Notes from the Field
Sheilah Montgomery and Pam Owens Attend the
49th Anniversary Celebration of Federation of Southern Cooperatives
I had the opportunity to attend the Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award Dinner and Annual Meeting of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives (FSC) with Sheilah Montgomery, former CEO of CU of Atlanta, National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions board member, and member of the Federation’s Small Credit Union Committee, in Alabama last month. The theme of the meeting was “A Legacy of Hope, Vision and Collective Wealth Building”. FSC serves rural and urban communities through cooperative economic development, land retention, and advocacy to build collective wealth throughout the South.
Andrew Young, former UN Ambassador, Congressman and Mayor of Atlanta, was the keynote speaker at the banquet which was held in Birmingham. Young has worked with the FSC since their formation in 1967. A reception at the Civil Rights Museum in advance of the dinner honored Dave Dennis, Sr., former director of the Mississippi Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Robert Moses, co-director of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), and Hollis Watkins Muhammad, founder of Southern Echo, which works to develop grassroots leaders in African-American communities in rural Mississippi. It was really amazing to hear their stories of challenges and triumph. Click here to read more about the honorees.
The following day Sheilah and I attended the FSC Annual Meeting in Epes, about two hours outside of Birmingham. FSC has owned 357 acres in Epes since 1967 and has a working farm, meeting house, dorms and offices on the property. Over 100 people attended the meeting representing farmers, community organizers, advocates and credit unions.
FSC works with small credit unions in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Kentucky. Many of these credit unions were organized by community development credit union pioneer Earnest Johnson. Mr. Johnson was the credit union specialist for the FSC and a former Federation board member. The Federation was asked to conduct the credit union portion of the FSC meeting. It was great having Sheilah discuss the needs of small credit unions and suggest outreach methods to attract the next generation of members while still keeping more tenured members engaged. FSC is working to connect young people who are interested in farming with more established farmers who want to retire. FSC and the Federation will help these young farmers, like Bonita Clemons, the hibiscus farmer pictured here, connect with community development credit unions in their communities.
The FSC and Federation have been partners for many years, and we look to continue to build that relationship into the future. We hope to see FSC’s credit union members and Carol Zippert, Board President of the Federation of Greene County Employees (FOGCE) FCU, and host of the FSC dinner, at our annual conference in November.