office of Concern), and Peoria Public Schools.

“Start at a young age, that's when you can invest into them,” said Meachem. “Once you're invested into the kids when they're young, you're putting it into their families. You're engaging everyone else in the household to understand what it is financial education has to offer.”

The Peoria bridge site is the first of its kind for Busey, with plans in the works to open similar spaces in the Chicago and St. Louis markets.

“We're really proud to have it here in Peoria, and we do hope to duplicate this concept in various places across the Busey footprint,” said Cave. “Busey, as a whole, really has a sense of volunteerism and commitment to its communities. That spirit, in my opinion, is especially strong in Peoria, and it just made it a great fit for Busey Bridge Center.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.