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MMA PRAXIS OFFERS NEW OPTION FOR RELIGIOUS INVESTORS: WAY TO DIRECTLY AID COMMUNITIES IN NEED

MMA Praxis is 1st Church-Owned Mutual Fund Family to Achieve "1 Percent" Mark; Recognition Part of Social Investment Forum Campaign to Boost Community Investing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. and GOSHEN, IN. //January 24, 2002// MMA Praxis Mutual Funds and the Social Investment Forum announced today that MMA Praxis is the first church-affiliated mutual fund family in the United States to earn recognition from the Forum for placing 1 percent of its assets in community investments (CI).

The expansion of community investing options into faith-based mutual funds gives religious investors important new choices. Traditionally, mutual funds with a religious focus have concentrated on ethical screening of their investments, as opposed to the more direct leveraging of their assets in communities in need.

"Community development investing within MMA Praxis gives people a unique opportunity to help others through their investments in addition to making charitable donations," says Howard L. Brenneman, MMA president and chair of MMA Praxis. "MMA Praxis is delighted to have reached the 1 percent level. Our shareholders can now be involved in helping these communities in the U.S. and around the globe meet their own goals, including affordable housing, a more stable local economy of small businesses, a healthier environment, or neighborhood revitalization."

Social Investment Forum Vice Chair Alisa Gravitz said: "The Social Investment Forum and Co-op America applaud MMA for its commitment to the goal of devoting 1 percent of its assets to community investing. The Forum and Co-op America look forward to making additional announcements such as these on a regular basis, as more and more of our members reach this important goal. If you think that 1 percent doesn't sound like much of a target, consider this fact: If all socially screened portfolios reached the goal of having 1 percent of their assets in CI the result would be a tripling of current community investing dollars."

WHY COMMUNITY INVESTING FOR THE FAITHFUL?

For more than two decades, an institutional version of CI has existed among religious groups with assets, such as pension funds for Catholic nuns and priests. But as community investing moves into mutual funds, it allows individual shareholders to play a direct role in these community-changing activities. This is particularly important to people of faith who regularly - and as a matter of principle -- open up their pocketbooks for charitable causes.

Brenneman continued: "Now that's all changing with community investing. Community development investing offers average Christian investors, as stewards with the privilege of having assets, to also follow Christ's call to care for the poor."

Only one other religiously oriented mutual fund has achieved the Social Investment Forum's "1 percent" mark. However, the Aquinas Funds are not owned by the Catholic Church. By contrast, MMA Praxis Mutual Funds are part of Mennonite Mutual Aid, which is owned by the Mennonite Church USA.

ABOUT THE MMA INVESTMENTS

The total so far of $6 million in MMA Community Development Investment assets are going to several worthy organizations, including:

  • Illinois Facilities Fund. IFF is a state-wide, nonprofit corporation providing real estate loans, facilities planning and facilities development to human service and community development nonprofits in Illinois. Since its inception, the IFF has made more than 200 loans totaling $39 million to more than 100 Illinois nonprofits to finance their childcare centers, health clinics, homeless shelters, and other community facilities.

  • Women's World Banking. WWB-Cali, of Cali, Colombia, is a microfinance institution (MFI) founded in 1982 to provide low-income microentrepreneurs in the Valle del Cauca state of Colombia access to credit on a permanent basis. WWB currently works with 37,000 borrowers throughout Colombia. Many of those borrowers are repeat customers (60 percent), a testament to the success of the program. WWB-Cali is a founding member of the worldwide Women's World Banking network.

  • Shorebank Enterprise Pacific. The Shorebank Enterprise Pacific's mission is to develop and advance a long-term regional environmental development strategy for the West coastal temperate rainforests of North America. Shorebank Enterprise Pacific provides nonbank credit, business support and marketing assistance to emerging and small businesses that are seeking to participate in the conservation economy. Since 1995, Shorebank Enterprise Pacific has delivered 75 loans for a total of more than $7.2 million.

  • Mercy Loan Fund. Denver-based MLF lends to nonprofit developers of affordable housing. The loan fund is a division of Mercy Housing, Inc., a nonprofit organization sponsored by congregations of Catholic women to create and strengthen healthy communities through the provision of quality, affordable, service-enriched housing for individuals and families who are economically poor. Since its inception in 1984, MLF has helped finance over 8,000 units, providing homes to over 26,000 residents whose average annual income is less than $18,000 per year.

For more information about community investing at MMA or its other CI projects, go to www.mma-online.org.

MMA's goal is to place investments with carefully chosen community development organizations that have met rigorous standards for financial stability and social impact. Most of these investments are made at full- or near-market rates. In some instances, organizations receive below-market rates. However, the organizations are required to clearly demonstrate the additional margin of value that these rates provide.

MMA Equity Investment Manager Chad Horning compares CI's financial returns to cash investments, while not having the same liquidity. Cash investments already often represent 2 to 5 percent of diversified mutual funds.

ABOUT MMA AND MMA PRAXIS

As a stewardship solutions organization, Mennonite Mutual Aid helps Anabaptists and others practice biblical stewardship through its expertise in insurance, financial services, charitable-giving programs and educational resources. For more information, visit www.mma-online.org.

MMA Praxis Mutual Funds, a division of MMA, exists to help individuals meet their financial goals in a way that supports their beliefs. MMA Praxis practices stewardship investing, a philosophy that balances a need for productive use of financial resources with a deep-seated concern for others. For more information, visit www.mmapraxis.com.

ABOUT THE 1 PERCENT CAMPAIGN

In 2001, the Social Investment Forum launched a campaign to help move more than $10 billion in assets in socially responsible investments into communities in need over the next five years. The Forum is honoring members with at least 1 percent of their managed assets in community investing, and highlights them as role models for all investors. Community investing is financing that generates resources and opportunities - including capital for small businesses, job creation, affordable housing, childcare and other needed community services - for economically disadvantaged people in U.S. and overseas communities that are underserved by traditional financial institutions.

The 1 percent campaign to promote CI is a joint partnership of the Social Investment Forum and Co-op America. The Social Investment Forum is a national nonprofit trade association dedicated to promoting the concept, practice and growth of socially responsible investing. Co-op America is a national nonprofit organization founded in 1982 that provides the economic strategies, organizing power and practical tools for businesses and individuals to address today's social and environmental problems. The campaign's Web site is www.communityinvest.org.

CONTACT: Stephanie Kendall, 703/276-3254 or [email protected]

For more information, contact Todd Larsen at (202) 872-5310 or [email protected]a.org.

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