The East Side Organizing Project (ESOP) was founded in 1993 by Inez Tillman Killingsworth to create organized leadership around issues impacting neighborhood life in the Cleveland area.  Initially the group focused on local safety and education issues in the Union-Miles neighborhood of Cleveland.

In the late 1990s, Inez and ESOP volunteers began to research and engage neighborhood leaders on the issues of predatory lending and foreclosures.  In the early 2000’s ESOP community organizers began assisting Cleveland-area homeowners to advocate for mortgage modifications. By 2005 ESOP had full-time foreclosure prevention counselors trained to offer mortgage assistance. Much of ESOP’s work focused on foreclosure prevention as a HUD-approved housing counseling agency, expanding its efforts throughout the state of Ohio.  In 2007, ESOP changed its name to “Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People.”  

ESOP grew to become the largest foreclosure prevention agency in Ohio. Since 2005 we’ve helped more than 35,000 homeowners across Ohio save their homes from foreclosure.

Today ESOP is a full service housing and financial counseling agency. We have free financial coaching, homebuyer education, pre- and post- purchase counseling and free income tax preparation. We also provide programs just for seniors like financial education workshops, individual counseling, property tax loans, benefits checkups and other services to help them stay in their homes as they age.

Milestones:

  • September, 2002: ESOP negotiates a 5-year CRA agreement with Charter One bank. This was the first CRA agreement between a bank and a community group in Cuyahoga County in over a decade.
  • November, 2003: ESOP partners with Third Federal Savings and Loan to launch the “Home Today” loan program.
  • March, 2004: ESOP leads negotiations between national affiliate National Training and Information Center (NTIC) and Select Portfolio Servicing (formerly known as Fairbanks Capital Corporation) resulting in a written partnership that details a loan review and repair process.
  • February, 2005: ESOP negotiates historic agreement with Ocwen Financial Services, resulting in a written partnership that details a loan review and repair process.
  • July, 2005: ESOP launches a campaign against Ameriquest Mortage and its affiliate, Argent Mortgage. As a result, a fair lending agreement is signed with these companies in early 2006.
  • February, 2006: ESOP launches a campaign against Countrywide Home Loans.
  • February, 2007: ESOP signs a fair servicing agreement with Litton Loan Servicing CEO Larry Litton. This agreement has led to a growing positive relationship between servicer, community group, and borrowers.
  • March, 2007: ESOP board president Inez Killingsworth testifies before the U.S. House of Representatives Domestic Policy Sub-Committee on the abuses of the lending industry and the effects of the subprime lending crisis on Cleveland communities.
  • June, 2007: ESOP board member Barbara Anderson and member Audrey Sweet testify before the U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee on the effects of predatory lending on neighborhoods.
  • June, 2007: ESOP members hold a community meeting with Countrywide’s loss mitigation executives to express concerns over Countrywide’s abusive lending and servicing practices.
  • September 26, 2007: ESOP hosts a press conference to launch a national “Save the American Dream” campaign at the 44105 zip code home of ESOP member, Marion Gardner.
  • September, 2007: ESOP partners with Neighborhood Progress, Inc. and six CDCs in a pilot project aimed at foreclosure prevention in the SII neighborhoods. Through outreach, public education, and rehab of vacant homes, the project aims to mitigate the negative effects of the subprime crisis in these neighborhoods.
  • October 27, 2007: ESOP holds a Foreclosure Prevention Summit at Holy Trinity Baptist Church with over 200 community residents in attendance. Speakers include Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, Housing Court Judge Ray Pianka, Assistant Ohio Attorney General Jim Boyle and Ohio Treasurer Richard Cordray.
  • November, 2007: ESOP members begin plans for a campaign against the pay day lending industry, a major factor contributing to the foreclosure crisis.
  • December, 2007: ESOP meets with Countrywide executives and NTIC affiliates to begin the negotiation process for a fair lending agreement. ESOP leaders take Countrywide execs on a tour of Slavic Village to highlight the destruction the subprime crisis has caused.
  • December, 2007: ESOP member Rosalyn Sudberry testifies before Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann at a hearing on pay day lending and its effects on the foreclosure crisis.
  • January, 2008: ESOP begins organizing against Cresthaven Development, a notorious developer contributing to the deterioration of Cleveland neighborhoods.
  • February 20, 2008: ESOP members decide to launch a campaign for a fair lending agreement with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, and demand a meeting with CEO Richard Kovacevich.
  • February 27, 2008: ESOP testifies about the impact of subprime lending before chief policy advisors for the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama presidential campaigns at a hearing hosted by Cleveland City Council.
  • March 3, 2008: ESOP meets with Countrywide executives in Plano,TX to finalize steps toward a fair lending agreement.
  • March 18, 2008: ESOP holds a community meeting and signs a Memorandum of Understanding with Cresthaven Development Corporation.
  • April 5, 2008: ESOP holds a community forum on payday lending at Holy Trinity Baptist Church, attracting legislators, community leaders, nonprofit representatives, and elected officials, including Congressman Dennis Kucinich, from around the state ofOhio.
  • April 18, 2008: Countrywide loss mitigation representatives meet with ESOP homeowners and sign over a dozen loan modifications as the result of ESOP’s fair lending agreement.
  • April, 2008: ESOP opens its first satellite office in MahoningValley. The office will serve Mahoning,Trumbull, and Portage Counties. Plans for additional offices around the state are also underway.
  • May 2010: Swiss documentary Cleveland vs Wall Street premiers at Cannes Film Festival.  The film features ESOP Board President Barbara Anderson and chronicles Cleveland's foreclosure crisis and the city's lawsuit against major mortgage banks.
  • November 2010: Inez Killingsworth wins 2010 Purpose Prize award.
  • April 2011: Inez and ESOP win National Community Reinvestment Award from National Community Reinvestment Coalition and is awarded a National Neighbor Silver grant to coduct community-based organizing, advocacy and education focused on financial literacy for older adults.
  • January 4, 2012: President Barack Obama visits ESOP homeowners to mark the appointment of Richard Cordray as the first Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • January 17, 2013: Founder Inez Killingsworth passes away.
  • May 2013: ESOP announces new Executive Director Roslyn Quarto
  • January 2014: ESOP launches Senior Financial Empowerment Initiative to help older adults make sound financial decisions and maintain financial stability as they age in place.