Miss a session of one of the homebuying seminars that Prime Bank runs in the Atlanta metropolitan area and you just may get a call from Carrie M. Turner.

Ms. Turner, 37, is no truant officer but the thrift's assistant vice president for community development lending.

She'll be calling just to make sure everything is all right. But those calls are a measure of her commitment to the program, which has awarded graduation certificates to 400 people - and helped Prime Bank close about 80 mortgages.

Commitment to Low-Income Communities

Ms. Turner, the thrift's highest-ranking black officer, is also its Community Reinvestment Act officer and head of its Home Buyers Education Program.

"This bank is committed to ... meeting the housing needs of low-income communities," she said, and basic mortgage education is an important step toward making the dream of home ownership a reality.

Prime launched the Home Buyers Education Program last year in conjunction with GE Capital Mortgage Insurance Corp. and the Federal National Mortgage Association. The program has won national recognition, in part from a mention in the annual report of the General Electric Co. unit.

In addition to teaching consumers at all income levels about how to obtain a mortgage, the program is intended to encourage investment in communities of the Atlanta metropolitan area. Prime Bank and its holding company, $684 million-asset Prime Bancshares Inc., are based in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur.

An Outreach Effort

Prime Bank, formerly DeKalb Federal Savings Bank, designed the program to make the people aware that home ownership is an attainable goal, Ms. Turner said. "This is an outreach effort," she said "The program has a very flexible time schedule and is conducted through monthly seminars at our various branch locations. We take our seminars to the communities."

The course consists of seminars requiring 5 to 10 hours of attendance. Among the topics covered are personal budgeting, identifying the parties in a home-sale transaction, loan closings, and how to decide if you can afford a given house or mortgage.

Last year 12 seminar series were held, and more than 230 people attended. Fifteen seminars have already been held this year, and others are scheduled.

Partnerships for Development

In addition to running the mortgage education program, Ms. Turner develops and forms partnerships with nonprofit groups and government agencies to help rehabilitate communities and meet their credit needs.

The Decatur bankers has been with Prime Bank 12 years and serves on the boards of several community organizations. She is a graduate of DeKalb Community College and the Faulkner University MBA program and attended Georgia State University.

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