ESOP’s Mission

Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP) helps adults in all stages of life achieve and maintain financial wellness and housing stability.


Who We Serve

ESOP provides assistance to homeowners who are facing foreclosure, or struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments due to a predatory lending or hardship situation. Homeowners must currently reside in the home for which they are seeking assistance in order to be eligible for ESOP’s services. ESOP has fair lending agreements with over a dozen lending and servicing companies, however assistance is available to homeowners with any mortgage company, whether ESOP has a standing relationship or not. While ESOP’s focus began in Northeast Ohio, our services are available to all homeowners, regardless of their geographic location.

ESOP’s History

The East Side Organizing Project (ESOP) was founded in 1993 to create organized leadership around issues impacting neighborhood life in theClevelandarea.

In the late 1990s, ESOP began to shift its focus toward predatory lending and foreclosures.

Initially much of ESOP’s work focused on foreclosure prevention inCuyahoga County. However beginning in 2008 ESOP expanded its efforts and now had ten offices throughout the state of Ohio.

In August of 2007, ESOP changed its name to “Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People” to emphasize the new state-wide focus.

In July 2017, ESOP became a subsidiary of Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging


  • 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 inCuyahogaCountyin 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 leads 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 onClevelandcommunities.
  • 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 atHolyTrinityBaptistChurch, 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 ofSlavicVillageto 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 ofClevelandneighborhoods.
  • 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 inMahoning Valley. The office will serve Mahoning,Trumbull, and Portage Counties. Plans for additional offices around the state are also underway.
  • January 2012 ESOP meets with President Barack Obama, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray and homeowners William and Endia Eason regarding the histsoric recess appointment of Cordray as the first Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.