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Washington Mutual opens location in Richmond Hill

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The Woodhaven branch at 90-14 Jamaica Ave., which officially opened Nov. 17, and the Richmond Hill branch at 119-21 Liberty Ave., which opened Jan. 12, give residents in the two communities as well as those in Ozone Park and Howard Beach more options to save and grow their capital, said Michael Fina, assistant vice president of the Woodhaven bank.

"We received quite a welcome within the community," Fina said. "A lot of people have been very satisfied and happy."

Fina said Washington Mutual branches make efforts to work with community organizations and donate funds to local schools. The Woodhaven branch, according to Fina, has already donated $427 to PS 60 and has started to work with the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. on participating in the area's business improvement district.

He said the Woodhaven branch is planning a series of informational seminars on money lending, money management and understanding personal credit data to better inform Queens residents young and old.

"This is all to help educate people in the community," Fina said. "If you are not managing your money correctly, it can hurt your pocket."

Following Washington Mutual's purchase of all Dime banks in the New York area several years ago, the Seattle-based banking institution has increased its presence on the East Coast. According to Fina, the chain of banks plans to open more than 250 branches in 2004 and increase its advertising presence to make borough bankers aware of its numerous branches.

Last year Washington Mutual opened a branch in Bayside on Bell Boulevard. That branch, along with the ones in Richmond Hill and Woodhaven, attracts both parents and children because of the bank's welcoming attitude.

He said having play areas for children allows parents to take care of their transactions while also letting the kids enjoy their free time. In the play area, the children can play video games and use other toys provided by the branch.

Washington Mutual offers special savings accounts for children in kindergarten through 12th grade to educate them on money management. The children are able to open their own accounts by having their parents as supervisory partners.

Said Fina: "That is a free savings account for kids and we partner with the schools to do that."

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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