Sr. Anne Bizalion

Co-Founder and Former Executive Director
Sr. Anne Bizalion

Co-Founder and Former Executive Director

Sister Anne Catherine Bizalion was the Executive Director and Co-Founder of SMHA. Sister Anne, a rural French Dominican nun, came to Louisiana in the mid-1950’s to work to end poverty in the state. She graduated as the first Catholic nun to obtain a Masters of Social work from Tulane University, after which she became the first professional social worker at the TB Annex of Lafayette Charity Hospital. Before founding SMHA, Sister Anne directed a Headstart program and worked closely with Father A. J. McKnight, a Louisiana civil rights leader, to establish educational and cooperative programs. In 1969, she and Co-Founder Lorna Bourg developed SMHA to expose flawed systems in Louisiana and then to improve them.  SMHA has taught rural sugar cane workers to help themselves through housing programs, health clinics and adult education.

Marion Overton White

Former Board Chair

Overton served as the SMHA Board Chair for over 40 years. He was a renowned civil rights attorney and served as counsel of record for the state chapter of the NAACP and several local chapters. He served as president of the Louisiana NAACP and also as a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Louisiana Advisory Committee. He has participated in several landmark legal decisions dealing with race relations in the state and regularly represents poor legal defendants, pro-bono, in cases of police brutality claims.

Marion Overton White

Former Board Chair

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Overton served as the SMHA Board Chair for over 40 years.  He was a renowned civil rights attorney and served as counsel of record for the state chapter of the NAACP and several local chapters. He served as president of the Louisiana NAACP and also as a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Louisiana Advisory Committee. He has participated in several landmark legal decisions dealing with race relations in the state and regularly represents poor legal defendants, pro-bono, in cases of police brutality claims.

OBITUARY                      ABOUT OVERTON

Sydnie Mae Durand

Former Board Member

Representative Sydnie Mae Maraist Durand - During the span of the 16 years in which she held her term in office in the Louisiana legislature, Sydnie Mae served as the Chairwoman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, and also served on the House Executive Committee. She was appointed to serve as a member of the Children, Families & Health Committee of the National Conference of State Legislature's Assembly on State Issues, the Fiscal Affairs & Government Operations Committee of the Southern Legislative Conference, Committee on Tax Structures, Women's Policy and Research Commission, Regional Trauma Patient Care Statewide System Task Force, Governor's Commission on Disability Affairs, and the Louisiana Women's Policy and Research Commission. She also served on the boards of Southern Mutual Help Association, Louisiana Interagency Task Force on the Future of Family Medicine, Task Force on the Future of Family Medicine, and the Acadiana Area Health Services District, as Chairman.

Sydnie Mae Durand

Former Board Member

Representative Sydnie Mae Maraist Durand - During the span of the 16 years in which she held her term in office in the Louisiana legislature, Sydnie Mae served as the Chairwoman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, and also served on the House Executive Committee. She was appointed to serve as a member of the Children, Families & Health Committee of the National Conference of State Legislature's Assembly on State Issues, the Fiscal Affairs & Government Operations Committee of the Southern Legislative Conference, Committee on Tax Structures, Women's Policy and Research Commission, Regional Trauma Patient Care Statewide System Task Force, Governor's Commission on Disability Affairs, and the Louisiana Women's Policy and Research Commission. She also served on the boards of Southern Mutual Help Association, Louisiana Interagency Task Force on the Future of Family Medicine, Task Force on the Future of Family Medicine, and the Acadiana Area Health Services District, as Chairman.

OBITUARY      ABOUT SYDNIE MAE

Sandy Rosenblith

Helped Establish Rural LISC
Sandy Rosenblith

Helped Establish Rural LISC

"A rural advocate who helped strengthen the field of rural development through national efforts that produced local results is remembered as passionate, effective, and unrelenting."
Tim Marema

Rosenblith helped establish Rural LISC at the Local Initiatives Support Organization in 1995. The program helps rural development groups tap public and private funding for local projects. Currently Rural LISC has 63 partner development organizations that work in 40 states and cover nearly 1,200 U.S. counties. Rural LISC has leveraged $3 billion in rural development investment in the past two decades, according to a fact sheet on the organization’s website.

Remembering Sandy Rosenblith

Tenacious Visionary

Olga Scanlon

Debt, Credit & Financial Literacy Instructor

Olga volunteered with Southern Mutual Help Organization 2004 - 2009.  Her work had an estimated economic impact in Acadiana of nearly $30 million. She worked with over 300 low-income individuals and families pursuing homeownership. About fifty of those families achieved the goal of purchasing a home, moving an estimated $4,500,000 in affordable capital into rural communities in Acadiana.

Olga Scanlon

Debt, Credit & Financial Literacy Instructor

Olga volunteered with Southern Mutual Help Organization 2004 - 2009.  Her work had an estimated economic impact in Acadiana of nearly $30 million. She worked with over 300 low-income individuals and families pursuing homeownership. About fifty of those families achieved the goal of purchasing a home, moving an estimated $4,500,000 in affordable capital into rural communities in Acadiana.

OBITUARY      ABOUT OLGA