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Update: With Congressional hearings about to begin, a smiling Mike Kelly has arrived in the hearing room to hugs from a line of black ministers from the West Side. Also arriving to applause at the hearing, having pulled away from a conference of mayors being held in D.C., is Oak Park Village President David Pope.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At just after 4 a.m. Eastern time, the Spirit Tours motor coach, the bus filled with members of the Coalition to Save Community Banking crossed from Maryland into the District of Columbia.

The first stop

There’s no motel for a group that hails from communities which in Congressional testimony today will be repeatedly referred to as low- to moderate-income census tracts. The spot to get out and stretch, wash your face, charge your phone, brush your teeth and spiff up for the halls of Congress is at 1816 12th St. NW. The Thurgood Marshall Center is an old school building that houses a social service agency. Its owner is an old colleague in education reform of coalition members Jackie Leavy, an Oak Parker, and Mildred Wiley, a West Garfield resident.

“She’s leaving us a key to get into the back suite. This was the first place I called for help with a rest stop and we got it,” Wiley says.

Nourishment, just before the hearing

Breakfast for the weary volunteers is on Danny Davis. In the Rayburn Office Building, the congressman from Illinois’s 7th District has a spread set out. The continental breakfast is a treat for people who have been noshing from napsacks.

The main event

One floor up, in Room 2128, the much-awaited hearing is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Chicago time. There’s a sense of urgency to get in and find a seat. Reading the testimony online is one thing. It’ll be another to see and hear Steve McCullough, CEO of Bethel New Life, say, “I challenge you to find any financial institution whose level of community investment and support is proportional to that of Park National Bank and FBOP.”

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