Awards to be presented at the 38th Annual Conference on Serving the Underserved
(April 11, 2012- New York, NY) The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation) is pleased to announce the 2012 recipients of the Annie Vamper “Helping Hands” Award, given out by the Federation to community development credit union (CDCU) staff and volunteers. This year’s recipients of the “Helping Hands” Awards are Phillip H. (Phil) Conner, Board Member at the $542,000 in assets Mt. Zion Indianapolis Federal Credit Union (Indianapolis, IN) and Helen Godfrey-Smith, President / CEO of the $87 million in assets Shreveport Federal Credit Union (Shreveport, LA).
The highest honor presented by the Federation, the Annie Vamper "Helping Hands" Awards celebrate the organization’s late Associate Director, Annie Wilma Vamper, whose lifelong dedication to the credit union movement, and to small credit unions in particular, served as inspiration to many low- and moderate-income people and communities nationwide. Until her death in 1991, Vamper gave every ounce of her strength, commitment and love to the CDCU movement, and in 1993, the "Helping Hands" Award was created to honor her memory. The award is presented to individuals whose unselfish work carry-on Annie's legacy and whose contribution to their credit union and community has gone above and beyond the call of duty, exemplifying the CDCU values.
Departing Federation President/CEO Clifford N. Rosenthal, himself a recipient of one of the first “Helping Hands” Awards in 1993, commented on the significance of the award. “Annie Vamper embodied the very ideals of the CDCU movement. An African-American woman born in Alabama in the 1930s, Annie became a credit union manager in the midst of the Civil Rights struggle. She became a champion of low-income people during the War on Poverty, helping to organize 12 new credit unions to serve truly “un-served” communities, and she also led the way for both women and minorities in government, reaching high-level positions at the Bureau of Federal Credit Unions and eventually the National Credit Union Administration.”
“Having had the fortune of working closely with Annie for many years, I know she would be equally proud of the work being done by CDCUs today,” Rosenthal added. “It is fitting that we recognize her contemporary credit union pioneers with this award in her name. These are individuals who continue to lead the credit union movement in providing responsible and affordable financial services to some of the communities in greatest need.”
“It’s also a testament to the diversity of the CDCU movement that these two honorees from vastly different credit unions, one with less than a million in assets, and the other quickly approaching the one-hundred million milestone, should be honored in the same year. At the Federation, we believe strongly that credit unions of all sizes can make important and indelible contributions to their communities, and these two honorees demonstrate this reality. On behalf of the Federation and our Board of Directors, we congratulate both Phil and Helen, as well as their respective credit unions, for this honor,” he added.
Conner and Smith will receive their awards at a special ceremony on Friday, June 15, during the Federation’s 38th Annual Conference on Serving the Underserved in Atlanta, GA. For more information about that event, or to submit a congratulatory advertisement in the Federation’s conference program book, please visit the Federation’s website by clicking here.
About the 2012 Annie Vamper “Helping Hands” Award Recipients
Phillip H. (Phil) Conner, Board of Directors, Mt. Zion Indianapolis FCU
Phillip (Phil) Conner joined the credit union’s Board more than 25 years ago Most recently, as Chairman of the Delinquent Loan Committee, he has taken the collection of delinquent loans to new heights, managing to reduce the delinquency rate from over twenty-six percent at its highest point, to nearly zero percent currenty.
Conner attributes his success in this area to taking a more assertive approach to collections. He and his committee work non-stop contacting credit union members directly, sending out notices and letters, and occasionally upon their request, making personal visits to members’ homes or place of business to collect payments.
This high-touch approach has yielded impressive results, and according to LeWana Britt, Treasurer/Manager at the CDCU, “Mr. Conner is one of the credit union’s biggest assets,” she said.
Conner earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO, and holds a Masters Degree in Executive Leadership from Ball State University in Indianapolis.
Over the past 38 years he has held several positions with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, including his current position of Tuition Assistance Program Coordinator.
Helen Godfrey-Smith, President/CEO, Shreveport Federal Credit Union
To all that know her, Helen Godfrey Smith truly lives the credit union philosophy of “People Helping People.” In 1983 she became CEO of Shreveport Federal Credit Union and built the $1.9 million credit union into an $88 million community development credit union operating seven branches, with an eighth branch planned.
While building Shreveport FCU into a formidable economic development force in her region, Godfrey-Smith has also selflessly shared her knowledge with others, traveling throughout the United States and across the globe mentoring credit unions. In addition to her work domestically, Godfrey-Smith has traveled to South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and other locations outside the U.S., helping credit unions survive and thrive.
In late 2009, she convinced her Board to consider merging a troubled credit union in the impoverished Mississippi Delta Region. With their support, Shreveport FCU merged the First Delta FCU, an historic CDCU founded during the Civil Rights movement in one of the poorest areas of Mississippi. The merger maintained crucial services in a community with few regulated financial institutions. Since taking in that credit union, Shreveport FCU has expanded its service to other parts of the Delta and now operated three branches in Marks, MS; Clarksdale, MS and Batesville, MS. Under her management, the Mississippi credit unions have doubled in both assets and loans.
In 2010, Godfrey-Smith partnered with the City of Shreveport to open a Community Empowerment Center to deliver affordable financial services while offering training, counseling, job readiness and business development to low- and moderate-income residents. The center has been a great success and a second Shreveport FCU Empowerment Center is scheduled to open in Shreveport later this year, with a third being planned in the Mississippi area served by the credit union.
Godfrey- Smith served on the Federation’s Board of Directors for 8 years, including several years as Treasurer. She is a founding board member of the African American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC), and is Chairman of the AACUC’s Mentorship Committee, which reaches out to credit unions to help develop their business plans and assist with other areas of operations.
Her extensive community involvement includes sitting the boards of Grambling State University Foundation, Southern University-Shreveport Foundation, Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, the Fiest-Weiller Cancer Center, the Vivian Citizen Advisory Council, the North Caddo Hospital Board, and was appointed by Governor Bobby Jindal to the Louisiana State Mineral Board.
© 2012 National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.